Declawing Cats ( how are cats declawed ): The surgical removal of a cat’s front claws is a highly emotional and controversial topic. Almost every organization governing cats—from veterinarians to the Cat Fanciers’ Association—has condemned this operation, and yet uninformed people still choose to declaw their cats without fully understanding the extent to which they are mutilating their cats’ feet.
Those who defend the operation say that without it, some owners would abandon their cats or put them to sleep because of household damage from scratching.
These same apologists for declawing cats claim that it is better for a cat to be declawed than to be homeless or euthanized. This section will give you all the available information on this topic so you can come to your own conclusions about the best way to humanely handle any issues with your cat’s claws.
How are cats declawed
- This surgical declawing cats procedure to amputate a cat’s nails from her front paws is performed under general anesthesia. In order to remove the entire nail base, the ends of a cat’s toes are cut off, right up to first joint—if you want to compare it to your own hand, imagine the cut being at your first knuckle, so you’d lose the entire joint above your nail.
- Consider the vital importance to a cat of her paws to walk, jump, climb and play, then also consider what that mutilation would do to every waking minute of her existence.
Four different procedures can be used for this declawing cats operation:
The first method can answer the question how are cats declawed.
This method uses a nail trimmer similar to the guillotine-type trimmer used for cutting a dog’s nail. After a tourniquet is placed on the cat’s leg, the trimmers are positioned over the joint behind the nail.
By squeezing, the joint is opened enough for the trimmer to get in and amputate the toe; then the incisions are closed with sutures or surgical tissue glue and tightly bandaged.
This is the least favored declawing cats technique because of complications such as hemorrhaging, pain and infection and also because often the bone is often not properly amputated and the claw can regrow, causing a lifetime of pain and lameness. The American Animal Hospital Association discourages the use of a nail trimmer for this operation.
The second method can answer the question how are cats declawed.
This method also involves placing a tourniquet and using a scalpel blade to cut the bone at that joint. The wound is closed similarly and the paws are wrapped tightly for at least 24 hours.
This method does not usually create the problem of improper amputation and regrowth of bone, but there is more bleeding and pain.
The third method can answer the question how are cats declawed.
This method is the newest and doesn’t require a tourniquet or bandages—it uses a carbon dioxide laser to do the amputation. An intensely focused light beam removes the claws instead of a scalpel, causing less bleeding, scarring and pain.
It has gained popularity with some vets as being more humane because the laser seals the nerve endings and cauterizes the blood vessels to stop bleeding.
It is a shorter operation requiring less anesthesia and recovery time. While there are vets who will do only laser declawing cats procedure, many caution that you need to find a doctor with a lot of experience because in the wrong hands a laser can do great damage.
The fourth method can answer the question how are cats declawed.
This method of declawing cats is an alternative to cutting the bone. In a flexor tendonectomy, with the cat under general anesthesia, the vet cuts the tendon that attaches to the end of the toe.
There is no tourniquet or bleeding, but bandages are put on cats older than 4 months. The severed tendon keeps the claw permanently sheathed; the cat still has her claws, and for the rest of her life you have to frequently cut them or they can curl under and grow into her foot pad.
Also, long-term arthritis is a complication of tendonectomies, which is why the American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend them. Many vets say that this solution is little better than just trimming your cat’s nails every week.
The Case Against Declawing Cats
1. The Emotional Reaction
Declawed cats become defensive because they have difficulty climbing to escape danger and they cannot defend themselves against dogs or other cats.
This makes them nervous, vulnerable and in a state of constant stress. They may withdraw from social interaction, exhibiting shyness in new circumstances and a terror of the vet clinic.
Declawed cats tend to defensively bite more quickly and more often, since they no longer have claws to use as a warning or weapon. This is a reason that a declawed cat is not always a safe pet for children, despite what people might assume. Claws are the first line of defense for a cat—remove them and you take away an essential survival and communication tool.
