Pros and Cons of Declawing Your Cat – Know Your Options

Please consider your options before presenting your cat for declaw surgery

There are many alternatives to declawing that should be considered before you choose to have this surgery done on your cat. I'm going to discuss a selection here, along with three of the most common surgical techniques.

Option to # 1: "PRE-CLAWING"

I'm going to coin a term here! Have you ever heard the term "precycling"? It's the act of buying items that you know will NOT create a lot of waste. Like, buying something in a cardboard box instead of something in a plastic bag. Anyways, if you've got a cat, or you're going to get a cat, THINK before you buy your furniture. Cats like to scratch rough surfaces, so instead, buy items with a smooth texture like leather or velvet. The better you "preclaw", the more likely you can avoid having to declaw your kitty!

Option to # 2: NAIL TRIMMING

Triming your cat's nails is pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. A cat with blunt nails does MUCH less damage to furniture, drapery and rugs, and in my opinion, trimming your cat's nails is much easier than applying Soft Paws. The basic premise of trimming your cats nails is to cut the white part, do not cut the pink part:

Option to # 3: SCRATCHING POSTS

Most cats can be trained to use a scratching post to avoid declaw surgery. Scratching posts can be bought, or if you're into carpentry, built. Sisal-covered posts are preferred by many cats, although other materials like cardboard are often equally effective. Scratching posts that include multiple elevations (horizontal and vertical) are best since cats like sitting on elevated surfaces. If one post does not work, get a second one, and experiment with their locations. Offer kitty a variety of surfaces and elevations, and he will soon choose his favorites. You may need to entice him to paw at the new post by encouraging him to chase after a toy or string around it. As you may expect, the earlier you start to train your cat to use appropriate scratching surfaces, the more likely he will be to prefer scratching posts in the end.

Option to # 4: SOFT PAWS

These are soft vinyl caps that you superglue onto each of your cat's nails. They fall off after a few weeks, and need to be reapplied at least monthly. I can count on one hand the number of clients who have used these and liked them. On the other hand, if you think you'd like to see your cat with fluorescent pink nails, these might just be the thing for you. Seems to me trimming the nails is easier and just as effective.

Option to # 5: FELIWAY

Feliway is a pheromone, produced as either a pump spray or a room atomizer, that mimics the scent applied when a cat rubs the side of her face on something. The theory here is that if your cat smells what she thinks is her own pheromone on the couch, she'll be less likely to feel the need to apply the scent that comes out of the bottom of her FEET by clawing.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON AVOIDING DECLAW SURGERY, this site from Cornell University offers a video series on Managing Destructive Scratching Behavior you may like. http://www.partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/destructive-scratching

Veterinarians use one of three basic surgical tools to perform declaw surgery

LASER SURGERY

Sure, they're whiz-bang, and incredibly expensive, but it turns out a LASER is really just a fancy scalpel blade. Its supposed upsides are that it "seals and cauterizes" as you cut, but the way it does this is by literally burning a hole through the tissue. As you may imagine, burned tissue does not like treating against other burned tissue, and bleeding several days after surgery is not unusual. I have seen NO clinical benefit to using the LASER, so I do not have one. Do not believe the hype! A LASER does NOT improve results, and is NOT worth the money!

THE GUILLOTINE DECLAW

BOOOO! Back in the day, veterinarians used a brand name nail trimmer to remove MOST of the claw. Problem is, sometimes that little bit of claw you left in there regrow, causing additional pain and often a second surgery to remove the regrown portion. No vet worth visiting does this anymore. MANY OF THE STORIES YOU READ ABOUT THE INTERNET REGARDING POORLY HEALING DECLAW SURGERIES ARE RELATED TO THIS OUTDATED SURGICAL TECHNIQUE. Nail Trimmers do a POOR job of declawing

COLD STEEL BLADE

When I am asked at our Indianapolis Veterinary Clinic to declaw a cat, with informed consent and having considered alternatives, my surgical experience has taught me to prefer an ordinary # 11 scalpel blade for this surgery. I can feel the tissues and make sure I'm only cutting what I intend to cut, I can see the tissues and do not have to wear LASER-attenuating plastic glasses, I can hear the tissues move and not listen to the gas- evacuation pump that is necessary during Laser surgery. In my hands, a scalpel is the safest, quickest healing, most effective tool to use for this surgery.

Consider your options and make an INFORMED decision before surgery

Whatever your feelings, it's clear there are alternatives to consider. Alternatives to having it done in the first place, plus alternatives to consider on the surgical table if you decide to have it done.