Declawing Your Cat: What You Need to Know

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You love your cat! Except that your couch, your carpet, and your hands have seen finer days from a time when they were not scratched to pieces. Now, you’re thinking about getting your cat declawed because you think it’s similar to when you have your nails trimmed. A kitty manicure! As nice as that sounds, that’s not the case. HSNEGA is here with the 411 on having your cat declawed.

The first thing you need to know about a cat is that their claws are a lot like a human’s fingernails, but the difference is that a cat’s claws are connected to bone, not skin, and that’s why getting a cat declawed is not like getting a manicure. Above is a nice (non-graphic) image of where the cat is declawed. Basically, a cat declawing means a veterinarian has to cut through the cat’s skin and cut through five tendons and ligaments just to remove the bone with claw.

And that’s for EACH claw!

That’s a total of 40 tendons, and that doesn’t include if your cat is polydactyl (has more than 5 claws on each paw)! Once the veterinarian finishes the procedure, a hole is left in the cat’s paw that is too small to stitch up so it is glued shut. Then the cat’s paw is securely bandaged to control bleeding.

If the graphic picture and description above doesn’t really make sense because you don’t know cat anatomy and you’re not a cat, then the picture below sums up what happens when you have a cat declawed, and we’re pretty sure this one will make sense.
590_2D00_text_2D00_declawing_2D00_1_2D00_knuckles_2D00_cutAnother thing people don’t realize when they have a cat declawed is that it can cause more problems than before the procedure. One problem that can arise is a cat may become a more aggressive biter because its ability to defend itself has been taken away. Also, if a cat is let outside, it can be killed because it no longer has a way to defend itself from predators.

Cats also can develop infections, along with excessive bleeding from the hole that is left behind and, if the bone is not completely removed, the claw can start to grow back causing more unseen pain. Additionally, cats have to learn to walk again because they carry their weight on their claws and, because they have to change where the pressure of their weight goes, they can develop arthritis.

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L to R: Alternatives to declawing include scratching posts, soft paws and nail trims.

Now that you know what happens when a cat is declawed, we hope you understand that most animal welfare organizations do not support the procedure. Rather than removing their claws, here are some alternatives to help a cat that likes to scratch:

  1. Trimming: Cat’s claws can be trimmed just like a dog’s claws and this is the equivalent of having your nails trimmed. Cats can be trained by their owners to have their nails trimmed, but if you are concerned about trimming yourself, then you can take your cat to a vet’s office or groomer.
  2. Training: It’s amazing what a water gun or spray bottle can accomplish. Most cats don’t like water and spraying them makes the message loud and clear.
  3. Redirecting Behavior: Give your cat something ok to scratch! There are all kinds of scratching posts from elaborate towers to cardboard boxes. If your cat still doesn’t like scratching the designating area, try putting some catnip in the area to entice them.
  4. Soft Paws: This apparatus is a cap that goes over the nail. It may sound silly, but now your cat can have fabulous looking nails that don’t scratch! You can find them on Amazon and at some pet stores.

A quick recap: Having your cat declawed is like having your fingers cut off at the knuckles. Declawing a cat can cause more aggressive behavior because they can no longer defend themselves. Consider other alternatives to stop a clawing cat other than declawing.

One final note: if you’re looking for a declawed cat, please check your local animal welfare facilities for one that is ALREADY declawed, but don’t declaw a new cat.

Information for this post provided by Dr. Jaime Feroli, DVM, Medical Director for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.

Written by J. Martin, HSNEGA Communications Intern

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