Owners mistakenly believe that declawing their cats is a “quick fix” to unwanted scratching behavior, said the Humane Society of the United States, a non-profit organization that focuses on animal welfare.
Declawing your cat is harmful as it causes lasting physical problems for your pet. It will also make your feline less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite. Scratching is normal behavior among cats and they don’t do it to destroy your favorite furniture. They do that to remove the dead husks from their claws, stretch their muscles, and mark their territory.
Practices and Perceptions of Veterinarians On Feline Onychectomy (2016)
Lori R. Kogan and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal portal PMC distributed a survey to the members of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, with the objective of determining the proportion of practitioners from Ontario, Canada who perform onychectomy, identify the techniques utilized, and obtain their views on the procedure. The online survey was completed by 508 out of 2,800 respondents.
The researchers found that out of any veterinarian in their clinic performed onychectomy (91.2% who answered yes versus 8.8% of those who answered no). When asked if the respondents perform onychectomy, 75.8% said yes and 24.2% said no. Of those who personally perform onychectomy, the reasons identified by the respondents were against personal beliefs or ethics (73.1%), never learned the procedure (15.7%), no client demand for service (2.8%), prohibited by clinic policy (5.6%), prohibited by local or national laws (2.8%), and “other” (35.2%).
64.9% said they perform the procedure upon the request of the owner, 24.1% said only in certain situations, and 11% reported offering it to all owners. Regarding the frequency of onychectomy procedures, 60.1% said they do so less than monthly, 24.6% said they do it less than weekly but more than monthly, and 10.4% said they perform the procedure every week. Only 4.1% and 0.8% said they do onychectomy two or three times a week and more than three times a week, respectively.
Some of the most common surgical preparation solution used for the procedure were chlorhexidine (60.6%), alcohol (42.5%), iodine (28.9%), and none (9.3%). 86.5% of respondents said they use a tourniquet. Of those, 53% said the tourniquet position was above the stifle or elbow, 39.8% said the position was below the stifle or elbow, 6.0% reported the position as below the stifle but above the elbow, and 1.2% stated that the tourniquet’s position was above the stifle but below the elbow.
The survey questionnaire asked to estimate the complication rate associated with onychectomy. Of those who reported minor complications like minor bleeding or swelling and transient lameness, 73.7% occurred in less than 5% of cases, 23.3% occurred in 6% to 15% of cases, and 2.9% reported occurrence in more than 15% of cases.
Of those who cited major complications such as major bleeding or welling, protracted lameness, and infection, 97.4% reported occurrence in less than 5% of cases, 1.7% occurred in 6% to 15% of cases, and 0.9% occurred in more than 15% of cases.
When asked about the respondents’ view on a legislative ban on onychectomy, 32.5% of those currently performing the procedure supported a ban, compared with 81.2% of those currently not performing the procedure. 44.9% of those performing onychectomy opposed a ban unlike those who did not practice it (6.9%). 22.6% of respondents practicing onychectomy answered “no position” while 11.9% of their counterparts said the same.
The authors concluded that onychectomy is an emotional and divisive issue among veterinarians who perform the procedure and those who do not. It is important for veterinarians to gain a better understanding of the number of declawed cats, including its impacts on relinquishment, behavior, and quality of life.
What Is Declawing?
Declawing is not the equivalent of having your nails trimmed. This procedure involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. In fact, declawing is an unnecessary surgery that offers no medical benefit to your cat. Educated pet owners can train their cat to use their claws to help everyone in the house live together in harmony.
Declawing also robs your cat of its ability to defend itself from a predator, argued Franny Syufy of The Spruce Pets, a website dedicated to publishing pet-related content. Your cat may be an indoor feline, but it still needs its claws to escape. If your cat is declawed, it does not have a chance of defending or escaping from a large dog, a bigger cat, or any predatory. It can use its teeth but by the time it closes on the predator, it might be too late.
How Is Declawing Performed?
It can be done using either a scalpel or guillotine clipper. The wounds are closed with stitches or surgical glue. The feet are also bandaged. Another method of declawing is laser surgery, a procedure in which an intense light heats and vaporizes the tissue. This procedure still involves amputating your cat’s last toe bone, making it more vulnerable to lameness and other behavioral problems.
Another procedure is tendonectomy, a process that severs the tendon that controls the claw in each paw. Your cat keeps its claws but is unable to control or extend them to scratch. Tendonectomy is correlated with a high incidence of abnormally thick claw growth, meaning you will need to frequently trim your cat’s nails to prevent it from snagging on people, furniture, and drapes. Frequent nail trimming also prevents your pet’s claws from growing into its paw pads. Due to complications, a cat who has undergone a tendonectomy may need to be declawed later.
Are There Any Alternatives to Declawing?
There are humane alternatives to this procedure. For example, you can provide your cat with a stable scratching post or board if you don’t want it to exhibit unwanted scratching behavior. You can use toys or catnip to redirect its misbehavior to the scratching post or board.
You can request your vet for soft plastic caps, which can be glued to your cat’s nails. However, these caps need to replaced every six weeks. Your cat will get used to it in a few days, said Prestige Animal Hospital, a hospital that serves pet health needs of dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Frankly, soft plastic caps are a better alternative than declawing.
Declawing is not a manicure for your cat. This procedure can be painful and can cause a number of behavioral problems. While declawing sounds like a convenient option for you, please think of your cat’s long term health if you wish to push through with the procedure.