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How to make a decision on declawing your cat

Sweet as a Kitten
Sweet as a Kitten
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Declawing in a cat has become a very controversial subject. Years ago the actual process was never brought to the forefront, but now is often considered in-humane in it complexity.

People declaw their cat at a young age for several reasons: they plan on keeping the cat indoors at all times; they are forced by a regulation imposed by their dwelling; they do not want to run the risk of ruined furniture or small children getting scratched. Many would not have a cat unless it is declawed. On the other end of the spectrum, many people believe it a gruesome process and would not even consider it for their cat.

What is declawing actually?

It is the surgical process that disarticulates the last digit of the toes to remove the part of the bone from which the claw grows. Whether done by a scalpel or laser the disconnection of the tiny ligaments holding the bone in place is done at the joint. It is the equivalent in a human is having the first joint in all of his fingers removed. Normally, the cat spends about two days in the hospital and then endures, what some believe, a painful healing process.

There are three standard methods of declawing all of which can be equally repugnant but can range in cost from $100 to $450. Of course, you will still have to consider the added expense of anesthesia, pain medication and antibiotics.

The lowest cost method is called the Rescoe Clipper. This method uses an instrument to chop off toes and tips of bones to the toes. Not only does it sound ghastly, re-growth often occurs. Infection from this type of claw removal is a great risk factor.

The middle of the road process costs about $250 and is called disarticulation or surgical removal of the bone from which the claw grows.

The third and less evasive method is Laser. It is the most expensive costing upwards of $450 but the process of eliminating the bone is less painful and has a low risk of infection.

What do the professionals think about the process?

Many veterinarians today will no longer perform the declawing process due to the outcry from animal humane organizations.

Many are very cautious when performing the procedure and recommend it only on younger cats or those with an extreme behavior problem. The use of injectable narcotics prior to surgery, along with a narcotic pain patch is effective pain treatment as well as oral medications which are sent home to be administered. Antibiotics are always given to dissuade any occurrence of infection.

What are the myths and the truths about declawing?

Opponents say the cat becomes fearful, defiant or aggressive, even biting. Yet a cat who is declawed does not know that it has no claws, thus why would it immediately begin to bite as a means of protection? Others state that cats often become more loving to their owners after declawing, thus making better pets.

Can the declawed cat still catch prey? Cats will have absolutely no problem catching a scampering mouse as declawing a cat does not take away its speed and quick reaction.

What about the tremendous pain involved? Any orthopedic surgery involves pain, but the goal from a veterinary viewpoint is to always control the pain with proper drugs and correct procedures.

Will the cat have trouble using the litter box after he is declawed? Although paws are tender after the surgery, a declawed cat usually does not lose his litter box instinct. Using a recycled newspaper litter during the healing process will avoid litter being impacted in the incisions.

Does the cat lose his means of protection? Yes and no. A declawed cat must never be allowed to roam outside as he has lost some of his protection; however, he can also inflict severe trauma with his teeth. All severe wounds from fights in cats are from their teeth, not their claws.

What is the alternative?

Years ago we never even considered such a thing as declawing. If we had a cat we dealt with the compromises one does when choosing the feline as a pet. Training methods such as scratching posts make of sisal rope or inside out carpet will encourage your cat to scratch on a harder surface and away from your upholstery. Be sure the post is at least 30 inches tall and sturdy enough that the cat cannot tip it over. You can treat a cardboard strip or the scratching post with catnip to entice the cat.

Also, the use of Soft Paws is touted as a method of controlling scratching in a cat that is not declawed, however, these blunt acrylic nail caps, which are clued onto the cat’s claws, must be replaced as the claws grow and often sooner. The nails need trimming on a regular basis.

Opinions

Many people in favor of declawing state that it is no different than spaying or neutering as the cat is still altered in some way. It is a proven fact that spaying or neutering has only a positive effect on the animal, health-wise and companion-wise. Studies are not conclusive on the declawing issue.

We can surmise from all the pros and cons that the answer to the question of declawing must be found in our conscience. The decision should be made in everyone’s best interest, especially the cat, to ensure a healthy and loving pet as well as a happy household.