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Declawing cats, Effects of Declawing cats, alternatives of cat declawing,behavioral changes of declawing cats
Declawing Cats and it’s effects
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Declawing of cats is more than removal of the cat’s nail. Cats’ claws are part of their toe bones. The procedure known as “declawing” is the surgical removal of the entire end of the cat’s toe, chopping off the bone and cutting through the attaching ligaments and tendon. A more accurate term would be “de-knuckling.” The declawing operation itself is the human equivalent of removing the first joint of all your fingers.
Cats use their claws to exercise, play, stretch, climb, hunt and mark their territory. Declawing is neither an effective nor a compassionate way to deal with a cat’s unwanted scratching. Although your cat might use your hands or furniture for these activities, there are many other ways to guide your cat to healthy claw activity!
Declawing is never the answer for anything.
Veterinary experts report that the lack of these joints impairs the cat’s balance and can cause weakness from muscular disease. Declawing also makes a cat feel defenseless and can affect their personality, making them skittish or nervous biters. In rescue work, we see many declawed cats that have been given up by their owners because the cats still had behavioral problems that were made worse by not having their claws
Declawing is never the answer for anything. Take it from an expert, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of The Cat Who Cried For Help, who offers this perspective on the procedure:
Effects of Declawing Cats
“Declawing involves more than simply trimming a cat’s nails to the quick; it actually involves amputation of the tips of the digits, bones and all. The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats’ recovery from anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain.
Cats that are more stoic huddle in the corner of the recovery cage, immobilized in a state of helplessness, presumably by the overwhelming pain. Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to this surgery.
Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure servesas a model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of analgesic drugs. Even though analgesic drugs can be used postoperatively, they rarely are, and their effects are incomplete and transient anyway, so sooner or later the pain will emerge.”
There are much better — and more effective — alternatives to declawing. Exercise and play with your cat regularly. Give him or her a scratching post or a corrugated cardboard scratcher to use. Trim your cat’s nails on a regular basis.
And, of course, talk to your vet or cat-owner friends about ways to “train” your cat to exercise its natural instincts in non-destructive ways. A squirt bottle is a great way to teach a cat not to scratch on particular surfaces. It doesn’t hurt them and if you are persistent, they will get the message. There is also a product called Soft Paws. This is a fake nail which is not sharp at the tip, which fits over your cats claws. It is sold in pet stores and veterinarian clinics.
Alternatives to Declaw Surgery to Try First
Scratching is a natural behavior of cats, which makes it difficult to modify. The usual goal is to transfer the cat’s scratching instinct to a scratching post or other scratching toy; it is virtually impossible to control the desire to scratch completely. Some cats take quickly to alternative scratching surfaces while other cats require time-consuming training. Training tips include:
- Graphic by MarVistaVet Cats seem to prefer to scratch upholstery with a vertical drag to the fabric. Furniture can be upholstered in an unacceptable fabric and a scratching post can be swathed in an appropriate fabric (rather than the usual carpet).
- Furniture can be made unacceptable by using plastic, double stick tape or aluminum foil to cover the target pieces. Spray-on antiperspirants can be used on the furniture as a repellent.
- Treats or catnip can be used to attract the cat to the scratching post.
- The cat can be punished for furniture scratching attempts but it is important that the cat cannot connect the punishment with the person administering it (otherwise the cat will simply learn not to scratch while that person is watching). Yelling, spanking, or shaking a can with pennies in it is too directly associated with the person rather than the act of scratching.
- A water squirt bottle is better but only if the cat does not see where the squirt comes from. Booby traps can be set up using balloons. If mouse traps are used, it is vital that they be turned upside-down so that the cat cannot possibly catch a foot in the trap.
- Stacked traps can be set up so that they pop upward when tripped, making a surprising noise. In this way, punishment can still be carried out when the owner is not at home. The idea is to convince the cat that the furniture piece is not a good area for scratching and that the appropriate scratch toy can be used with no adverse experience.
