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Declawing Cats: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives

A closer look at the controversial procedure.
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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.

  

Q: Can I allow a declawed cat to go outside?

A: No, it’s not appropriate for obvious reasons. Letting your cats outside after they’ve been declawed would be cruel because they can’t defend themselves properly. Therefore, owners have to be committed to keep the cat indoors for the rest of its life or to find a family that can do so.

 

Q: So it's better to declaw a cat rather than get rid of it?

A: If that’s the only option, absolutely. If the cat is going to be given up, the lesser of two evils is declawing the cat. There’s no two ways about it. And, if you’re going to start letting your cat outside because it’s a destructive cat, you’re probably better off declawing it and keeping it inside because it will live considerably longer being an inside declawed cat than an outside cat with claws.

 

Q: Are there other solutions to scratching problems? What are they?

A: One is training, which is primarily for kittens. When somebody brings us a kitten, that’s one of the things we talk about - how to train them to use a scratching post. It’s very effective. But it’s much less successful with adult cats.

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