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
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
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.