Once you have welcomed a furry feline friend into your home, you will need to decide if you want to have your cat declawed. This is a very important choice, and lately there has been some controversy surrounding this topic. Some people feel that declawing is a necessary part of cat ownership, while others feel that it may be an unethical, unnecessary treatment. There are valid points to each argument, but it is a personal choice and whatever is best for the cat in each case is what should be done.
Cats scratch to wear down their nails. This is a natural behavior and almost all cats will scratch. This can lead to ripped furniture and curtains in many homes. Cats can also use their claws to scratch people and other animals, which may lead to serious injury.
Many people choose to solve this problem by having their cat declawed. Declawing is a surgical procedure. The nail and the first bone of each digit are removed. If done properly, this will prevent the future growth of the nails and solve the problem of scratching. Often only the claws on the front feet are removed, but the procedure can be performed on all four feet.
The surgery is performed under anesthesia at your veterinarian’s office. Your cat will usually stay at the vet clinic for one or two nights following the surgery, to allow for pain management and monitoring of the surgical site. Some veterinarians are now performing this surgery using lasers, which is thought to minimize bleeding and decrease recovery time. In this case, your cat may not need to stay overnight, or may stay only one night. When you bring your cat home, his feet will be bandaged. These bandages can be removed after a few days. He may be painful for up to two weeks, but many cats, especially kittens, recover more quickly. Your veterinarian may provide pain killers for you to give your cat for the first few days at home. It is recommended to use shredded paper rather than granular litter in the litter box during this period of healing. You should also keep your cat quiet and restrict his activity for the first few days after returning home, to minimize pain and stress on his feet. If performed properly, there should be no lasting negative effects of the surgery, and your cat should return to normal. However, a declawed cat should never be allowed outside because he will not have the ability to defend himself from other cats or animals that may try to attack him.
Some people do not like the idea of declawing their cat because the surgery does not benefit the cat and is only performed for human convenience. However, in some cases the surgery does benefit the cat because he would be given away or euthanized if not declawed. If you choose not to declaw your cat, there are some other options you can try to help prevent wayward scratching.
One option is to simply provide a scratching post and train your cat to use it rather than your furniture. This can be hard to do and may be time consuming, but it is possible. The post should be sturdy and tall enough for your cat to be able to scratch on it when he is completely stretched out. Make the post attractive by covering it with catnip or placing toys and cat treats at its base. Praise your cat enthusiastically whenever you see him scratching the post. If you catch him scratching your furniture, say “No,” and take him over to the post. You can also make your furniture unattractive (to the cat) by covering it with a sheet of plastic or double stick tape.
You can also choose to trim your cat’s nails regularly. You will need to accustom your cat to the trimming, which will be easiest with a kitten. Begin getting your cat used to you touching his nails by playing with his feet. When he is used to this, you can begin trimming. You may need to enlist someone else to hold your cat while you trim the nails. When trimming the nails, look for the “quick,” or the pink, fleshy part inside the nail. Be careful not to cut into the quick, as this will cause bleeding and pain to your cat. Your veterinarian can demonstrate the proper nail trimming procedure.
The final option is to use “claw-covers.” These are plastic nail caps that are glued over your cat’s claws. This will prevent damage to your furniture. The caps need to be changed often, and may fall off and need to be replaced.
You now have much of the information necessary to make an informed decision about the fate of your cat’s claws. Your veterinarian may be able to provide additional information to help you make your decision. If it will improve your relationship with your cat and ensure a better quality of life for everyone, declawing is a fine option. If you are opposed to declawing and are willing to invest a little extra effort, the other options can be very successful as well.