Should You Declaw Your Cat?

Cats scratch with their front claws to remove worn out pieces of nails; scratching is normal, instinctive behavior in cats.  But this cat behaviour can be an expensive habit inside the home, damaging furniture, carpets and more. The scratching can also border on the aggressive, a dangerous trait especially when there are small children in the home. Diseases and viral infections can get passed on through being scratched even by a pet cat.

The majority of pet owners often believe that declawing their cat is the best option to solve the scratching problem. For all cat owners out there, please be advised that laser cat declawing your cat should really be the last option to be considered because, rather than being the minor surgical procedure it's often portrayed as, it involves amputating the last joint of each of the cat’s paws.

Cat declawing is not the simple act of cutting the cat’s nails. It is a very serious surgical procedure because the claw is attached to the bone and not a toenail as people mistakenly believe it to be. There are animal welfare groups that fight what they term inhumane treatment.  In many countries around the world cat declawing is considered to be animal abuse and is illegal.  Cat declawing surgery is in a word painful and the recovery period after declawing is also painful because the cat has to perform all its natural functions such as walking, scratching and jumping with very painful, tender feet.

Cat declawing surgical procedure

Declawing or onychectomy (medical term) is an elective surgery generally performed under anesthesia; you can opt for either the traditional surgical technique or laser declawing but in either case the cat declawing surgery removes the nail bed or last joint of the paw. The declaw procedure is best performed on kittens of 3-4 months of age. The paws will be bandaged until the wounds heal and hospitalization overnight may be necessary to avoid infection or reopening of the sutures. When the procedure is performed on older cats (8 months and above), the recuperation time needed is much longer.

Caring For Your Cat After Laser Declawing Surgery

Replace your cat’s litter with newspaper for about a week after being declawed because the clay or sand in the litter box can get embedded in the wound. Your cat may not like the change that has taken place in the litter box and take itself off to another spot, but don’t worry too much as it is only a temporary phase. As soon as the old litter is back in the litter box, things will return to normal.

It is best to try and prevent your cat from jumping off of high surfaces for at least a week after the surgery.  If your cat does attempt this, once will probably suffice as a warning as the pain will likely be intense.  If bleeding occurs and it sometimes can when the scab over the wound peels off, put the cat in its carrier in a dark corner. The bleeding should stop within 15-20 minutes tops. If for some reason it does not, call the vet immediately.

Things to watch out for after declawing surgery:

  • Changes in regular cat behavior or health of your cat
  •  Swollen feet or frequent bleeding
  • Reluctance to walk 24-48 hours after the surgery

Cat scratching posts are available in most online or in-store pet shops. This is a better option to having the cat declawed. A large number of cats when trained from the kitten stage to use the scratching post can actually refrain from tearing the furniture and curtains to bits. Before opting for the surgery, check with different veterinary clinics about plastic sheaths for the nails to prevent destructive scratching behaviour.

Consider carefully the cat declawing pros and cons before making the decision to have your cat declawed.  It's a serious step and shouldn't be taken lightly.  Ultimately, declawing a cat is the owner’s prerogative and there may be a very good reason for doing so.