to declaw or not to declaw

There are varying opinions on whether to declaw a cat or not. Many owners are fearful of the destructiveness of their cats clawing the furniture. It must be kept in mind that a declawed cat cannot go outside.  It needs claws to defend itself.

Cats walk on their toes, unlike most mammals who walk on their paws or feet. Their bodies are designed to support and distribute weight across their toes as they move. The cat’s claws are used for balance, exercising and stretching muscles, which they do by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back in an isometric kind of movement. They also scratch to sharpen their claws.  If you trim their claws, they will want to sharpen them all the more.

Cat’s claws are unlike human fingernails. In order to declaw a cat, you have to remove part of the terminal bone in a cat’s toe. It would be the equivalent of cutting off the fingers of a human at the last joint. Declawing, called onychectomy, involves 10 separate amputations.  When the amputation is done, it also takes ligaments and tendons. It is very painful and recovery takes about 2-3 weeks before the cat can walk comfortably again. There are added risks of infections, bleeding  to excess or nail regrowth that may be misaligned. Many cats have a loss of balance because they can no longer get a secure foothold.

What can be done, then, about destructive clawing? Cats should be trained while still kittens to use a scratching pad or post. There are also vinyl nail caps that are also known as soft claws.  They can be put over the cat’s claws with adhesive, but this has to be applied properly. Plus, you have to trim the claws first, which is often very difficult to do. The caps last about one month. This works best for cats that have to be kept indoors for a short period, but it can be done long term as well.

All in all, it is up to the cat owner to decide. If it means having to get rid of the cat, then declawing may be the only answer. If you want your cat to live considerably longer, it is better to keep the declawed cat as an indoor cat than make it a defenseless, declawed outdoor cat.



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