Declawing Your Cat

by | Aug 28, 2019 | News

This procedure had almost become the norm for anyone that has had a cat.  Most times when the spay or neuter surgery has been scheduled, the declaw is added right on with it.  Recently there has been discussion as to whether declaw procedures should actually be performed anymore and in some states, even outlawed.  This topic is becoming a controversial topic nationwide.   At this time we at Bismarck Animal Clinic & Hospital do continue to perform the procedure, but urge our clients to make sure that they are educated and have the knowledge as to what really occurs during the procedure and the potential after effects of the procedure.  I think it’s beneficial to look at both sides and what can be done in turn to detour our furry felines from behaviors that are unfavorable when not declawed.  

Reasons Why People Choose to Declaw

We choose to declaw our cats for a variety of different reasons.  The top reason most times, is due to the scratching and destruction that they can cause with their claws both to humans and inanimate objects such as furniture.  This is actually a normal behavior for cats.  Cats use their claws for hunting purposes and for this innate reason, they are constantly sharpening them.  They use them as a defense mechanism and as a way to mark their surroundings as well.  Cats will extract their claws when threatened and they actually have scent glands in their feet which give them a way to mark inanimate objects around them. This alerts other animals in the house or area saying “Hey, this is my territory.” 

These behaviors are not favorable to us however.   Not only does our furniture get destroyed, but our bodies can as well.  Many times people will declaw for this reason.  It is all too common that we have cats that are scheduled for declaws because they are too rough with their owners and can cause some severe cuts.  At times this can be detrimental for people that are elderly or immunocompromised.  For these reasons, with the appropriate education, declaws may be considered. 

The Procedure Itself

The declaw procedure itself (also known as the onychectomy) is a major surgery and not something to be taken lightly.  Essentially, it is the amputation of the 3rd phalanx or toe bone.  In regards to humans, this is like amputating a finger.  This procedure is very painful and comes with many potential risks.  These risks can include acute and chronic pain, nerve issues, and sometimes lameness or even behavioral issues. 

If the procedure has to be performed, proper anesthetics, pain management, and post-operative care are essential in order to have the outcome desired.  Even with these the procedure may not be successful and the above complications can occur.    

What we can do as Owners Prior to the Declaw

It is always recommended to seek out alternatives prior to having the declaw performed.  Keeping your cat active and mentally stimulated can make a world of difference.   Environmental enrichment such as toys or games can decrease the stress in the house for them.  Pheromone diffusers can help with this as well.  This will keep their scratching habits to places that are appropriate for them.   Make sure to place multiple vertical and horizontal scratch posts throughout the house to provide them the ability to sharpen claws, without using your furniture.  Grooming of the claws every couple weeks is also recommended.  This entails trimming them with a nail clipper of choice.  This will also help with the damage that is done if your or anyone in your family is to be scratched.  Another alternative is that of the Kitty Caps or claw covers.  These are essentially fake nails that are glued over the top of the real nail but are rounded at the tip.  These decrease the destruction caused as well since they do not have a sharp tip at the end.  These will have to be replaced consistently though as the nails grow out.  There are various other alternatives that can be approached as well. 

As with any other surgical procedure, the declaw can pose many risks and complications.  It is important for you as an owner to seek out the education needed to make an informed decision regarding it.  If you have questions, our staff is more than willing and happy to help answer them for you.  Links have been posted below for you to look at for further information at your convenience. 

Amy Dushcherer, Lead LVT/Office Manager