The Detroit Post
Friday, 03 December, 2021

Why Are Cats Declawed

James Smith
• Saturday, 05 December, 2020
• 17 min read

Many groups, including the ASPCA and American Veterinary Medical Association (Alma), discourage declawing and suggests non-surgical alternatives. This major surgery has the potential to result in chronic, lifelong pain, and a change in the animal’s gait.

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Declawing is illegal in many countries in Europe, as well as in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and the cost varies on the nature of the technique, surgical time, and the location of the clinic.

While a tendonectomy keeps the claws intact and avoids harmful repercussions to the animal, without the tendons the toes tend to curl around and alter the cat’s normal anatomy, which predisposes them to arthritis. Dr. Richardson warns that there also is a risk of the curled claws puncturing the pads and causing pain and infection if the nails are not kept meticulously trimmed.

Ultimately, the decision to declaw the cat is up to the pet owner in conjunction with their vet (assuming it’s legal in the place they live). Some veterinarians are open to declawing if it means the cat doesn’t end up back at the shelter or out on the streets.

Samantha Can up, DVD, from Noble Creatures Veterinary Services in Washington, Georgia says she recommends the procedure, “if it ensures the cat will have a home for the rest of its life. It is better than being outside and at risk for trauma or disease.” She does, however, emphasize that it is not for every cat and urges owners who choose this option “to commit to having the pet indoors for the remainder of its life, or to finding it an appropriate home if they can no longer care for it.” Declawed cats must be kept indoors “because we have taken away their ability to fully defend themselves,” she explains.

“ Cats are very good at hiding signs of pain and discomfort, so they can be uncomfortable for many years without you knowing,” Dr. Richardson explains. Encourage your kitten to use a scratching post rather than your sofa by spraying it with pheromone solutions or rubbing it with catnip.

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CAVAM Images/Getty Images parents can also make changes to the indoor environment and safeguard furniture to avoid destructive behavior. Provide your cat with a stimulating enriching environment that includes scratching posts and climbing gyms.

The post needs to be at least as tall as the cat’s length for her to enjoy a good stretch and drag her claws down. In a bipartisan move on Tuesday, lawmakers voted to make the procedure illegal, except where it is medically necessary for the cat.

There are some cases where the surgery is medically necessary, “if there's a bad infection in the nail bed, or a tumor,” says Dr Sarah Energy, veterinary development manager at International Cat Care, a charity. By contrast, “declawing was always rare” in the UK, even before it was outlawed in 2006, says Prof Danielle Gunn-Moore, a vet and chair of feline medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Energy says that cats can continue to feel pain after the declawing procedure. However, Dr Drew Wagner, a vet in Atlanta who works on a foundation that funds feline medical research, cautions that “behavioral studies are notoriously difficult to accomplish successfully”.

Image caption Cats like using long, wooden objects as scratching posts Meanwhile, some vets have argued that declawing can be necessary when their owners have health issues that put them at risk.

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One vet told The Denver Post back in 2013 : “When my own husband was in chemotherapy and his immune system was compromised, I declawed my cat. In addition to the proposed legislation in New York, individual cities such as Los Angeles and Denver have also banned declawing.

In the US, “things are generally trending in an anti-declawing direction... although it's not a surprise that the one state moving towards banning the practice is a liberal blue state, and cities banning it are typically viewed as left-leaning,” he adds. From the WebMD ArchivesDeclawing cats is an emotionally charged and hotly debated topic. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Academy of Feline Medicine stress that owners should be educated about both the procedure and its alternatives.

The American Academy of Feline Practitioners (AAF) goes even further by saying it strongly opposes the practice, which is considered a major surgery. It points out that declawing is entirely elective, saying it is the veterinarian’s obligation to provide alternatives to the procedure.

