Owners of cats will often consider having their pet declawed when scratching becomes a problem. Itís true that cats can cause considerable damage to furniture or door frames by using these as scratching posts. A favorite scratching spot can be completely ripped up and shredded by a cat exercising his or her claws. Declawing is generally done only on the front paws because the back paws rarely present a problem.
The front claws of cats are retractable, and are always growing, just like our fingernails. In order to remove the outer sheath of the claw to expose the new, sharper claw, the cat must scratch. Wild cats satisfy their scratching need on trees or logs, but domestic cats will use whatever is convenient and at hand. Besides scratching furniture, cats will also scratch defensively, or in some cases, aggressively. People who own cats, and who also have medical conditions, worry that a cat scratch could cause problems.
Declawing is a serious surgical procedure that will be performed on your cat under complete anesthesia. Declawing is not the same as trimming the catís nails. In order to declaw your cat, it is necessary for the last joint of the catís toes to be removed Ė the nail bed grows right out of the bone so in order for the declawing to be successful, the bone itself must be removed. Some vets use laser surgery to do the procedure, but the same result will occur.
After surgery, the paws must be bandaged. Because this is painful surgery, your veterinarian will usually prescribe pain relievers and often antibiotics to deal with incipient infections. The time that will be needed for complete healing can be up to several weeks, although some cats will be healed within 3 or 4 days.
As with most elective surgeries on pets, there is a great deal of discussion about whether declawing is cruel and unnecessary, except in certain medical situations (tumors, chronic infections). Studies have been done which exhibit contradictory results. However, several problems seem to arise after a cat has been declawed.
Because the catís primary means of defense, its claws, are gone, the cat may be more prone to biting. Cat bites can easily become infected, and are considered to be more dangerous in this respect than dog bites. Many cat owners report that their cats have more of a tendency to urinate or defecate inappropriately after being declawed. It has been shown that with the removal of the front claws, cats may object to the feel of the litter in the box. The cat can never be allowed outside again, once it has been declawed, the cat must be kept in the house at all times. Without claws, not only will the cat be unable to defend itself, it will also be unable to climb a tree to escape an attack by other animals.
Opposing these negative outcomes, there is also the fact that persistent scratching up of furniture or aggressive scratching of people or other pets can lead to the cat being surrendered to a shelter. It has been found that approximately one quarter of the cats in the United States have been declawed, and that most owners are satisfied with the outcome of the surgery but there are ways to solve the scratching problem without declawing.
Those cat owners who object to declawing can work around the problem to one extent or another. Kittens start getting the urge to scratch when they are about 2 months old. This is the perfect opportunity to train the kitten to use a scratching post. One that has a rough texture will appeal to the scratching instinct especially. Posts covered with sisal, or even a section of log will be attractive to the kitten. Even adult cats can be trained to use a post if you are willing to spend the time to work with the animal. Vinyl caps that fit over the front claws can keep the cat from damaging furniture or harming others. These caps are glued onto the claws and have to be replaced about once a month. Some owners have found that trimming the catís nails themselves can help to reduce the need for scratching. However, your cat may not be cooperative during this procedure, and this is also something that should be started while the cat is still a kitten.
Tendonectomy is a surgical alternative to declawing, and may actually be the worst choice of all. During this surgery, the tendons that control the flexing of the claws are severed. Owners must then trim the claws regularly to prevent them growing into the toe pads. This is not a recommended procedure for our beloved cats.
Declawing is not a procedure that any cat owner should take lightly, and in most cases, itís best to avoid it. There are other options to this painful procedure and if you take the time to train your cat, you can enjoy each other for many years to come.