Issues regarding cat declawing

Many people have their cats declawed. This occurs for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the vet has recommended doing it at the time the cat is spayed or neutered. Perhaps the owner thinks declawing their indoor cat is “the thing to do”. After all, everybody does it, right? Perhaps the cat is scratching furniture, and the owner doesn’t know about alternatives. There are many reasons people give as to why they might get their cat declawed.

But what many people don’t know is what is actually involved.

You see, the term “declaw” is a misnomer. It implies that the vet simply removes the claws and that’s it. However, this isn’t the case. When a cat is declawed, the veterinarian must sever the toe at the first joint, thus removing the end bone of the toe, called the distal phalanx. The vet must do this because if any part of that bone remains, there is a good chance the claw will try to regrow, albeit abnormally and painfully. This requires more surgery to correct the problem.

Because cats are digigrade, meaning they walk on their toes, this is a very painful procedure. It alters the cat’s gait and can cause many physical problems down the line, such as early onset arthritis. Some cats suffer from chronic pain their entire lives. Some cats get infections in the short term.

Aside from the physical problems that may result from a declaw, many cats suffer behavioral problems as well. Because a cat digs in its litter, a declaw will make this painful. Thus, some cats begin to avoid the litterbox and find some place softer to eliminate. Other cats become biters after they have been declawed. Still others become more skittish, and less outgoing.

Some cats don’t seem to suffer long-term effects, but whether they’re in pain or not we may never know. This is because cats have a very strong instinct to hide their pain. So many people may think their cat isn’t suffering, but there is a chance that it is and is simply not showing that it is hurting.

Thus, declawing is a painful and inhumane procedure. Fortunately, though, there are many alternatives, so it is also an unnecessary procedure.

Alternatives include clipping the claws, which, if started early in the cat’s life, is a very simple thing to do. It’s only the sharp “hooks” that cause damage, so clipping those hooks off should be sufficient. There are also plastic caps to glue over the nails, which are called Soft Paws. They have to be replaced every four to six weeks and make the claws blunt, so scratching cannot do damage. There is also a product called Sticky Paws, which are clear pieces of double-sided tape that you put on whatever you don’t want scratched. Cats do not like the sticky feeling on their paws and will soon find anything with Sticky Paws applied to be unappealing.

It is also possible to train a cat where it is and where it is not acceptable to scratch. Have a good, tall, sturdy scratching post near an area where the cat likes to scratch. A good choice in scratching material is a post covered in sisal rope. Another type of post many cats like is made out of corrugated cardboard. It is good to have a variety of scratching posts. When the cat goes to scratch something inappropriate, squirt it with a spray bottle of water, or rattle a tin can full of pennies, and then redirect the cat to an appropriate scratching post.

With patience and love, it is possible to keep your cats, and your furniture, intact. Please don’t declaw your cat, but instead train it to scratch in an appropriate location.

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