What is the use of cat declawing?
The main reason people decide to declaw their cat is to protect their furniture. An untrained cat's claws can be very destructive in a home, damaging furniture, curtains and carpets. Cats like (and need) to scratch and claw at wood and rough surfaces, and if they are not properly trained, your furniture will look very inviting to them. Another reason people give for declawing their cat is to prevent the cat from injuring them. Cats use their claws and teeth to defend themselves and to fight. Small children may mishandle a cat and provoke it in scratching them. Some cats also have a more aggressive or nervous nature and will scratch people when they feel threatened.
Toxoplasmosis and Bartonellosis are two diseases that can be transmitted from cats. It is important to note though, that those diseases are most likely to be contracted from a litter box, or even from biting - but it is highly unlikely that it will be contracted from cat scratches.
Declawing a cat is a selfish and very drastic solution for problems that could be solved in many other ways and may bring forth much more serious problems. Owners that decide to declaw their cat do this solely for their own comfort and do not take in account the problems that may sprout from doing this.
What does the declawing process involve?
Cat declawing is also known as onychectomy and is a much more complex operation than simply removing your cat's nails or claws. The declawing operation is in fact the amputation of each of the cat's toes at the first joint. It involves cutting of the front part of a cat's toes and means cutting through nerves and muscles and removing bone. This operation is extremely painful (it has been proven to be much more painful than sterilizing or spaying your cat) and it will take a long time to heal. Even after the wounds have healed, the cat may suffer from a series of after-effects.
Are there any disadvantages to declawing your cat?
Yes! There are numerous disadvantages, not only to your cat but to you as cat owner as well. Cat declawing is illegal in many countries around the world and considered as inhumane and as a form of animal abuse and mutilation.
Many people don't realize just how painful a declawing operation can be. Scientists have proven cat declawing to be extremely painful and even test new painkiller drugs on cats that are being declawed. Although the cat may not show signs of pain outwardly and seem to be content, it will definitely be in a lot of pain after the operation. Big operations or rather amputations like declawing can hold many of the usual dangers related to surgical complications. A lot of vets also only use the minimum amount of painkillers and anesthetics during the operation, and prescribe no painkillers for the recovery process at home. The wounds take several weeks to heal, and the pain may continue months after the operation.
Complications after a declawing operation are also very common. The wounds may become infected or some of the amputated toes can begin to grow back. Some cats may experience lameness and even be crippled. You may notice a declawed cat trying to scratch at surfaces. They reason for this is because it is common for the tendons of the severed joints to detract and cause a constant feeling of stiffness in their paws.
Cats need their claws for balance and also use it to hook their paws on surfaces and stretch themselves. This stretching forms a very important part of the cat's exercise and muscle toning. A declawed cat will need to learn to walk differently (because it doesn't have any front joints) and its body weight will rest on their feet which can even cause arthritis.
It is very common for declawed cats to develop behavioral problems. It may develop a fear for its sandbox, because scratching in the sand may be painful. So, instead of having a cat that damages your furniture, you will have a cat that refuses to use its litter box. Also, because it has been deprived of its best means of defense, its claws, it may now revert to using its teeth to protect itself and can start to bite people when feeling threatened.
Declawed cats will also not be able to defend themselves effectively against other cats or dogs and can even die in fights.
Because of these behavioral problems developed after declawing, many cat owners become detached from their cats and may even want to get rid of them.
Professional cat declawing
If you do decide to declaw your cat after all, at least make sure that it is done professionally and with as little discomfort to your cat as possible.
The most developed method of declawing to date is laser declawing. Laser declawing is less painful, because bleeding and swelling is reduced.
Always ensure that your cat or kitten is older than 4 months before declawing. It is also not advisable to declaw cats that are old and not so active anymore, because they will take a longer time to recover.
After the operation, your cat may be kept in the hospital for the night, or a longer period of time depending on the cat. When taking your cat home, try to keep it from getting overexcited and prevent it from jumping or putting heavy strain on its paws. It is common for the paws to start bleeding every now and again, but ask your vet's advice if the bleeding alarms you.
To minimize the pain your cat can experience when using its sandbox, put newspaper strips in the sandbox. Sand or clay can infect the wounds on the paws or cause pain when "scratching" in the box. After your cat is fully recovered you can replace the sand again. Your cat may not like the newspapers and this can become a messy affair.
Always look out for the following warning signs, and notify your vet if any occur: Swollen paws and frequent bleeding. If your cat display extreme difficulty in standing up or walking after one day.
Alternatives to cat declawing
Before deciding on such a drastic measure or "solution" as declawing your cat, first consider some of the (often more effective) alternatives. The main reason for declawing a cat is to prevent it from damaging your furniture. Scratching is a necessary instinctive habit for removing the dead cells around its claws, practicing balance and stretching and toning muscles.
Cats are highly trainable animals and can be taught to use only a scratching post for these purposes. There are numerous scratching posts or "cat furniture" to choose from, whether your cat likes scratching vertical or horizontal surfaces. You can even buy "cat trees" with attractive objects hanging from the tree to catch your cat's attention or build your own (just make sure they are stable and won't fall over on your cat).
To train a cat to use scratching posts, and to discourage it from scratching your furniture, you can place netting or foil over your furniture. When you see your cat trying to scratch your furniture, pick it up and put it down in front of its scratching post.
Nail caps can be applied to a cat's claws, this need to be applied every 3 to 6 months depending on the cat. Nail caps will prevent damage to your furniture and to yourself while causing almost no inconvenience to your cat (compared to the serious discomfort caused by declawing). You can also trim your cat's nails frequently to keep it blunt.