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Declawing Cats

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A tendonectomy, severing the tendon that enables the cat to extend his claws, is not widespread. The problem is that the nails continue to grow and are not worn down, which means they can grow into the pads, causing pain and infection.

Pain medication is important postoperatively in all declaw procedures, and there may be complications. These range from slight bleeding, to bone chips left, or continued, ongoing pain.

The feet are firmly bandaged. Some veterinarians choose to suture the skin closed with absorbable suture material. Dressings are removed in a day or two and the cat can go home. The feet will be tender for several days, so filler in the litter box should be replaced with shredded paper to prevent litter from getting into the healing incision. Most cats heal reasonably well.

There is controversy about whether a cat should be declawed, and the practice is outlawed in some countries. Scientific studies have not shown that declawing leads to behavior problems, but anecdotally, many behaviorists believe this is the case. Behavior problems can include mouthy behavior, irritability, and defensive behaviors.

Cats who live outdoors or go outdoors should never be declawed. Their claws are vital for their ability to climb, defend themselves, and escape dangers. Even indoor cats use their claws for balance when they leap, and to grasp and manipulate objects.

Declawing may be recommended for families with immunocompromised members who could not tolerate even an accidental scratch, but there are no feline medical reasons for a cat to be declawed. The American Association of Feline Practitioners advises veterinarians to provide full education about scratching behavior and alternatives before discussing declawing and never to present declawing as a routine procedure.

If declawing is done at all, it is best done when a kitten is 3 months of age or older. Many veterinarians suggest that the operation be deferred until a kitten is 4 to 5 months old. Young cats learn to cope without claws more quickly than do adults.

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WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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