If you are thinking about declawing remember that it isn’t just a simple procedure to remove the top part of the claw. It is actually an amputation of the last knuckle to the nail. Such an amputation can be dangerous to the cat (there is always a risk to your cat when he/she undergoes anesthesia). Declawing is also considered cruel by many vets and cat lovers for many other reasons (note that you should NEVER declaw an outside cat):
- It takes away the cat’s main defense mechanism
- It takes away a cat’s ability to escape from a situation quickly
- It can make it more difficult to impossible for a cat to jump and climb
- It can throw a cat’s balance off
- Cats can become depressed as they have lost their defenses and are no longer as good at jumping and running
- Cats can have litterbox problems following declawing as the feeling of litter on their paws can be uncomfortable
- It can put the cat at risk health-wise as the cat does need to undergo anesthesia and the cat can be at risk for infection as the paws heal
If you are thinking about declawing your cat because he/she is scratching furniture or other items in your home remember that cats don’t scratch just to ruin things, your cat needs to scratch for multiple reasons:
- Remove the outer sheath of the nail and file/sharpen the nail.
- Release scents on to objects to mark them.
- Create scratch marks and thus a visual marker for other cats to see.
There are many alternatives to declawing such as claw sheaths (they cover the claws but are a little clumsy to the cat) or, even better, teaching your cat not to scratch. If you don’t want your cat to scratch your furniture or cupboards you must give him/her a viable alternative such as a scratching post and you also need to teach your cat how to use the scratching post. There are many different types of posts available. You can find posts made of corrugated cardboard, sisal, carpeting material, and wood; and such posts come in various styles to accommodate your cats needs. If your cat likes to scratch the floor get him/her a post that can sit on the floor lengthwise, or if your cat likes to stretch long and tall on his/her back legs to scratch get your cat a tall tower with a post on it. If your cat is unaccustomed to a post you may need to help train your cat to choose the post rather than your furniture. You can do this by using a combination of the following:
- Spray catnip spray on the post to attract your cat
- Help show your cat how to scratch. Actually go through the scratching motion yourself while your cat is watching. Never actually grab your cat’s paws and make him/her scratch as most cats hate their paw pads to be touched.
- Pick your cat up and showing your cat the post every time he/she scratches in the wrong place
- Spray your cat with water every time he/she scratches the wrong place and make sure to reward your cat every time he/she scratches the correct place.
- Cover your cat’s favorite scratching places with double-sided tape or other items as explained in the aversion techniques section.
Another procedure that is an alternative to declawing is a tendonectomy. During this procedure the tendons that connect to the cat’s claws are cut. Thus the cat can no longer extend his claws to scratch (the claws remain in the retracted position). Although this can seem like a minor surgery compared to declawing the owner does need to clip the cat’s claws frequently. Since the cat can’t extend his claws he also can not scratch to take care of them. Without clipping your cat’s claws they will continue to grow back into the paw. Due to the maintenance factor most owners choose declawing over tendonectomy. However this can be a kinder alternative to declawing if you are willing to put in some time.