Truth About Declawing
There seems to be an alarming trend to have cats declawed...whether it's due
to personal convenience, apartment house rules and regulations, or simple lack
of knowledge on the part of responsible pet owners.
There are many fine vets out there that actively discourage declawing, but there
are also many who perform this surgery on a regular basis while never completely
informing the pet owner what this really entails nor explaining the possible
dangers of the procedure. If people were more informed, perhaps this trend would
Declawing a cat is a major surgical procedure, performed under general anesthesia.
It is actually amputation of the last joint on each toe, not a simple removal
of the claw itself as many are led to believe. The following article explains
the procedure of declawing.
Cats walk on their toes, unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of their feet.
Their musculature, joints, tendons and ligaments are all designed to distribute
their body weight to their toes.
The claw is not a nail like human fingernails or toenails. It is actually a part
of the last bone in a cat's toe. If you were to "declaw" a human in
the same way a cat is declawed, you would be amputating all 10 fingers at the
I found this description of the surgery in a veterinary textbook: "The claw
is extended by pushing up under the footpad or by grasping it with Allis tissue
forceps. A scalpel blade is used to sharply dissect between the second and third
phalanx over the top of the ungual crest . The distal interphalangeal joint is
disarticulated (disjointed), and the deep digital flexor tendon is incised (severed).
The digital footpad is not incised." This clinical explanation sounds horrific,
There is a real possibility of complications after any major surgery, and declawing
is no exception. There is the possibility of hemorrhage, infection, extreme pain,
bone chips, possible regrowth of deformed claw, back, muscle and joint problems,
damage to nerves, abscess and possible lameness. If the claw does regrow, it
is often deformed and yet another surgery must be performed to correct this problem.
In addition to the possible physical complications, often there are behavioral
problems following this surgery. The cat can become withdrawn, distant, fearful
and/or aggressive, and often start biting, as this is the only means of defense
left to them. Occasionally the cat will stop using the litterbox, because immediately
after surgery it was painful to scratch in the litter box, and now they associate
that pain with the litter box. Because of the amount of stress the animal experiences
after this procedure, they may become more prone to other diseases, as stress
tends to compromise the immune system.
The animal is in extreme pain following the surgery, and rarely do veterinarians
offer any sort of pain medication for the cat.
There are alternatives to having your cat declawed...such
as claw covers, scratching posts, regular trimming of the
claws and behavior modification.Many countries
have banned declawing as an abusive practice which causes unnecessary pain and
trauma to the animal. A veterinary textbook by Turner and Bateson on the biology
of cat behavior concludes a short section on scratching behavior with the following
statement: "The operative removal of the claws, as is sometimes practiced
to protect furniture and curtains, is an act of abuse and should be forbidden
by law in all, not just a few countries."
Unfortunately, declawing is not banned in the United States
at this time. The American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says it is
their policy to "recommend considering such surgery only if concerted behavior
modification efforts have failed and euthanasia is pending."
Declawing a cat is an abusive practice. Being informed of a procedure and possible
complications should be the goal of every responsible pet owner.