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Surgical Declawing and the Alternatives

rooster-150x150Cats love to scratch. Cats, in contrast to their owners, do not necessarily make a distinction between the new couch, the scratching post, or the wood frames around the doors — they all work great to fine-tune their sharp appendages! This difference of opinion between cats and their owners can interfere with a great friendship and a lifetime bond. Understanding declawing and its alternatives can help owners make the best decision for their clawed companions.

Training

Training to a scratching post is a non-surgical way to deal with the problem. Because scratching is a normal behavior for cats, they are not likely to stop the behavior completely. The goal of training is to transfer the behavior from the furniture to a scratching post. The following suggestions may help:

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  1. This type of training is best accomplished if you can spend some time hanging around the house. Kitties need constant reinforcement to keep them away from your favorite chair.
  2. Catnip or treats can be used to entice your cat to the post.
  3. A squirt bottle can be used to punish the cat. A quick burst of water is all that is needed for most cats. It is important that the correction is not associated with the owner, otherwise the lesson learned is not to scratch while the owner is watching.
  4. Furniture can be made unacceptable by laying foil, plastic or using spray deterrents.

Soft Paws®

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These blunt vinyl nail caps are glued onto the cat’s claws. The idea is that the blunted claw will not do damage when the cat scratches. The owner is taught how to apply the nail caps by the hospital staff. The negative side is that the caps will wear off and not necessarily at the same time. The caps must continually be replaced.

Surgical Declawing

This technique involves removing part or the entire third digit of the foot. The two most important parts of the procedure are complete removal of the part of the bone that produces the claw and pain control. The incision is usually closed with surgical glue or sutures. The feet are generally bandaged after the procedure and the cat will need to stay in the hospital for a night. Since clay litter can get into the incision causing an infection, shredded paper litter is needed for about ten days after the surgery. Pain control is provided with either injectable medication or a medicated patch.

Tendonectomy

In this procedure, a ligament is cut on the underside of each toe. This prevents the cat from extending the claw. In general, the incisions are small and recovery time is minimal. Since the cat will no longer be able to sharpen the claw and thus remove excess nail growth, the nails will need to be trimmed for the life of the cat. We recommend that you trim the nails once a week before having this procedure done.

Additional Considerations

There are a few additional considerations to declawing or tendonectomy. A study published in 1998 in the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association reported that while tendonectomy cats had lower post operative pain scores, both procedures showed an equal frequency of post-operative bleeding, lameness, and infection. Both procedures had the same number of days for the cat to walk normally again and owner satisfaction scores did not differ.

It is important to note that these cats have lost part of their ability to defend themselves and should be kept inside. Declawed cats are still able to catch prey and climb trees so do not do this to save your backyard birds. In fact, most of your cat’s behaviors will remain very much the same after the rampant furniture destruction has stopped and a lot of relationships are greatly improved! It is always a good idea to discuss your options with your veterinarian.