Cats can be mysterious creatures. Although they may seem to only sleep, eat, and use their litter box, they do have important tasks to fulfill to be the best fur baby around. As a cat, their main defense mechanism are their claws and teeth. A common procedure seen in many veterinary practices is called onychectomy, or declaw. Most owners opt to have this procedure done to keep their furniture intact, or because a housing unit “requires” it.
Cats use their nails for certain reasons! They need to be able to groom their own nails to allow old nail segments to fall off naturally. They can do this on a scratching post within a home. The best ones are vertical and tall. They are not only grooming their nails, but they are stretching and using important muscles that help keep them healthy and happy. As they are scratching, they are marking their territory by releasing pheromones from their paws.
Commonly mistaken, the claw (nail) itself is a part of their bone anatomy. When declawing a cat, the third digit is amputated from the rest of the digit. There are three different methods commonly used in veterinary medicine.
-The scalpel blade method uses a single scalpel blade to isolate the third digit to remove the digit.
-The guillotine method uses what is similar to a nail clipper to clip the third digit off.
-The laser method uses a surgical laser to precisely remove only the third digit.
No method is standard among veterinary practices. However, there are pros and cons for each of the three. No matter the method used… there is always risk of not removing the digit correctly.
-By leaving some of the third digit present some kitties see regrowth of bone and nail through the skin.
-Cats stand on their paws a specific way, without the retractable nails they are creating a bad posture for themselves. This can cause arthritis.
-When procedures are poorly done and cats are in pain, they can start developing behavioral problems in the home (avoiding litter boxes, becoming aggressive, etc.).
Alternatives to having a cat declawed are;
–Tall, vertical scratching posts with a course, nubby texture. Some cats prefer horizontal. Listen to what your kitty likes or is attracted to!
–A cat tree: something to climb on and distract them from other furniture, as this is their special place.
–Soft paws: a plastic nail cover that is glued to a cat’s real nails. These are very temporary and may need re-application over time. Our veterinary nurses are always happy to apply these for our clients!
–Catnip! Add catnip to any surface to attract kitties to the proper scratching areas.
–Make surfaces that your cat is tearing up seem less appealing by placing foil, or double-sided tape around them. This can be counters, walls, or even furniture.
Here at Mulnix Animal Clinic, we love our kitties! We do not routinely preform declaw procedures. We like to help educate clients on other positive ways to keep nails in tact and our cats happy and healthy!
Kendall Batson, CVT