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Cats and Claw Removal

Wed, Oct 6, 2010

Cat Care

Cats and Claw Removal

Cats use their claws for various purposes. The claws are important to cats, as they are an essential part of balancing. If you’ve ever noticed a cat jumping and latching on to a high object, you’ve probably noticed that he uses his claws to pull himself up. When climbing trees, cats tend to use their claws to latch onto the bark and climb toward their destination.

Cats also use their claws for stretching, walking, and running. Scratching and stretching release endorphins, which make the cat feel good. The claws are also a cat’s primary source of defense against other animals and humans. Most cats keep their claws extremely sharp, as their claws and teeth are basically their only weapons. The claws are also essential for using the bathroom, as cats use them to cover up their mess with dirt.

Cats also use their claws to scratch things, which marks their territory. This is a visual cue to other cats that the territory is taken. Their paws have glands, which contain a secretion. When they leave their mark on something, the secretion is transferred to the area they scratched. This is detectable to other cats, although not to humans. Sometimes, they will also scratch something to remove the older claw, which will fall off and reveal a new claw that resides underneath.

Some cat owners are afraid that their cat will ruin their furniture or carpet, and, therefore, will choose to get their cat declawed. Getting a cat’s claws removed is a surgical procedure, one that can only be performed by a veterinarian. The owner will need a good reason though, as a vet won’t do the surgery just to keep one’s furniture or carpet protected. Declawing involves removing an entire joint from every digit — not a small surgery in any way.

You may or may not see behavior changes in your cat after the surgery. Cats usually won’t become more aggressive after a declaw, but you may think that he’s using his teeth more often if you didn’t notice that he was using his teeth often before the surgery — you may have been more focused on the scratching. The cat will continue to scratch to mark his territory (your furniture) or release endorphins, but there won’t be any damage. If you used to chase your cat away from the furniture before the surgery, you won’t be chasing the cat away after the surgery. Your cat may miss that attention, and he might find other ways to get your attention — good or bad.

If scratching your furniture is your main reason for wanting to get your cat’s claws removed, read our article about redirecting scratching. You can also try keeping the nails trimmed. Plastic nail caps are also available to cover the claws. These are applied to the nails using an adhesive and require replacing every six to 12 weeks as the nails grow. Some cats and people may have an adverse reaction to the adhesive. Have your veterinarian show you how to apply them the first time; after that, you should be able to do it on your own.

In the end, if you feel you must declaw or give up your cat, we would rather see your cat stay in your home and be your lifelong companion. If you do decide to have your cat declawed, have the surgery done at the same time she’s spayed (or neutered if your cat is a male), that you only declaw the front paws and that you always keep your cat indoors.

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2 Responses to “Cats and Claw Removal”

  1. Ruth says:

    A good article until the last paragraph.Firstly declawing is supposed to be a last resort procedure so recommending it’s done along with neutering is very wrong. Secondly declawing does not keep cats in their homes because once the problems from the declawing begin(which you didn’t mention either)the people who will only have an adapted cat are the ones who abandon the cat. Rescue Shelters receive many declawed cats, at kill Shelters many are killed and at no kill Shelters many are caged for life as unadopotable because of mental or physical problems from the amputation of their last toe joints.
    People who will only have a cat if he can be declawed are not fit owners for cats to begin with.
    Cats can develop problems immediately after surgery, months or even years later.Common problems are litter box avoidance (because of the painful paws they prefer to use soft furnishings or carpets) biting (their first defence was taken away) stress illnesses such as cystitis or eczema,depression, fearfullness. Then there is the chance of a painful crooked claw regrowth if even a single claw cell is left behind or a splinter of bone moving and causing pain and infection.Lastly almost all declawed cats develop painful arthritis in later life because of being unable to exercse their muscles as cats need to by digging in their claws.
    Declawing is a very cruel and uneccessary operation which is banned as animal abuse in many countries.
    There is no such animal as a bad cat, only a bad owner, as it’s very simple to trim a cat’s claws and to teach him to use a scratching post.
    Vet nurse UK

    • admin says:

      Ruth,

      I agree that cats should not be declawed. There are many options available to help redirect the scratching to a more suitable location or help keep the claws trimmed. Not all declaw surgeries go horribly wrong or scar the cats for life (I’ve adopted declawed cats from shelters in the past, and they led happy, healthy lives), but there is a possibility that behavior or medical issues will appear after a surgery. Cat owners need to be vigilant when selecting the vet to assure the best possible care during and after the surgery. Cat owners should do everything they can to keep the claws on their cat and do their research on websites such as yours to learn everything they can about declawing and what it means to their cats. I don’t think that cat owners who have their cats declawed to keep them in their homes are bad owners — they may just be unable to make any other options work. Again, some extra research on their parts would help them immensely.