In the distant past, cats were normally declawed using an instrument with a sliding blade, almost like a guillotine, and it cut a straight line through the joint between that little piece of bone and the next piece of bone, which is much bigger. With cosmetic declawing, which is much less traumatic, and presently the rule of thumb, you use a tiny curved blade to go in and dissect out the claw and the tiny piece of bone.

So the cat is walking comfortably very quickly because its pads are fine. When the pads are cut in half, the cat can’t walk on them without discomfort.

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There are many other arguments you can make for this -- the pain they go through, the complications after declawing. But I think it really boils down to cats are born with claws, and they should keep them.

There are people whose immune systems are suppressed or the elderly on blood thinners who can’t be exposed to the bacteria on a cat’s claws. But the majority of declawing are due to social issues -- where cats are being destructive and tearing up furniture.

Cosmetic declawing heals much faster, usually within a week. The guillotine method of declawing a cat, you’d be talking two or three weeks or longer.

Q: Can declaw lead to any medical complications or problems? And if it’s not performed properly, the claw can grow back.

You’ll hear stories that cats start biting more or develop litter box problems, but there’s no evidence of it even after numerous studies. Letting your cats outside after they’ve been declawed would be cruel because they can’t defend themselves properly.

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There are also those vinyl nail caps for cats (aka soft claws). The caps are put on with surgical adhesive and the cats usually get used to them within a day or two.

They’re especially good for cats that need to be kept indoors for a short period of time. Continued Trimming nails, if you do it weekly, can help if the problem is scratching people, but it won’t stop a cat from damaging furniture.

Think about the reasons cats scratch: to stretch and to sharpen their claws. Some countries have banned declawing due to ethical concerns.

International Cat Care already has a clear view of declawing and considers it to be an act of mutilation and to be unethical for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons. We have recently published an article in our nursing journal Feline Focus, written by veterinary technician Jenny Stanislaus from the USA, which looks in-depth at declawing and what it can mean for the cats involved.

But declawing is the amputation of toes, removal of which can lead to long-term pain and behavioral changes suggestive of reduced welfare. Since then, at least 41 countries have made declawing illegal including England, France, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and Israel.

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It is also outlawed in nine US cities (New York is the first state to ban it) and some Canadian provinces but is still routinely performed in North America, with an estimated 25% of the feline population being declawed. The first is declawing itself (its medical name is onychectomy) which can be done using a sterilized nail trimmer, a surgical laser or a scalpel blade.

However, it prevents the cat from scratching which normally removes the outer sheaths of the nail and allows the sharper fresh point to be used. Cats can manifest pain in a wide variety of forms, including but not limited to inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating not in the litter tray), flinching, increased body tension, excessive licking or chewing of the fur and other abnormal behaviors.

Studies have looked at the development of back pain and other undesirable behavior and found declawed cats had significantly more problems than non- declawed controls. The authors of the study propose that persistent pain and discomfort after declawing leads to high risks of behavior changes such as biting, aggression, chewing the fur and inappropriate elimination.

International Cat Care is clear that declawing should not take place for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons. Cats manifest pain in a wide variety of forms, including, but not limited to, inappropriate elimination, flinching, increased body tension, excessive licking or chewing of fur.

Prevention of scratching behavior which causes damage to furniture, etc, is easiest when training a new kitten or newly adopted adult cat. Some cats prefer carpet, others sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, wood logs or leather.

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Increasing environmental enrichment may help to reduce or stop destructive scratching as it can also be a displacement behavior for over-arousal, anxiety or frustration. Training cats to accept regular and frequent nail trimming can be undertaken using positive reinforcement.

It has been considered a “quick fix” for scratching and destroying your furniture for a long time. But be aware that it is a surgical procedure, viewed by many veterinarians as a last resort because it can be very uncomfortable.

Nowadays the perspective has shifted and owners have gained more knowledge about cat behavior, pain, and ethics. Some countries and states are banning the procedure and many veterinary associations and humane groups are opposing this routine.

Make sure you explore the options that are not so invasive, before deciding to take a declaw route. If you are sure you want it, please do the procedure at your cats optimal age, and that way you will reduce trauma.

