Should I have my cat declawed?

“Should I have my cat declawed?” is a wonderful question, one that is fueled by emotions and misinformation. Having been a cats-only veterinarian for 17 years and a veterinarian for 28 years, I can provide a knowledgeable answer to that important question.

First, some background information; the question of declawing implies that behavior modification has been tried unsuccessfully. The intent of this article is to discuss surgical alternatives. When a cat is surgically declawed, the surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which means that the patient is completely asleep during the procedure. At the time of the surgery and during the post-op phase, a whole host of anti-inflammatory and analgesic medicines are available for use by your veterinarian, thus ensuring a pain free recovery for your cat.

As noted above, the declaw procedure is indeed a surgical operation whereby the claws and their associated germinal tissue are cut away from the toes, and, when done correctly, the distal phalange (the tip of their toes) and their toe pads remain intact & functional, as do the several joints of each toe. Please visit www.conwaycat.com for detailed diagrams showing the right and wrong methods of declawing your cat. The details of the procedure are provided for clarity; plus, in all sincerity, clients frequently ask, “Don’t you just yank them out?” or “Don’t you just cut off the toes?” To which the answer is a resounding “No!”

Good nursing care during the post-op phase is also helpful for the proper recovery of the patient. At the Cat Clinic we keep declaw patients hospitalized on fluffy towels for two days post-op and recommend shredded paper in their litter boxes for the next two days at home. Our biggest challenge is encouraging pet owners to keep the patient quiet during the first three days at home (the cats are too full of energy and try to race around the house, therefore they are susceptible to snagging a suture on the carpet).

So, from a medical standpoint, surgical declawing can be done safely and painlessly. When it is done correctly, the patients are not lame post-operatively, nor are they disfigured.

“What about self-defense?” When only the front claws are removed, the cat still has major defenses with its teeth and hind leg claws; cars and dogs are a cat’s worst enemies, therefore indoor cats are safer anyhow, yet front declawed cats can still climb a tree!

“Won’t my cat become a biter after being declawed?” Several good studies have addressed this issue and most agree that these cats (who are prone to biting) exhibited biting behavior before the surgery.

“What about gluing those rubber/plastic caps on top of the toe nails?” Yes, they work well but they require manually trimming the nails (claws) monthly anyhow. So if your cat will allow you to trim its nails routinely, then the toenail challenge is solved.

And, “What about that tendonectomy procedure to prevent my cat from extending its claws?” Yes and no…you will still need to do routine nail trims, and a year later you will need a second surgery to correct the deformity to the claws that occurs due to the lack of tension at the base of the claws.

Thus, to make a long story very short, yes, you can safely and humanely have your cat(s) surgically declawed; it will make a better citizen out of your cat! The procedure can be done as early as three months of age or as late as 13 years of age. Again, feel free to visit the Cat Clinic of Conway’s website at www.conwaycat.com.

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