Many owners are not excited about putting mousetraps up against their living room furniture, upholstering in aluminum foil, or decorating sofas and chairs with balloons. It is easy to see why a surgical solution would be attractive. Fortunately, there are more options.
Nail Trimming of Cats
For some cats, simply keeping the nails short is adequate control but many people do not know how to trim their cat’s nails. In fact, the non-pigmented nail of a cat makes it easy to see where not to cut. This video on YouTube shows exactly what to do.
Blunt Acrylic Nail Caps
Acrylic nail caps. Photo by MarVistaVet
This is another popular method of controlling a scratching problem. Blunt acrylic nail caps are glued onto the cat’s claws. The idea is that the blunt nail will not be sharp enough to cause damage. The veterinary staff will place the first set but typically after that the owner has the option of placing the caps at home.
What to Expect while Declawing Cats :
- The nail caps will wear off but not at the same time. After a couple of weeks some of the nails will be capped and others will not be.
- The nail caps must be replaced as the nail grows out.
- Some cats are not in the least discouraged from scratching by these caps and are able to simply scratch larger holes in the upholstery.
Effects of Declawing
Here are effects of Declawing but before watch this video
There are few subjects related to cat ownership as hotly debated as declawing. There are passionate arguments on each side of the issue, with some veterinarians so staunchly against declawing that they refuse to perform the procedure. Declawing is illegal in the United Kingdom and throughout much of Europe, and many U.S. states are considering legislation to ban the procedure. (It’s banned in several California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and most recently in Denver, Colorado.)
Most people on the anti-declawing side of the spectrum are there because they consider the procedure cruel, but ethics are not the only reason cat owners should think long and hard before declawing their pets. In some cases, the procedure is known to have negative long-term side effects. While most pet owners don’t take the decision to declaw their cats lightly, they should do some deep research into these side effects before making this irreversible decision.
Declawing Cats : Botched Surgeries
Dr. Michael Moss, a veterinarian at Central Pennsylvania Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services in State College, Pennsylvania, says that pet owners must first be aware that negative side effects are typically the result of a poorly performed declawing procedure. “Poor surgical techniques are responsible for most of the negative side effects seen after a cat is declawed,” he says. “If a surgeon amputates too much or too little, or is careless when closing the surgical site, the healing process will not go smoothly and could lead to long-term complications.”
Declawing Cats : Infection
Whenever there is a surgical procedure, infection is always a possible side effect. Moss recommends that veterinarians prescribe antibiotics following a declawing procedure to mitigate the chances of infection. “Regardless of how well you clean it or how it is bandaged, we’re still talking about a foot,” he says. “It’ll be walking on the floor [not to mention the litter box!]. It’s very appropriate to use antibiotics post operatively to help with the healing, or at least enable healing without infection.”
Dr. Ryane E. Englar, assistant professor and clinical education coordinator at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, warns that owners should keep a sharp eye out for any signs of infection following declawing, as infections that go unchecked can become very serious. “There are cases in which the infection gets deeply rooted into the bone and/or travels through the body,” she says. Treatment for these types of serious complications can include hospitalization, aggressive antibiotic therapy, and even additional surgeries.
Declawing Cats : Refusal to Use the Litterbox
After being declawed, a cat may refuse to relieve himself in the litter box. Englar says there could be several reasons for this behavior. “The first is, simply, that the cat has wounds on his feet,” she says. “When cats use the litter box, they tend to dig, or at least cover up their leavings. If cat litter gets in those wounds, it hurts. So a cat may avoid going in the litter box, thinking their feet may hurt less if they go somewhere else.”
She also notes that to reduce the chance that litter will get stuck in the incisions, some people switch to paper litter right after a declawing procedure, but this could backfire. “If paper litter isn’t what the cat is used to, he may choose to go somewhere else because he doesn’t recognize that the paper litter is supposed to take the place of his regular litter,” Englar says.