Older cats are harder to adjust and it will be more painful for them, so try declawing before they become an adult. You can also choose the one made from reclaimed fallen timber, as it is dust-free, or a wood litter one, which is eco-friendly.

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A tumor Chronic infection Irreparable damage to the claw There are a few alternatives to onychectomy, but the cat’s age and temperament are the biggest factors in how effective they will be.

This is widely used but may not be very effective because the cat will continue sharpening the claws. Try investing in them and give your cat options for recreation and scratching.

When cats are indoor pets, it’s natural for them to experience stress. But if you try to provide them the environment appropriate for their playful energy you will see how they will be in a better mood and less likely to scratch your household items.

Invest in some toys, cat trees, and scratching surfaces. Now that you know everything about declawing your cats, all the pros and cons, as well as the alternatives, you will be able to make this decision for yourself and your family.

Declawing a cat (onychectomy), is a topic that is always controversial, emotion charged and with differing opinions. The ASPCA is strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their owners or to prevent damage to household property.

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The only circumstances in which the procedure should be considered are those in which all behavioral and environmental alternatives have been fully explored, have proven to be ineffective, and the cat is at grave risk of euthanasia. Cats claws are a vital part of their arsenal for both offense and defense.

They use them to capture prey and to settle disputes with or escape from other animals or people who are hurting or threatening them. As part of their daily rituals, cats instinctively pull the claws on their front paws through surfaces that offer resistance.

They do this to mark their territory, exercise muscles normally used in hunting, relieve stress and remove worn sheaths from their nails. Declawing of cats, or onychectomy, is the amputation of the last digital bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each front toe.

If the surgery is performed correctly and the entire nail bed is removed, the claw cannot regrow. The surgery involves the risk of anesthesia, excessive bleeding and postoperative complications, including infection, and is accompanied by pain that may last from several days too much longer unless appropriate pain control is provided.

Declawing a cat is the equivalent to amputating a human finger at the first knuckle It is a highly contentious issue and is not common practice or even legal, unless necessary for the health of the cat, in most parts of the world.

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This is a sad situation however I applaud anyone who decides to adopt one of these abandoned cats. Whatever we might personally think of the procedure, it is most important that we treat all of our kitties with the care and love they need. It doesn’t mean that all declawed cats will have these problems however this may highlight issues that you hadn’t considered previously.

The cat may bite more often and become aggressive because they have lost their main line of defense. Often declawed cats will have bowed front legs and are not able to walk properly as their paws have been amputated.

In time all of these natural actions which have been denied will affect upper body musculature. In addition, it is an operation that is not without risk and should not be carried out purely for the convenience of its owner.

Cats hide their pain very well as part of survival in the animal world. Adult cats can be declawed however they often take longer to recover as opposed to the operation being carried out in younger animals.

Cats love to jump to high places, and they use their claws for traction, support and stability. Declawing an indoor cat is not an acceptable practice for all the reasons listed above.

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Declawing cats can cause health problems, for example the wound can become infected which then needs further veterinarian care. This can cause problems with balance, walking and running and leaves the cat unable to defend itself.

Some veterinarians provide laser declawing in place of the more traditional surgical procedure. Although a common pain point for cat owners, felines often have an inherent need to scratch on a variety of surfaces to shed excess claw materials and ensure their nails remain clean and healthy.

Although, it is important to note that not every veterinary clinic or hospital will provide these unique methods to their clients or their cats. Often, two main components should be confirmed, the use of nerve block and pain medication, to ensure the safety and comfort of your cat throughout the process and associated healing periods.

Depending on the age of your adult cat, it may not be recommended to declaw them because more potential complications can occur during and after the process. Although declawing may not be ideal for every cat, veterinarians can often suggest alternatives that can control the problem pet owners are experiencing without surgical intervention.

