So your new cat has decided to dissect the side of your favorite chair or maybe the pricy living room rug has become his area of choice. This can be a real nuisance, especially if you’re someone who cares about the condition of your dÃ?Â©cor. If you are familiar with this situation then you may have thought of declawing, otherwise known as a feline onchyectomy, as a possible alternative. If so, then it’s best to understand the procedure and how it will affect your cat physically and psychologically. Numerous and more humane alternatives are available and are viable techniques when used properly. Feline onchyectamy does exist though and needs to be understood. Here are the facts:
It is a surgery
. Your cat is not merely having his toenails removed. Unlike our own nails which are merely embedded within the flesh, a cat’s nails are rigidly attached to the first joint in the toe. Thus, the procedure requires the ten separate amputations of this first joint or distal phalanx. If you feel the three sections of bone in your own fingers and imagine that our nails were attached to the first section. This first section is what would need to be removed. The procedure is a drastic and causes severe pain and many lasting effects, not to mention the possible complications that can occur due to the procedure. Nerve damage, hemorrhaging and severe infection are some of the discomforting possibilities. Also, the section of bone is sometimes incompletely removed. Hidden under the healed tissue a deformed claw can begin to emerge, called an abscess, causing your cat great pain and discomfort.
There is a painful recovery. Any human amputee would tell you that losing a limb or digit is quite an excruciating experience. Moreover, cats are referred to as digitigrades, which means they walk on their toes. This obviously causes problems for a pet who has just had ten toes amputated and can’t use a wheelchair. Unless you are going to be with your cat every minute of every day during the healing process then they are going to need to transport themselves from one place to another by their only means possible. Even a food dish inches away still requires getting up and positioning themselves above it. So unless you and your pet agree to a hand-feeding for every meal he must still find a way to eat. The litter box poses a whole other set of complications and can usually cause your pet to become averse to using it at all, causing him to find other areas in which to go. This isn’t a behavior change well received by most and requires more work for the pet owner in the end. If my cat is afraid of using the litter box, what should I do? There isn’t an appropriate answer to this question and though a pet owner might think to start putting him outside as a solution to the problem, this is the last place a cat with no claws should be.
The psychological effects may overshadow the benefits. Your cat’s claws are an important part of its existence and well-being. Think about all of your cat’s activities that require the use of its claws. From relieving stress on the scratching post to protecting himself from falling or from a rival, there are endless needs for their claws. There are dozens of documented cases on the behavioral effects of declawing. Their claws are what allow them to be cats and once they realize they have lost many of their abilities they are bound to change psychologically. Many cats become reclusive and withdrawn from their surroundings, others can become fearful and aggressive, while still others can become extremely needy and helpless seeming. He can no longer jump, climb and play with confidence as he no longer has a means of support or defense. There are a multitude of different outcomes that can occur which can permanently alter his once loving personality.
There are other alternatives. Don’t give up on your cat just yet. Owning a pet requires some work. They are a part of your family and share many of the same basic needs as everyone else. Giving your cat an area to exercise his need to scratch is the first and best option. Try rubbing a small amount of catnip into the carpet that covers the scratching post. This will usually do the trick, and if done when the scratching post is first brought into the home it will immediately tell him ‘it’s his’. You can repeat the catnip process every few weeks or so, even just to give them the enjoyment of it. If he still tries scratching other furniture first try scolding with a stern “no” and placing him near the scratching post. If after a week or so this hasn’t begun to work try the reliable squirt bottle technique, though avoid squirting him directly in the face. If this technique still has not curbed his behavior then you might want to look into Soft Paws. You can usually find these at your local pet store or can inquire about them through your veterinarian. They are soft plastic molds that fit over the cat’s claws with an adhesive glue. They come in a few different colors, as well as clear, and last anywhere from 1 to 2 months. It is something easily done at home, but for those stubborn cats you may want it done by a groomer.
Though the procedure of declawing is still legal in the United States it is illegal in most other countries. Many nations and all animal welfare organizations view the procedure as inhumane. In countries such as England, Germany, Brazil and Australia the procedure is either outlawed or only used in cases of severe medical circumstances. The reasons to avoid the procedure seem to outweigh the benefits, not to mention the dent in your pocketbook from an unnecessary and costly surgery. Whether it’s the possibility of intense pain, severe infection, extreme mood changes, aggressive behavior or the compromise in your budget, declawing should not be thought of lightly. Alternatives exist and are easier and more pleasant than you think. Declawing is the easy way out. Enjoy the time you have with your cat, which includes training him to be a responsible member of the household. After all, isn’t that why you adopted him in the first place?