A part of normal cat behavior is their instinctive need to scratch on surfaces to remove excess claw material and keep the nails clean and in good shape. Cats obviously enjoy this behavior and certainly are not aware that their behavior may be seen as destructive to their owners. Unfortunately, while your cat is happily clawing on your favorite chenille chair, you may be grimacing and very unhappy with one of your favorite family members.
It is our goal to help you to guide the behavior of your kitten or cat to use approved surfaces so that everyone can live together in harmony. We will work with you to explore all options for ensuring your cat's scratching is contained only to appropriate surfaces.
Owners may eventually decide to declaw their cat for reasons such as:
- Medical concerns for humans in the household, which also could prevent giving the cat up for adoption
- An unchangeable living situation in which the cat's social behavior is not conducive to the constraints of the household, which also could prevent giving the cat up for adoption
Whatever your reasoning may be, we are here to support you and ensure that the best interests of your cat are a priority.
Alternatives to declawing cats
There are several alternatives to declawing cats, although effectiveness may vary depending on a cat's age and temperament. Some of the more prevalent alternatives to declawing cats are:
- Behavioral Training: This is a much more effective alternative for kittens than adult cats, and involves redirecting a misbehaving cat to a toy or scratching post.
- Soft Claws: These are vinyl nail caps for cat claws that are applied with surgical adhesive, and to which cats usually get used to within a few days. This requires a patient and dedicated owner but it is a reasonable alternative to declawing. These usually stay in place for 4-6 weeks.
- Frequent Nail Trimming: This is a less effective, but nonetheless widely used alternative to declawing cats. It involves trimming the nails very short. However, this method will not stop a cat from sharpening its existing claws and using them.
- Toys/Scratching Post: This might be a foregone conclusion in the eyes of some cat owners, but it is very important to have sufficient options for feline recreation. Some cats are very particular, so make sure the equipment you invest in has your feline friend's seal of approval.
- Synthetic pheromone sprays/diffusers: Consider using synthetic pheromone sprays and/or diffusers to help relieve anxiety or stress, which may or may not be related to your cat's scratching behavior. Apply a synthetic pheromone spray on the objects or areas in your home where your cat has exhibited undesired scratching.
- Appropriate environmental enrichment: Cats are natural hunters and explorers. When we make them indoor pets, they can experience stress if not provided with an enriched environment full of outlets for their inquisitive, playful energy. An enriched environment includes providing things like scratching surfaces, toys, cat trees and more.
Understanding the procedure for declawing cats
As veterinary care providers we are here to help provide you with accurate and unbiased information about declawing cats in order for you to make an informed, educated decision on behalf of your furry feline friend.
Declawing kittens or adult cats requires the removal of the claw. Because the claw is permanently affixed to a cat's knuckle, this also means removing all or part of the third bone from a cat's paw. There are two common techniques in declawing cats, Blade Declawing and Laser Declawing. At Metairie Small Animal Hospital we only perform the Laser Declawing procedure.
- Blade Declawing: An instrument with a sliding blade cuts a straight line through the joint between the entire claw growth and the rest of the cat's paw. This is the most common method of declawing kittens or adult cats, and is the most invasive.
- Laser Declawing: A laser is used to remove the third bone of the cat's paw. Laser declawing is usually more expensive than blade declawing, but laser declawing results in less bleeding during surgery, as well as less pain and shorter recovery time.
Does declawing a cat affect its personality?
Numerous studies that have researched a potential correlation between cat declawing and personality changes strongly indicate that none exists. Please remember that it may take your cat a little time to feel comfortable walking on surgically sensitive paws, which could indeed affect his or her personality traits and behaviors during the recovery period. Therefore, it is always important to be nurturing and supportive during the recovery process, in order to help facilitate a speedy recovery. However, we find that most cats recover very quickly after a Laser Declaw procedure and most don't show any signs of discomfort.
Should declawed cats be allowed to go outside?
Letting your cat outside after he or she is declawed could be dangerous, because declawing a cat takes away the ability to defend themselves. Therefore, cat owners of declawed cats should be committed to keeping their feline friend indoors for the rest of its life.
Schedule an appointment to discuss options with your veterinarian
At Metairie Small Animal Hospital, our veterinary team has provided education and insight to help many concerned and caring cat owners decide if declawing a cat is the right decision to make. If you are looking into cat declawing surgery, or have any questions about declawing cats, please contact us to schedule an appointment with a member of our veterinary team today.