• Sarah Schoenrock

Paws Off: Do Not Declaw Your Cat

Photo courtesy of cmeimg-a.akamaihd.net

Many cat owners are unaware of the dangers of declawing their feline companion. Often, they believe the procedure is a simple solution to save their furniture and to prevent the cat from harming others by scratching. What they don’t know is how many consequences a cat can face after having their claws surgically removed.

A common misconception of declawing is that it is similar to a manicure where each nail is clipped, but this is inaccurate. Declawing, or onychectomy, is a surgical procedure that amputates the last bone in each toe on a cat’s paw. The nail is attached to the bone, so in order to fully declaw a cat, the attached bone must be completely removed. If this type of procedure was performed on a human, it would be akin to chopping off each finger by the first knuckle point below the fingernail.

Once the bones are removed from the cat, its wounds are closed by stitches or medical glue and then wrapped in bandages. After the surgery, cats are often unable to walk normally for a few days and will experience pain. They are often prone to infection since bacteria from litter box use can get into the fresh wounds. Cats will also experience limping, fever and increased heart rate. After the wounds are healed, many cats, according to the Humane Society of the United States, will still experience discomfort in their paws, a feeling similar to wearing shoes that are too tight. Other negative effects of declawing include regrowth of claws if they are improperly removed, nerve damage and bone spurs.

Cats can face difficulty in behaving normally after the claw removal since their main way of self-defense is no longer viable. Often, cats will bite more frequently as a way to protect themselves. Many owners declaw their cats as a way to prevent aggressive scratching and attacks, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, declawing has never been proven to decrease aggressive behavior.

Many people also do not realize that a cat uses its claws in ways other than self-defense. Cats will scratch themselves while grooming in order to remove dead skin and keep fur untangled. Outdoor cats will also use scratch marks as territorial markers. As the cats scratch, their scent is left through glands in their feet.

There are many alternatives to declawing that can help prevent unwanted scratching. Keeping claws trimmed with claw clippers will often minimize any furniture scratching. Having a multitude of scratching posts and boards around your home will often help keep a cat’s claws trimmed and dulled. Soft plastic caps, such as Soft Paws, can be glued to the claws and make them feel dull and rounded, but still allow cats to use their claws in a normal and natural way.

Declawing is currently illegal in 28 countries across the globe. Though it is legal in the United States to declaw cats, many cities have local bans on declawing, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. The only acceptable time a cat should be declawed is when the nail beds are found to be cancerous.

Declawing is a cruel and unnecessary procedure. Make a humane choice and do not declaw your cat.

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