Declawing Cats : Paw Pain and Nerve Damage
Paw pain and nerve damage can be caused by a number of issues, but Moss notes that many are related to either overzealous or overly cautious surgeons. Declawing involves the removal of everything down to the first knuckle on each of a cat’s toes, he explains. “Sometimes, a surgeon doesn’t remove the first knuckle entirely and some claw tissue remains. This tissue tries to grow a new claw, which in some cases will form a deformed claw under the skin, which in turn leads to an abscess. That can be extremely painful and lead to long-term pain if not dealt with properly.”
The opposite might also be true—the surgeon removes too much toe without intending to. “There’s a digital pad next to the claw, and if this is damaged, it can cause scar tissue that leads to a lot of paw pain,” Moss says.
Englar adds that nerve damage may result when a surgeon chooses the wrong surgical technique or is lacking in skill. “Not all cats are exactly the same, anatomically,” she explains. “There are always slight variations. If a surgeon doesn’t realize that anatomy may vary from the way it’s presented in a textbook, there could be issues.”
Declawing Cats : Lameness
Lameness, or abnormal gait, can be temporary or permanent following declawing. It can be another side effect of those overzealous surgeons who remove too much tissue. “If you damage that second bone, it’s permanently damaged,” Englar says. “It could become a long-term issue. It could always hurt when your kitty walks.”
She adds that a good surgeon will let owners know if something happens during their cat’s declawing procedure. “There’s nothing that can be done to reverse it, so vets should communicate issues with their clients.”
Declawing Cats : Back Pain
Back pain may be caused by lameness, as a changed gait means Fluffy is not carrying her weight like she should. “I’ve mostly seen this in heavier cats after they’ve been declawed. It changes their posture and the way they walk,” Englar describes. “They’re shifting from their typical weight distribution because their feet are painful, like we might walk differently if we have a blister on our foot. But this just puts a strain on our other muscles, and causes pain.”
Declawing Cats : Behavioral Changes
Englar is of the opinion that if an owner must declaw her cat, it should be done when the cat is very young or the owner risks behavioral changes. “Clawing is an instinctive behavior that doesn’t just wear down claws, it also acts a means for cats to mark their territory,” she says. “If you take an adult cat that’s already fixated on this behavior and remove her claws, it could be very stressful for her. Kittens, on the other hand, are more malleable than adult cats and more able to adjust to a major change like declawing.”
Declawing Cats : Alternatives to Declawing
One surgical alternative to traditional declawing is a tendonectomy, during which the veterinarian severs the tendons that allow a cat to extend her claws. The procedure is initially less invasive than a true declaw, but Englar does not recommend this procedure, because it may lead to more long-term problems than declawing. “Scratching is an ingrained behavior in cats, and, as I said earlier, they’ll still go through the motions if they don’t have claws. But with a tendonectomy, cats physically can’t scratch.”
More importantly, they also have no way to wear down their claws. This means that owners must be diligent about clipping claws, lest they keep growing and grow into Fluffy’s paw pads. “They also get thick and kind of gnarly and curly,” Englar notes. “This is because when cats are scratching appropriately, outer layers of the claws flake off. If they can’t scratch, that natural process can’t happen.” She adds that if claws aren’t properly maintained following a tendonectomy, pet owners will be dealing with problems like lameness, pain, and behavioral changes—just like with a botched declawing.
There are other alternatives to declawing that do not involve surgery. One of the most popular is plastic claw caps. “Of course, you have to catch your cat and individually cap each claw, so the cat has to be cooperative for this method to work,” Moss says. Veterinarians can perform the procedure every few weeks with the cat sedated, if necessary. Training methods can also be used to redirect your cat’s scratching to acceptable items, such as scratching posts. Finally, keeping your cat’s nails short and blunt by trimming them every week or so will mitigate much of the damage associated with scratching.
Declawing Cats : Discuss Declawing with Your Vet
Both Moss and Englar agree that any cat owner thinking about declawing their cat should talk to their vet about the procedure at length. “I think transparency is important,” Englar says. “Cat owners should know about declawing. They should know what surgical method their vet will use, how often the vet does declawing procedures, and how the vet manages cats’ pain. These are all important facts that should influence the decision-making process.”