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CAT DECLAWING. IS IT NECESSARY?

Cat DeclawingDeciding whether to declaw your cat may be one of the most important choices you make as a cat owner. And for many feline lovers, it’s a thorny issue.

The Truth About Declawing

"Declawing is an inhumane, unnecessary procedure that has many alternatives. It is never in the cat's best interest. With declawing, we are interfering with a species' nature because of our own whims, mis-conceptions, misinformation, and sometimes, laziness." Neil Wolff, D.V.M.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of The cat Who Cried for Help, and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine has the following to say about the procedure: "Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint and dismember all apply to this surgeryÉin veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as a model of severe pain for the testing of analgesic drugs."

While declawing is a popular and lucrative practice in the United States, it is not practiced in European countries. It is, in fact, against the law, in many countries including England, Germany, and Switzerland.

The Declawing Operation

How declawing is doneThe standard declawing procedure calls for the removal of the claw, the cells at the base responsible for the growth, and part or all of the terminal bone of the toe. It is performed to make your cat unable to scratch furniture, people or other animals. Usually the claws on the front feet only are removed, but sometimes the digits are as well. It is actually an amputation comparable to the removal of the fingers of the human hand at the last knuckle. The cat experiences considerable pain in the recovery and healing process.

What You Need To Know

The cat's claw is not a toenail at the end of the toe as in other animals. It is movable digit attached to muscle as a finger might be. Note the strong ligaments and tendons which give power to extend and retract the claws. This is unique in cats. Without this your cat would not be able to properly grasp, hold or establish footing for proper walking, running, springing, climbing or stretching. Think of the cat as having 10 toes on each foot. When the end digit, including the claw is removed, the sensory and motor nerves are cut, damaged and destroyed. They do not repair themselves or grow back for many months. Following the surgery there is a wooden lack of feeling, then a tingling sensation during the long convalescence while the cat must walk on the stub end of the second digit. Remember that during all this time the cat may not "rest" his feet as we would after a similar operation but must continue to scratch in his litter box, walk and attempt to jump as usual regardless of his pain.

How Declawing is Done

There are several methods for performing the procedure, but the goal is the same: complete removal of the third phalanx (last bone in the toe) and the nail that grows from it.

Some veterinarians now use laser surgery, which some think can lessen pain and post-operative bleeding. During laser surgery, a small, intense beam of light is used to cut through tissue by heating and vaporizing it, meaning there's less bleeding, less pain, and a shorter recovery time. Either way, your cat’s toes will be bandaged, and it may take a couple weeks for your cat to walk normally. Some cats bounce back very quickly, especially kittens.

Another technique, known as a "tenectomy" (or tendonectomy), is becoming increasingly common. Rather than amputate the cat's claw, the surgeon removes a piece of the tendon that controls the cat's ability to flex and extend his claws. After surgery, the cat's claws are intact, but remain permanently extended. More than half of the cats who undergo this procedure can still use their claws to some extent, but cannot scratch normally. Because the cat can't sharpen his claws, the claws quickly become rough, grow excessively, and must then be trimmed on a regular basis.


There are some alternatives to declawing

1.Buy or make a scratching post

Make sure it is strong enough not to wobble and tall enough to accommodate a cat at full stretch. Sisal and corrugated cardboard make good scratching post surfaces. Avoid carpeting as it is easy to tear up and looks terrible once it is broken in. Also, the cat will have a hard time differentiating between "good" carpet to scratch (the post) and "bad" carpet to scratch (your living room rug) so you may create a new problem.

Praise your pet when he uses the cat scratcher. Make it a fun place to be by placing toys on or around it, or rubbing it with catnip. Make sure to put it in an accessible area. If you’re trying to discourage the cat from scratching a particular piece of furniture, try placing a scratching post in front of it, gradually moving it aside as the cat begins to use it regularly.

2.Train your cat

Encourage the cat to claw the right things, and discourage her from clawing the wrong things. Each time you bring the cat to the scratching post or she goes on her own, praise her, pet her and spend a minute playing at the post. If the cat begins to scratch where she isn’t supposed to, call her by name, firmly telling her "no," and move her to the scratching post. Put her front legs up on the post and make scratching motions with them. Dangle a toy in front of the post so as she goes for the toy she'll touch the post. Most likely, she'll enjoy the feeling and continue using it afterwards. You can also “use” the post so that your scent will be on it and entice your cat to mark the territory herself.

Trimming of cat’s claws3.Trimming your cat’s claws

Although it may seem like a daunting task at first, trimming your cat's claws regularly is an important part of maintaining your feline companion's hygiene. Keeping your cat's claws clipped will also minimize scratches that might be suffered by you - and your furniture. Their claws have to be clipped once a week in order to prevent scratching of home furniture. When clipping your cat's nails it is a good idea to use two people — one to hold your pet securely and the other to clip the nails. Never use regular scissors. Use only clippers made especially for cats and clip only the very tip of each claw. There are veins (sometimes visible as a pink area near the base of each claw) in your cat's claws that you should be

4.Nail Covers

A few years ago an excellent product was introduced to reduce damage from furniture scratching humanely. “Soft Paws”™ (or Soft Claws®) are plastic nail caps that can be super-glued to a cat’s claws following a preliminary nail trim. The results are often spectacular, with damage to furniture practically non-existent while the nail caps remain in place. The manufacturers recommend a complete replacement every month or so, but replacing lost nails individually as they fall off also works (and involves far less work).


P.S. If you really love your cat, you will want her to lead a long, happy life, giving and receiving love and affection. If you really love her, and care about her, don't declaw her. Destructive scratching problems are 100% correctable. Providing the cat with suitable scratching cat furniture to satisfy this instinctive behavior and encouraging appropriate behavior is generally all that is required.  [Learn more ..]