Cat Declawing

Declawing cats is a very hot topic for debate. It is just like any other surgery: there are some risks from the anesthesia and surgical procedure, but most of the times and if done by a competent veterinarian, there are no lasting effects from the surgery.

Declawing your cat is a personal decision. A person that decides to declaw his/her cat should not be vilified instead encouraged to give the cat a home and love as long as the cat lives.

What is declawing?

Declaw surgery, also known as onychectomy, generally involves the surgical removal of the claw and all or a portion of the last bone in each digit. It is usually performed on the front paws only. Younger cats (under 1 year of age) tolerate the procedure better than older or obese cats that bear more weight on their paws.

What are declawing pros and cons?

PROS: Medical Reasons – Sometimes, a claw is damaged, and it may be safer and more humane to remove the claw altogether. There is also the possibility that a claw may contain a tumor or other malady, in which case it is beneficial for the affected area to be removed.

Owner Distress – Some people simply should not be exposed to a cat’s claws. People with suppressed immune systems, blood disorders, and the elderly can’t always deal with a clawed animal—not only do the claws tear the skin if the cat scratches a person, but the claws have bacteria on them that may have harmful effects on certain individuals.

Declawing would be beneficialin cases of conflict between pets in the household. Scratches are no fun but can also result in serious eye injuries that can damage vision or result in the loss or an eye.

Cosmetic Reasons – The most common reason that people have their cat declawed is to prevent the animal from tearing up carpet or furniture. If your cat doesn’t have claws, it can’t destroy anything with them.

CONS: Unnatural for Cat – The fact is, cats are born with claws, and many see removing them as a disruption of nature’s order for the animal. Removing a cat’s claws effectively removes its defense mechanism, its way of grabbing and holding things, etc.

Painful for Cat – Declawing is surgery, and surgery is painful. Cat’s claws are not like toenails; they are like fingers, and removing them involves the cutting of tissue and bone. Nerve blocks and pain- relieving medications reduce the degree of post-operative pain but some discomfort is common.

Possible Complications – Infection is a possibility in any surgery and digging in a dirty litter box can increase the risk. Rarely claws can even grow back if the surgery isn’t performed correctly, although they will not grow back properly, causing further problems.

Keep this in mind: Some people, even if they are opposed to declawing, would contend that it is better for a cat’s owner to declaw the animal then give it away or euthanize it. At Centennial Animal Hospital, we recommend calling and discussing the options with your veterinarian. Talking with a professional will help you decide which option is right for you, your family, and your cat.

What method does the clinic use? (blade, laser, guillotine method)

We offer our clients 2 methods (blade and laser) with laser being the preferred method. Laser surgery causes the least amount of trauma, pain and blood loss. Our veterinarians can use a CO2 laser which cuts and seals blood vessels at the same time.

How old does a cat have to be to be declawed?

We recommend that our feline patients be at least 5-6 months of age and should be done at the same time as spaying or neutering if the procedure is being considered.

What are some potential complications?

Infection is a possibility in any surgery. Reopening incisions can occur especially if the cat chews at it’s toes, jumps and lands hard, or is a vigorous scratcher or digger. Rarely claws can even grow back if the surgery isn’t performed correctly, although they will not grow back properly, causing further problems. Some behavior bathroom problems are also noted as cats may not like the way the litter feels under their feet. If there is any discomfort, they may avoid using the litter box.

What are alternatives to declawing?

Some alternatives include Soft Paws which are nail caps that are glued over your cat’s natural nails and generally have to be replaced every 3-8 weeks. Scratching posts and having the nails trimmed on a routine basis will also decrease destructive behaviour. Please speak to any of our team members if you have additional questions.

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