Cats Come With Paws. Paws Come With Claws.
~by Kimberly Coleman
There is a popular misconception in America that feline onchyectomy, or declawing, is a harmless and effective way to stop cats from scratching furniture, drapes, and carpet. The truth of the matter is that this procedure is far from harmless. In fact, approximately twenty-four countries including England, Spain, France, Germany, and Japan have passed legislation to make the declaw procedure illegal.
Felines, domesticated or wild, scratch for several reasons. The feline paws have scent glands that mark the cat’s territory when it scratches. The act of scratching serves to stretch and shape the muscles of cat’s front quarters. Perhaps the most well known use of cat claws is in self-defense.
The declaw procedure itself uses a guillotine looking apparatus where the cat’s toes are inserted – one at a time—and tightened until the toe is chopped off. This is equal to amputating a human’s fingers at the top knuckle. Pharmaceutical companies use feline declaw surgery to test a new pain reliever since it is excruciatingly painful.
||The dark dotted line in the image to the left illustrates where the surgeon will cut away bone and claw from the paw. - Illustration provided by Feline Future http://www.felinefuture.com.
An alternative procedure is called a tendonectomy where a veterinarian clips the tendon at each toe of the paw. This is done to eliminate the cat from being able to extend the tendon and the claw. The nails continue to grow and must still be clipped. The tendonectomy is less painful but is still contrary to the nature of the cat. A cat that is scratching or kneading is exercising its muscles. When the lower tendons are clipped, the upper tendon use can, over time, cause the toes to become arthritic and the nails to grow abnormally resulting in severe pain and eventually the need to administer arthritis medication daily.
The risks involved with the declaw procedure are not limited to just the physical pain and injury. Oftentimes an animal’s behavior is affected as well. This may manifest itself with the cat biting since its primary defense has been removed. It may also manifest in refusal to use the litter box and in personality changes. The physical risks to consider include general anesthesia, onset of arthritis, the potential appearance of gangrene requiring amputation, and the possibility that the bone will shatter while being cut during surgery. Should the bone shatter, additional surgeries would be required.
There are many alternatives to such an invasive procedure that has no medical benefit to the cat. These include using nail caps -- most often referred to as “Soft Paws.” The cat’s nails are trimmed using a nail trimmer and then glue is applied to the nail cap and positioned on each nail of the cat. The cat will still be able to scratch but the caps will prevent damage. These caps need to be replaced on a regular basis.
Another alternative would be to provide one or more scratching posts. Since scratching is an innate and not learned behavior it is a natural part of the cat just as meowing is natural. The scratching post should be tall enough for the cat to be able to extend its body (an approximation is 28” high). It should have carpet and/or sisal to provide the scratching surface. One can also attach toys, spray or rub catnip to the post to encourage the cat to use it. Some cats will take to cardboard boxes. These solutions can be made at home rather economically or purchased at most pet superstores.
More information on declawing and its dangerous side effects can be found on the Internet at websites including: