Any cat owner knows about scratching. Sometimes the behavior is on a designated spot or a scratching post. Sometimes your cat may start to knead your lap, which can be somewhat unpleasant if their nails are long.
If your cat is destroying furniture or walls with their scratching, you might consider declawing your cat. Before you do though, you should weigh out all the options and know the truth about declawing before you decide to do it to your cat.
Today we discuss what is declawing and shed some light on the practice.
What is Declawing?
According to the Animal Humane Society, “Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.”
This surgery is also known as an onychectomy.
This sounds pretty drastic, and it is. This is a major surgery for your pet. For that reason, many countries have outlawed the practice:
There are currently some states in the United States fighting for declawing laws. These states include New Jersey and California.
Why Consider Declawing?
If declawing your cat is major surgery, then why would people consider it? The real answer is convenience. Most people who declaw their cats have experienced firsthand how destructive a cat can be.
It’s important to remember that this behavior is in a cat’s nature though. If you’ve ever come home from work to find your cat has destroyed your favorite chair or part of your home, this is just something that cats do.
Cats have to scratch, so there are things you should do to allow your cat to scratch in a less destructive way. We’ll discuss more on that later. For now, let’s look at how a cat becomes declawed.
How is Declawing Done?
Like we said above, declawing is like removing the very tip of your finger. A cat’s claws actually grow from the very last bone on their toe. This bone is called the distal phalanx. The area that grows their claws is called the germinal cells.
In order to ensure a cat doesn’t grow any more claws, the germinal cells must be removed completely. If this area is not completely removed, the cat’s claws will grow back. So, in order to stop the claw growth completely, the distal phalanx is removed as well.
This means that when a cat is declawed, the claw is not the only part that gets removed. The cat will lose bone, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Therefore, the process of declawing is literally amputation.
There are three different ways that a cat can be declawed. These methods are:
- Blade Declawing – This is the most common way a cat is declawed. A blade is used to slice off the distal phalanx in a straight line.
- Cosmetic Declawing – This method is like blade declawing, but it uses a curved blade instead. It’s a more precise and time-consuming surgery but can improve recovery time.
- Laser Declawing – This method cauterizes the wound as it removes the claw, leading to less recovery time and less pain. This is also the most expensive of the three.
Does Declawing Make Behavioral Changes?
Studies have shown that declawing a cat can lead to behavioral changes. These changes can be minor or drastic depending on the cat.
A cat may have been kind and lively knowing that if danger presented itself, they would have a way of defending themselves. By declawing a cat, this defense is removed. Many cats become withdrawn, fearful, anxious or even aggressive.
Some cats overcompensate for their lack of claws be becoming even more aggressive. Cats who become fearful may spend the rest of their lives trying to perch on top of doors or refrigerators. Others who have lost their ability to mark their territory may resort to spraying urine since they cannot claw.
Some cats also make poor associations after surgery. Using a litter box for the first time after declawing surgery can be painful as the grit of the litter irritates their new wounds. If this is the case, a cat may associate the litter box with pain and stop using it completely.
Alternatives to Declawing
While declawing a cat may seem convenient, with a little bit of work you can help your cat change the behaviors that may have made you consider declawing in the first place. Some alternatives to declawing include:
- Right Environment – Cats are natural predators, but when we leave them inside all day, they may get bored and become destructive. Be sure your cat has access to a variety of textures, heights and toys.
- Behavioral Training – This method may not work as well for older cats, but a kitten can be trained to direct their energy to certain areas or activities.
- Nail Trimming – This method means either you’ll have to take your cat in to get their nails trimmed often or you will be trimming your cat’s nails yourself.
- Soft Claws – These are caps for your cat’s nails. They are applied with an adhesive and your cat can get used to this in just a few days.
- Pheromone Spray – This is a product that is used to persuade your cat to not claw in a certain area.
Once people understand how drastic declawing is and the alternatives, many choose alternative methods. If you still have questions that need answering, be sure to seek the advice of your vet.