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March 25, 2014 > Ohlone Humane Society: Declawing your catÉ an unkind cut

Ohlone Humane Society: Declawing your catÉ an unkind cut

By Nancy Lyon

Your cat has taken to clawing your new carpet or drapes and youÕre frustrated that she doesnÕt seem to get it that this is not acceptable behavior. YouÕre friends have suggested a few solutions including having her declawed by your vet. No big deal right? You been told itÕs just a simple removal of her claws and problem solvedÉ but not for your cat.

ItÕs a catÕs basic nature to claw objects with their front paws. ItÕs believed that this is a way of marking their territory, relieving stress and aiding in the removal of old and worn nail sheaths. It also is an instinctual way of exercising muscles used in hunting. While outdoor cats have an outlet for this inborn pattern using tree trucks and other natural surfaces, indoor cats tend to direct this strong natural impulse toward what is availableÉ furniture, carpets, etc.

This can be frustrating to a guardian and consideration of deterrents that can lead not only to other bad habits, but cause physical and emotional trauma and suffering to their beloved companion and friend.

Before taking a step that will cause your feline friend excruciating pain and could well change her long-term behavior and forever end her trust in you, take time to understand what your decision means to her.

The procedure is often minimized as a ÒsimpleÓ process of removing her claws, while in reality the surgery involves the painful amputation of ten phalanxes at the last joint of each of her toesÉ equivalent to cutting off all your finger tips. Removed are bones, nerve tissue, joint capsule, ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons. You are essentially removing part of her foot.

The aim of declawing, or onchyectomy, is to remove the entire nail bed and claw by amputation; a permanent solution. Like any surgery, there are risks of anesthetization, excessive bleeding and postoperative complications, including infection, accompanied by severe pain that may last from several days to much longer unless appropriate analgesia is provided. Post-operative care and the length of time the cat must remain in the veterinary hospital depend on how the surgical procedure is performed and the skill of the surgical team.

Complications from surgery include: excruciating pain, damage to nerves that can cause lifetime distress, hemorrhage, chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg, and back muscles weaken. While some people may say Òmy cat wasnÕt in painÓ, the truth is, cats often do not show pain because it is a sign of weakness and vulnerability.

The trauma of declawing can have behavioral and psychological consequences. Suffering can change personalities; previously friendly and social cats can become withdrawn and fearful. Without their natural means of defense, cats can become so stressed that they exhibit aggression. Without their claws, cats have no choice but to fall back on their only remaining means of defense, their teeth, biting when faced with even minor upsets. The continuing stress can also challenge their immune system and lead to health problems.

Cats that have had this natural impulse taken away may stop using their litter box because of the pain associated with scratching in the litter after a declawing procedure. This means they will find a more comfortable place to go such as a soft blanket, carpet, etc., an issue equal to or more challenging than the original scratching problem.

Statistics show that:

50% of cats will come out of the operation with immediate medical or behavioral complications for 2-3 weeks, and 30% will have complications for the rest of their lives

75% of the cats with litter box aversion and turned into shelters are declawed cats

80% of declawed cats that are surrendered to shelters are euthanized because they have a behavioral problem

70% of cats turned into shelters for behavioral problems are declawed

Many declawed cats surrendered to shelters are relinquished because of behavioral problems that developed after the cats were declawed. An action that may ultimately result in a cat deemed ÒunadoptableÓ and ending in euthanasia.

Laws in most European countries explicitly prohibit the practice. In Israel, declawing a cat can result in a fine equivalent to more than $20,000. Authorities in the U.K., Brazil, Japan, Turkey and Australia also discourage the practice.

Most animal welfare organizations, including OHS, are strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their guardians. Although banned in some progressive U.S. cities, the practice still thrives in many areas.

Bottom line is declawing is an unnecessary surgery which provides no medical benefit to the cat. Learn how you can easily work with your feline family member to use their claws in a manner that allows everyone in the household to live together happily.

Check out the following humane alternatives to declawing that protect your catÕs well-being and your property: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/declawing.html

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