Following a successful cat declawing procedure, most veterinarians will suggest that the animal remains at the facility for observation for around 2 days. During this period, they will continue to treat the wounds created from the removal of the cat’s claws and give them a confined space to begin the healing process.

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Once the cat has been released to the pet owner, the healing process will need to continue at home and close observation should be kept, ensuring no infection or discomfort is occurring. Remember, it can take time for your feline friend to feel normal and comfortable walking on their paws during the recovery period.

Although, other notable side effects may occur because of a cat declawing procedure that should be addressed with your veterinarian before any appointment is scheduled. While veterinarians take every precaution necessary to ensure a successful declawing procedure, certain side effects may still occur including lameness, back pain, refusal to use a litter box or nerve damage.

In many cases, the outcome and potential side effects will depend on the individual cat being treated, their age and overall temperament. Before deciding to pursue cat declawing, take the time to discuss the potential side effects of problems at length with your veterinarian.

If pet owners are unsure about pursuing a declawing procedure, trying some of these alternatives first can help determine the appropriate path to take. Our patients and clients are special to us and are the reason why we always treat everyone who comes to visit as another member of our family each and every time they walk in our doors.

Dr. Sickbay’s love of science and animals naturally led her to a lifelong passion of veterinary medicine. She worked and volunteered at a local veterinary hospital before she furthered her education at Oklahoma State University, graduating in 2016 with her Doctorate.

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Dr Sickbay immediately found her home at ACTH, where she is able to create a healthy bond with each of her patients as she experiences all stages of their care with their owners. He joined the Advanced Care team immediately upon his graduation in 2019 after doing 6 weeks of externships during his 4th year of veterinary school.

Your cat will also flex those kitty claws as a way to relieve stress and even remove worn sheaths from their nails. Cats that have been declawed are prone to behavior issues I’ve heard this first-hand several times that cats who have been declawed are at much higher risk of developing behavior issues, such as aggression towards people or other pets in the home.

The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery has directly linked behavior issues related to cats which have been declawed. A study performed in the United States collected the following data: For the study, the author group, based in North America, investigated a total of 137 non- declawed cats and 137 declawed cats, of which 33 were declawed on all four feet.

If you know anyone who thinks declawing is necessary or considered okay, share this article with them to prove your point that it’s certainly unacceptable. This once-popular operation has been labeled as “inhumane”, “cruel”, and “debilitating” by animal welfare activists and veterinary medicine experts in recent years due to the harmful effects it has on our feline friends.

They use these to protect themselves against threats, to catch prey, to give them traction to move faster, and to deposit their scent and mark on their territory. Their prey instinct is activated when playing, and those sharp claws may draw blood even if they do not mean to.

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If you have a hard time imagining it, the picture above is what declawing would mean on a human hand. The surgery itself is risky, with the possibility of hemorrhage, infection, and necrosis of the remaining parts of the paw.

Cats who are declawed can no longer protect themselves or catch prey, rendering them vulnerable when left outdoors. Generally, veterinarians would only concede declawing under special circumstances where the alternative is the animal’s death or abandonment.

Severe, irreparable damage to the claw or tumor growth in that area would necessitate the procedure. If the risk of bacterial infection through scratching is a matter of life-and-death for its owner, as in the case of those who are immunocompromised, on blood thinners, or elderly, some veterinarians may agree to declaw the cat.

Veterinarians understand animal welfare concerns and attempt to minimize the trauma associated with declawing. It is still possible to protect your home and your skin from cat scratches without resorting to this inhumane and cruel system.

There are behavioral interventions and products that encourage your cat to use appropriate scratching materials instead of digging their claws into your furniture. You can do this by protecting parts of your furniture that is readily swipeable and rendering them unattractive to scratching.

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And since you’re giving your feline buddy a mani-pedi, you might even want to try these nail caps that you can fit over their claws (and make them look cute). Learning how to train your cat will do wonders not just in protecting your home, but also in deepening your bond as pet and fur parent.

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