While you love your cat, if you’re being honest, there are times when they can act in ways that are a little upsetting. This is especially true if they decide to dig their razor-sharp claws into that expensive couch you just bought! But no matter how much your cat claws at your furniture, declawing cats — a procedure also known as an onychectomy — is never acceptable. Not only is it incredibly painful for your cat, but it can also lead to severe physical and even emotional complications.
These are just a few of the reasons you should never declaw a cat, as well as some humane alternatives to declawing.
How Declawing Cats Works
When someone makes the unfortunate decision to declaw a cat, they are often under the mistaken belief that the process is similar to heading to the spa for a manicure.
But declawing your cat is no day at the spa. An onychectomy is an invasive surgery that actually involves amputation of the bone of each toe on each of your cat’s paws. The traditional process of declawing a cat sometimes involves the use of a tool known as a “guillotine clipper.” It’s an ominous-sounding name for a surgical instrument, but it fits. There are other instances where a laser cuts through tissue by vaporizing it.1
Declawing a cat is serious business. It’s very similar to amputation of a human’s finger at the last knuckle.
Now, there is one surgical alternative to declawing, but it’s not really any better than an onychectomy. It’s known as a tendonectomy. This involves severing the tendons that control the movements of a cat’s claws. The cat can no longer control or extend its claws. Another drawback is that a tendonectomy will usually lead to abnormally thick claws that need to be trimmed more often. The cat’s claws will be more prone to snagging your furniture, carpet, or even your body.2
If that’s not enough to convince you that declawing your cat is wrong, let’s take a look at just some of the potential complications that can arise from this inhumane form of surgery.
Cats are very good at hiding their pain. Not only are they proud animals, but they also have a natural instinct to conceal discomfort. Showing pain is a sign of weakness for wild animals, making them more susceptible to attacks from predators.3 But make no mistake – a declawed cat paw is a severe source of pain that, in many instances, is long term.4
One potential complication arising from declawing cats is back pain. This can occur when a cat has to change the way they walk to compensate for losing parts of their claws. In some instances, declawing cats can lead to a change in posture. Just like you might walk differently if you had a painful blister on your foot, the weight distribution of a declawed cat will sometimes change. This can lead to muscle strain and substantial discomfort.5
No matter how skilled your veterinarian may be, or how well the surgery may go, there’s also always a risk of infection.
When an infection occurs during an unnecessary surgery like declawing, that makes the situation even worse. A vet may recommend a regimen of antibiotics, but let’s face it – this is a surgery involving a cat’s foot. Even a bandaged foot could still become infected after contacting a floor or a litter box. An infection can get into a nearby bone and then travel throughout the rest of the body. Infections can result in the need for even more extensive surgeries.
Hemorrhaging is a major risk in declawing cats. They may bleed profusely for days afterward. Research indicates this risk is higher in older cats than in kittens.6
Alternatives to Declawing
Instead of resorting to an inhumane process such as declawing, cat owners can instead try one of the many other options available.
For example, instead of declawing cats, many owners will provide scratching posts so their pets can express their natural behavior without tearing up the couch in the process. These posts come in a variety of different models, and many of them even provide space so a cat can chill out afterward. They’re also available in a variety of materials, including carpet and rope.
Now, you want to look for scratchers that are stable enough they won’t fall over while your cat is getting a good scratch workout.
If you’re in a pinch, though, a cardboard box might also work. Don’t be surprised, though, if you need to try two or three different scratchers before you find one your cat likes.
You might not think you can train a cat to use a scratcher, but it’s possible. Use toys, catnip, or treats to get your cat to approach the scratcher, and then reward them for using it. If your cat drifts back over to a chair or couch and starts to scratch, pick them up gently and go back to the scratcher. Always use positive reinforcement – never punish your cat.7
Another alternative to declawing cats is to keep their nails at a manageable length. You can easily clip nails at home, but if you have any problems, you can always take your pet to a groomer or a vet. If you’d rather leave it to a professional to trim cat nails, make sure you do so on a regular basis.
If your cat is indoors only, you’ll need to have the nails trimmed more often than if your cat spends time outside. If you
do choose to trim your cat’s nails at home, provide plenty of love, and make sure the environment is quiet and calm.8
You can also try using temporary nail caps for your indoor cat to protect your furniture. These caps slide over the cat’s nails and protect your property as well as your skin. They’ll usually need to be replaced after around 4-6 weeks.
Wrapping it Up
An onychectomy can lead to a lot of serious consequences, so hopefully, you won’t consider this inhumane practice for your pet. If your cat’s scratching of your furniture and other property is driving you crazy, there are a lot of safe alternatives for you to consider.
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