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Healthy Cats

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Declawing Cats: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives

A closer look at the controversial procedure.


Q: Are there good reasons to declaw a cat?

A: There are a couple of good reasons. Medically, sometimes you have to remove a claw if the claw is damaged beyond repair or if it has a tumor.

Sometimes it’s also trauma to the owners. There are people whose immune systems are suppressed or the elderly on blood thinners who can’t be exposed to the bacteria on a cat’s claws.

But the majority of declawings are due to social issues -- where cats are being destructive and tearing up furniture.

Q: What are the positions of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners on declawing?

A: They both say about the same thing, which is while it’s not considered medically necessary for the cat, it can be considered appropriate for cats that otherwise would be given up or for whose owners are immunocompromised.

There are alternatives to declawing, and I think everybody, including veterinarians, look at declawing as a last resort. But if it keeps the owners from giving up their cats, euthanizing them, or making them outside cats, I think it’s a realistic option.

Q: Does declawing hurt the cat? How long does it take a cat to recover?

A: It depends on the procedure. Any surgery involves some degree of pain or discomfort. Pain management is an important part of any procedure.

That being the case, the recovery time is much faster for some techniques than others. Cosmetic declawings heal much faster, usually within a week. The guillotine method of declawing a cat, you’re talking two or three weeks or longer.

Q: Can declawing lead to any medical complications or problems?

A: Like any surgery, infection is a possibility, especially because this is not a sterile surgery. You can’t sterilize this area. And if it’s not performed properly, the claw can grow back. But it won’t grow back properly and that can cause abscesses.

Q: Will declawing change my cat’s personality?

A: They truly have looked at these issues and found nothing. You’ll hear stories that cats start biting more or develop litter box problems, but there’s no evidence of it even after numerous studies.

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