Although cats have been living alongside humans for thousands of years, they did not really start becoming 'indoor-only' cats until approximately 60 years ago.
Once cats came in, people discovered the power of the claws. As guardians watched their furniture and curtains sustain damage, they sought a solution. One was provided: Declawing.
The surgical procedure was said to be painless (after a short recovery period) and cause no harm. Unfortunately for many of the cats that underwent this mutilation, this is simply untrue.
Declawing is still a popular 'solution' and too many veterinarians still practice this horribly painful procedure that can have adverse effects for years.
There are many people that are still unaware of what the process involves, the pain, risk of infection and long-term effects.
"Declawing, which is rightly described as “de-toeing” when the same procedure is done to chickens, is the amputation of each front toe at the first joint (hind foot declaws are not commonly done but would be equivalent). This is necessary because unlike a fingernail, the claw actually grows from the first toe bone. The procedure is so excruciatingly painful that it was once used as a technique of torture, and even today it remains the primary test of the effectiveness of pain medications," shared Jean Hofve, DVM.
"Physical recovery takes a few weeks, but even after the surgical wounds have healed, there are other long-term physical and psychological effects," she added.
Dr. Hofve went on to describe the actual surgery.
"For the surgery itself, the cat is put under general anesthesia and the toes are prepared with antiseptic soap. A tourniquet is placed on the cat’s leg and tightened to prevent excessive bleeding. Using a scalpel, the surgeon grips the tip of the claw with tourniquet declaw, a small clamp, and uses scalpel to carve around the third phalanx, cutting through the skin and severing tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. In another technique using a guillotine blade (Resco), a sterilized veterinary nail clipper is used to cut the tissues (photos can be seen at lisaviolet.com). A scalpel should be (but is not always) used to remove the last piece of bone. If this is not done, the claw can re-grow, although it will be deformed. The wound is typically closed with sutures or surgical glue, but some vets rely on bandages to control the bleeding. Tight bandages restrict the normal response of the tissue to swell, causing intense pressure and pain."
Many people believe that laser surgery is a better solution. Dr. Hofve does not agree.
"Laser surgery is similar to the scalpel technique, although the laser cauterizes the blood vessels by burning them as they are cut. It is a difficult technique to master, and complications can still arise," she said.
Now that we understand cats and cat behavior a whole lot better than in the last century, new solutions, humane solutions, have been introduced to combat destructive behavior in cats.
There are a number of behavior modification methods that can be used throughout the home. Top cat behaviorists including Jackson Galaxy and Pam Johnson Bennett share excellent information via websites, books, blogs, videos and television shows.
For those needing something more immediate, nail caps for cats have become quite popular. Not only can these claw toppers stop the scratching of furniture; they can stop the scratching of other pets or people in the house.
I enlisted the help of my cat Cujo to try out Soft Claws.
Soft Claws are safe and non-toxic (even the glue, which is the same type of adhesive used in many veterinary procedures). They allow for the normal extension and retraction of a cat's nails. Most do not realize that they are even on! They can still stretch and go through the scratching motion (like on a scratch pad or scratching post).
The Soft Claws are even fashionable, coming in a variety of colors, some even sparkly. I chose purple for Cujo, as I knew it would complement his slate gray coat (see photo).
While many people can apply Soft Claws at home, I was not feeling that confident. So I asked for help from my vet's office. They were happy to oblige.
The whole experience took a few minutes. Cujo didn't seem to mind at all.
It has been almost a week since the Soft Claws were applied. He has not tried to chew any of them off. He is walking and behaving as usual. Success!! For most cats, the caps will stay on four to six weeks (the normal growth pattern of the claws).
Soft Claws are very reasonably priced at $18.95. Each package contains 40 nail caps, two tubes of adhesive and six applicator tips. This is approximately a four to six month supply. They come in a variety of sizes to fit all cats. The product is carried by many large pet supply stores as well as online. For more information, visit Softclaws.com.
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