Wed, Oct 6, 2010
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.