Declawing Cats

For many people, surgical declaw has become a standard part of caring for a kitten like vaccines or spaying. Declawing is amputating the toes at the last joint.  It is usually done only to the front feet, although in extreme situations, the back feet have been done.    There is no medical benefit to declawing and should be considered as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.  What many owners are unaware of is that with our current knowledge of cats and their behaviors, declawing is rarely required to share a come with a cat and still have nice furniture.

Misconception-Declawing is not a big deal.

Response- declawing is a major surgery and can result in long-term changes in the way your cat walks. Declawing a cat is the surgical procedure in which the animal’s toes are amputated at the last digit.  Most people do not realize that a portion of the bone-not only the nail- is removed.  It is a major surgery and may result in lameness that may or may not be permanent, arthritis and other long-term complications.  However the surgical technique we use here is the least likely to have serious complications.  Even with laser surgery, adequate pain control and good aftercare, complications are possible.  If there are truly no other options, then we take every precaution to avoid long-term complications, but we think it should be considered a choice, not a routine procedure.

Misconception-Cats scratch things to sharpen their claws.

Response-A cat’s natural instinct to scratch serves physical, psychological and social needs.  Scratching does remove excessive tissue from the nails but this is not the physical purpose is serves.

Scratching also stretches and flexes muscles.  It serves as a form of communication.  Not only do the scratch marks leave visible evidence but scent that is unique to each cat.  It tells other cat that was there, where they have been, how long it has been (visible lasts longer, scent more recent) and what items belong to that cat. It also releases stress and excitement.

 

Feline scratching should not be interpreted as vindictive or “cat-titude”.  In fact, it is a common, innate behavior that is integral to so many aspects of the cat’s identity, routines, health and comfort.  It should not be punished.  After all don’t we love and admire cats-at least those out in nature, surviving on fine-tuned instinct-for being stealthy hunters, lithe champions of climbing and able to hold their own in a fight?  Well, this is all thanks to their claws.

 

Misconception-My cat doesn’t like scratching post.

Response-Most owners are unaware that a kitten has to be taught to use a scratching post, but after that training, the behavior will last a life time.

 

Most scratching posts are made without consideration of what a cat really needs to scratch and why the cat will use them.  They may be made of the wrong material, be too short and unable stable or not located in the best areas.  If given access to the correct posts, placed in appropriate locations, most cats will prefer them over furniture in your home.

 

Here are some suggestions to have success with appropriate feline scratching.

·         Have vertical, horizontal and angled surfaces-allows for stretching different muscles

·         Vertical posts should be at least 30 inches or higher with a sturdy base –the post should be tall enough for your cat to fully extend

·         Sisal fabric seems to be preferred, corrugated cardboard and real wood are also favorites

·         Posts/scratching pads should be placed near feeding and sleeping areas, along with high traffic areas in the home-cats mark resources-food, water, sleeping areas and where their favorite people tend to be.

·         Encourage use of scratching surfaces with catnip, lavender, jasmine, yarrow

·         Deter use of areas/objects that you don’t want scratched by making them less accessible, e.g., tightly tucking blanket on arm of sofa, double sided sticky tape, scat mats

·         Multiple scratching surfaces if multiple cats in the household

·         Play with kittens on each surface

 

Other options:

Weekly nail trims

For those cats that need to scratch inappropriate surfaces despite all other attempts, there are rubber nail caps called “Soft Paws” along with other brands.  The caps cover the sharp nail and prevent unwanted damage to your home. The caps do not cause discomfort, but do need to be changed every 2-3 months which can be difficult to do. 

 

Please ask us for more information about the pros and cons of declawing and allow us the opportunity to help you make an informed decision for your loved one

Declawing Cats

 By: Lisa King, DVM

For decades many people have beleived that the surgical declaw was a standard part of caring for a kitten like vaccines or spaying. Declawing is amputating the toes at the last joint, similiar to removing a humans finger tips.  It is usually done only to the front feet, although in extreme situations, the back feet have been done.    There is no medical benefit to declawing and should be considered as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.  What many owners are unaware of is that with our current knowledge of cats and their behaviors, declawing is rarely required to share a home with a cat and still have nice furniture.

Misconception - Declawing is not a big deal.

Declawing is a major surgery and can result in life time changes in the way your cat walks.  Most people do not realize that a portion of the bone, not only the nail, is removed.  It is a major surgery and may result in lameness that may or may not be permanent, arthritis and other long-term complications.  However the surgical technique we use here is the least likely to have serious complications.  Even with laser surgery, adequate pain control and good aftercare, complications are possible.  If there are truly no other options, then we take every precaution to avoid long-term complications, but we think it should be considered a choice, not a routine procedure.

Misconception - Cats scratch things to sharpen their claws.

A cat’s natural instinct to scratch serves physical, psychological and social needs.  Scratching does remove excessive tissue from the nails but this is not the physical purpose is serves.

Scratching stretches and flexes muscles and serves as a form of communication.  Not only do the scratch marks leave visible evidence but scent that is unique to each cat.  It tells other cats that I was here, where they have been, how long it has been (visible lasts longer, scent more recent) and what items belong to that cat. It also releases stress and excitement.

Feline scratching should not be interpreted as vindictive or “cat-titude”.  In fact, it is a common, innate behavior that is integral to so many aspects of the cat’s identity, routines, health and comfort.  It can, should be a managed behaviour, not a punishable one.

Misconception - My cat doesn’t like a scratching post.

Most owners are unaware that a kitten has to be taught to use a scratching post, but after that training, the behavior will last a life time.

Some scratching posts are made without consideration of what a cat really needs to scratch and why they will use them.  They may be made of the wrong material, be too short, unstable, or not located in the best areas.  

 

My perfect scratching post....

        Have vertical, horizontal and angled surfaces that allows for stretching different muscles

·         Vertical posts should be at least 30 inches or higher with a sturdy base –the post should be tall enough for your cat to fully extend

·         Sisal fabrics seem to be preferred, corrugated cardboard and real wood are also favorites

·         Posts/scratching pads should be placed near feeding and sleeping areas, along with high traffic areas in the home-cats mark                               resources-food, water, sleeping areas and where their favorite people tend to be.

·         Encourage use of scratching surfaces with catnip, lavender, jasmine, yarrow

·         Deter use of areas/objects that you don’t want scratched by making them less accessible, e.g., tightly tucking blanket on arm of                            sofa, double sided sticky tape, scat mats

·         Multiple scratching surfaces if multiple cats in the household

·         Play with kittens on each surface

 

Declawing alternatives.....

Weekly nail trims.

Rubber nail caps called “Soft Paws” along with other brands.  The caps cover the sharp nail and prevent unwanted damage to your home. The caps do not cause discomfort, but do need to be changed every 2-3 months.

Please ask us for more information about the pros and cons of declawing and allow

us the opportunity to help you make an informed decision for your loved one.