To Declaw or Not to Declaw?
There are many factors to consider when choosing whether or not to declaw your beloved cat or kitten. Many cat owners and veterinarians have strong opinions about declawing, but it is up to you to learn the facts about the procedure and make the right decision for your circumstances. Before you make a decision one way or the other, it's important to understand the facts about the procedure as well as some information about why cats start scratching in the first place.
Why Do Your Cats Claw Your Furniture?
It is completely normal for cats to want to claw and scratch at objects and kittens will spontaneously start scratching soon after they are born. Scratching is a way for the cat to exercise the toe muscles as well as "sharpen" their claws. What most people do not realize is that when a cat is sharpening their claws, they are actually removing the whole outer layer of claw to expose a new healthy claw underneath. A cat will also leave claw marks as a visual way to show others that this territory belongs to him. When a cat spends time outdoors, they tend to claw trees and other types of woods. When kept indoors, a cat can choose to scratch almost any surface to scratch. Without anything else to scratch in your household, a cat will often turn to your furniture or other household items to fulfill their natural instinct to scratch.
Is Declawing Right For My Cat?
Declawing your cat is major surgery and should not be taken lightly, though many owners find it beneficial to declaw their cats. When a cat is declawed, the entire last joint of the toe is amputated to prevent claws from growing back. Traditional declaw procedures can be painful and risky but can now be done with laser. Therefore, at Roane Veterinary Hospital, we offer laser declaw procedures which minimize healing time in the vast majority of patients. There are many advantages to using laser surgery for your cat declaw, including little or no bleeding (during or after surgery), less post-operative pain, and no bandages.
Despite what opponents may say, several studies have shown that declawed cats are not more likely to bite or develop litter box problems than cats which have not been declawed. However, cats which are declawed must be kept indoors because they will be less able to defend themselves without their front claws.
If you do choose to declaw your cat, it is best to have the procedure done during the cats first year of life. When a cat is young, they are less likely to have complications and will recover quickly from being declawed.
If you think that declawing might be right for your cat, or if you have any questions about the procedure, please contact Roane Veterinary Hospital today at 865-882-6327.
Alternatives to Declawing
Training your cat to use a scratching post is the ideal way to avoid torn up furniture. But it’s not always as simple as bringing home a carpeted post, setting it in the corner, and waiting for your cat to decide to use it. Here are some helpful training tips:
- Get your cat's scent on the post. This is easily done by spreading the claws, and rubbing the paw against the post. Your cat will be more attracted to the post if the aroma from its own scent glands is applied.
- Use catnip on the post. Catnip can be sprayed or rubbed onto the post. Periodic reapplication will keep it smelling irresistible.
- Rope or shag? Upright or flat? Scratching posts come with different features because cats come with different preferences. Posts which offer a variety of surfaces are ideal. And an easy way to provide that horizontal “scratch-the-floor” feeling is with a cheap kitchen rug. Households with more than one cat may require more than one post, if your cats are reluctant to share.
- Post placement is important, too. Use it to block access to those items that are taking a beating. For example, place it at the corner of your couch, in front of your stereo speaker, or on the carpet next to the door. Also, your cat may be more apt to use the post it it’s in the den instead of the laundry room.
Three essential elements of any training regimen are PREVENTION, DISCIPLINE, and REWARD. You can prevent your cat from scratching furniture with one of the many sprays sold at pet supply stores. These sprays are furniture-safe, with a scent that won’t bother you, but will fend off your cat. Discipline is easily accomplished with a water bottle and a stern tone of voice. Never yell at or hit your cat. And remember to BE CONSISTENT – punishing some transgressions and ignoring others sends a confusing message to your cat, and can make training a long and frustrating process for both of you. Finally, don’t forget to reward your cat for using its scratching post with praise and play!
Available through your veterinarian, these synthetic nail covers permit scratching while preventing damage. You can buy a pack of thirty for $23.55 – less than 8 cents per nail cover. On your cat’s paw, they last anywhere from three weeks to three months, depending on how hard your cat uses them. Putting the nails on does require that you be able to manage your cat’s paw; each claw must be clipped and a drop of glue applied. Through repetition and gentle handling, however, your cat can adjust to the routine. If your cat spends most of its time outside, keep in mind that Soft Paws will make climbing more difficult, but not impossible.