2. The Physical Downside
The amputation performed when declawing a cat is the equivalent of what is done to people who are tortured: It is a kind of dismemberment. There are those who say that a declawed cat can have a gradual weakening of the legs, back and shoulders because she cannot walk normally, but this is not common.
These detractors of declawing compare the cat’s condition to having clubfoot, with her posture altered, forcing her to shift her weight to her back feet. The tourniquet used during surgery can also cause nerve damage that makes the cat walk abnormally.
Those vets who perform declawing cats procedure say that if it is done on a young cat at the time of neutering, recovery will be swift and easy. Regardless of whether that judgement is true, some vets are declawing cats way past kittenhood.
The age at declawing cats apparently correlates to the amount of pain and emotional reaction to the operation, but I hope that what you have read here would give you misgivings about a vet recommending declawing at any age.
Official Disapproval For Declawing Cats
1. The Cat Fanciers’ Association of America
The Cat Fanciers’ Association of America, which regulates cat shows, will not allow declawed cats into competitive events and issued the following statement: “CFA recognizes that scratching is a natural behavior for cats and that cats may be defenseless without full use of their claws.
Scratching damage to household furnishings can be minimized or avoided by routine clipping of the claws, the use of claw covers and by redirecting the cat’s activity to acceptable surfaces (a scratching post).”
They go on to say that declawing is an elective medical procedure with no benefit to the cat and that the pain associated can have behavioral or physical effects. You can read the full position paper and get more information at their Web site.
2. The American Association of Feline Practitioners
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (vets who specialize in cats) has declared that the procedure is not medically necessary. The group urges veterinarians to educate cat owners with a truthful explanation of what declawing is like for the cat.
Declawing is illegal in many countries in Western Europe and around the world, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Summary About Declawing Cats
I can only claim ignorance as my own defense for subjecting two of my sweet kitties to declawing. I had moved from the West Coast to the East Coast with 2 cats and 3 dogs and had rented a house during the transition.
The cats were going to town on the couches and I did not know enough about cat trees and how to make a scratching post inviting, so they continued to destroy the landlord’s furniture. The local vet told me that declawing was a swift and simple procedure and that within days the cat would forget it had happened.
Let me tell you, my friends, that you never want to have my experience of watching two previously happy and frisky cats come home from this procedure and be physically and emotionally destroyed by it.
When I brought those cats home, their front feet were obscured by enormous layers of bandaging. They could barely walk on those bandages, but even when they were removed, they walked so gingerly on their feet that the floor might as well have been covered in hot coals—which may be what it felt like to them.
They slunk against walls as they went. They stopped being affectionate or wanting contact; it seemed like a combination of pain, sadness and stress at having been mutilated. It was months—many months—before it didn’t hurt me to watch them walk.
One of the cats ran away at the first opportunity and we never found her; the other resigned himself to his disability, a shadow of his former self. It was the most cruel and senseless thing I have ever inflicted on an animal, and while I blame the vet for underplaying the seriousness of the operation, I also owed it to them to do my homework before inflicting that mutilation on them.
Since I cannot make it up to those two poor souls, at least I can shine an honest light on this barbaric procedure for all the kitties still out there, walking on their own four feet.
I can’t tell you what percentage of declawed cats react this way, but after reading the above description, do you really feel okay even asking that question? If you have had the experience of living with a declawed cat who did not seem to suffer extraordinarily—or you are told by anyone at all that it “really isn’t that bad”—I urge you with all my heart to reconsider.
Read more about cat and kitten behavior:
- Cat vocalizations
- My Kitten is crazy – Crazy kitten behavior
- Using Comfort Zone Feliway
- Cat Marking Territory
- Cat Spraying
- Cat Body Language
- Understand your cat body language and cat behavior
- Cat Separation Anxiety
- Cat Scratching
- Aggression in cats towards others
- Aggressive cat behavior toward other cats and solutions
- Common Cat Behavior Problems and Solutions