Considering declawing your cat?
Fluffy is scratching your new couch so you’ve decided to look into the possibility of declawing. Good for you for doing your homework but as a former veterinary technician and a strong advocate of the claw, I want to share a few facts with you.
Cats are born with claws and they should keep them.
In many countries around the world declawing cats is considered inhumane. Unfortunately, it is still performed in this country although many vets are stopping the practice. Most people decide to have their cats declawed to protect their furniture from cat scratching or to guard against injury to themselves and family members. People with compromised immune systems often think declawing is safer for them but declawed cats often turn to biting as their next defense and cat bites can be much more dangerous than a scratch.
Some negative sides of declawing
Declawing is the amputation of each toe at the first joint. In humans, it would be equivalent to cutting off the tip of every finger at the first knuckle—mutilation without question. Medical drawbacks to declawing include pain in the paw, infection, tissue necrosis (tissue death), lameness, and back pain. Removing claws changes the way a cat’s foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes for the rest of your life. There can also be a regrowth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs.
For several days after surgery, shredded newspaper is typically used in the litter box to prevent litter from irritating declawed feet. This unfamiliar litter substitute, accompanied by pain when scratching in the box, sometimes leads cats to stop using the litter box. Some cats may become biters because they no longer have their claws for defense.
Alternatives to declawing
If you want to protect your furniture, there are humane alternatives to declawing. Cats scratch things for various reasons—to remove the outer casings of claws, to stretch their bodies, and to mark their territory. It’s a completely natural behavior and something they need to do so give your cat alternatives to the furniture like a scratching post. Encourage Fluffy to use the scratching post by rubbing or spraying it with catnip. There are many different kinds, sizes, and prices of scratching posts available. You can also make your own by covering a piece of wood with carpet or sisal. I got a few sample pieces from my local carpet store that they no longer needed.
If you are worried about your cat damaging your home, or want to avoid unwanted scratching, try these tips:
- Keep their claws trimmed to minimize damage.
- Provide stable scratching posts around the house. Offer different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard. You’ll quickly learn which is his favorite. Tie toys to the post to entice them to use it.
- Ask your veterinarian about soft plastic caps (like SoftPaws) that are glued to the cat’s nails. They need to be replaced about every six weeks and are best done by a professional.
- Attach a special tape (like Sticky Paws or double sided tape) to furniture to deter your cat from unwanted scratching.
- And, if all else fails, a simple stream of water from a spray bottle often gets the point across. That worked great for my cats. Now I just have to make the sound of a spray bottle and they scatter.