So, you adopted your first baby a 12 month old girl, and you name her the most beautiful name. You spend money on toys and expensive food for your special child. You are filled with joy and excitement with each new day, until you start to notice a bad habit forming, and you try and correct her. However, she finds it comforting and can not seem to stop no matter how upset you get, (after all she is only a baby!) So, now you have decided a doctor can fix the problem and you schedule an appointment. At this appointment, they remove her right thumb tip in order to stop the thumb sucking.....sounds ridiculous right! It is, but what if we substituted the baby for a kitten. Would it be so outrageous? Some pet owners claim declawing is only a minor surgery for a cat.
The word Onyechtomy is the surgical term for declawing. The definition of declawing includes the words severing, amputating, dissecting, disfiguring and disjointed. These terms don't seem very minor. In fact, drug companies use the declawing surgery in their tests on new pain medications because of the severity of pain it causes. Why would you do this surgery as a means of correction when there are so many alternatives and the behavior is healthy for your cat?
Unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of the paws or feet, cats are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw, and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat's weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat's claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold - similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. Removal of the last digits of the toes drastically alters the conformation of their feet and causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.
The below is a clinical description of the declawing surgery taken from a leading veterinary surgical textbook. Contrary to misleading information, declawing is not a "minor" surgery comparable to spaying and neutering procedures, it is 10, separate, painful amputations of the distal phalanx at the joint (disjointing).
The claw is extended by pushing up under the footpad or by grasping it with Allis tissue forceps. A scalpel blade is used to sharply dissect between the second and third phalanx over the top of the ungual crest. The distal interphalangeal joint is disarticulated (disjointed), and the deep digital flexor tendon is incised (severed). The digital footpad is not incised. If a nail trimmer is used, the ring of the instrument is placed in the groove between the second phalanx and the ungual crest. The blade is positioned just in front of the footpad. The blade is pushed through the soft tissues over the flexor process. With the ring of the nail trimmer in position behind the ungual crest, the blade is released just slightly so that traction applied to the claw causes the flexor process to slip out and above the blade. At this point, the flexor tendon can be incised and disarticulation of the joint (disjointing) completed. Both techniques effectively remove the entire third phalanx." (Excerpted from: Slatter D; Textbook of Small Animal Surgery 2nd ed vol I, p.352 W.B. Saunders Company Philadelphia.)
Not only is the surgery painful but there can be numerous complications. The rate of complication is relatively high compared with other so-called routine procedures. Complications of this amputation can be excruciating pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible to the eye, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. Physical complications are not the thing to worry about after a declaw surgery. Some cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change. Cats that were lively and friendly have become withdrawn and introverted after being declawed. Others, deprived of their primary means of defense, become nervous, fearful, and/or aggressive, often resorting to their only remaining means of defense, their teeth. In some cases, when declawed cats use the litter box after surgery, their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box...permanently, resulting in a life-long aversion to using the litter box. Other declawed cats that can no longer mark with their claws, they mark with urine instead resulting in inappropriate elimination problems, which in many cases, results in relinquishment of the cats to shelters and ultimately euthanasia. Many of the cats surrendered to shelters are surrendered because of behavioral problems which developed after the cats were declawed. Many declawed cats become so traumatized by this painful mutilation that they end up spending their maladjusted lives perched on top of doors and refrigerators, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against whom they no longer have any adequate defense. A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defense. Removing the claws makes a cat feel defenseless. The constant state of stress caused by a feeling of defenselessness may make some declawed cats more prone to disease. Stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological disorders including suppression of the immune system, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Fortunately, there are many options available to try and prevent the need for declawing. Since cats use their claws for exercise a scratching would be ideal to divert scratching from inappropriate places. An adequate scratching post should be at least 36 inches tall in order to give your cat full stretching ability. Scratching posts wrapped in sisal or thick non plush carpet are recommended over plush carpeted ones. If you are having trouble getting your cat used to his scratching post a little catnip sprinkled on it once a week will entice play and make transition easier. If a scratching post is out of your budget then a cardboard scratching toy is the perfect choice. They are small economical, disposable and can be put anywhere without taking up too much room.
Once you've given your cat an acceptable area he can scratch without being destructive then you can move on to trimming the nails to help with accidental clawing. Here at Familytime Rags we start the kittens off early getting them used to nail trimmings. Gently stroke your cat's paws often, getting her used to having her paws held before you attempt trimming. Be sure to reward your cat with a special food treat-one that she receives only during claw trimming or some other grooming procedure-during or immediately after trimming. The best time to trim your cat's claws is when she is relaxed or sleepy. Never try to give a pedicure right after a stressful experience or an energetic round of play. Your cat should be resting comfortably on your lap, the floor, or a table. Hold a paw in one hand and press a toe pad gently to extend the claw. Notice the pink tissue (the quick) on the inside of the claw.
Avoid the quick when you trim the claw; cutting into it will cause pain and bleeding Remove the sharp tip below the quick (away from the toe), clipping about halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw. . Avoid the quick when you trim the claw; cutting into it will cause pain and bleeding Remove the sharp tip below the quick (away from the toe), clipping about halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw. If your cat becomes impatient, take a break and try again later. Even if you can clip only a claw or two a day, eventually you'll complete the task. (Because cats do little damage with their rear claws and do a good job of keeping them trim themselves-by chewing them-many cat owners never clip the rear claws. Others trim their cats' rear claws three or four times a year or have them done by their veterinarian or a professional groomer.) Many people hold the clippers at right angles to the nail, thus cutting across the nail. This tends to make the nail more subject to splitting or fraying. It is better to hold the clippers in a vertical position--that is, up and down, so that the claw is trimmed from bottom to top instead of across the nail. This position help prevent splitting. If you accidentally clip into the quick, don't panic. The claw may bleed for a moment, but it will usually stop very quickly. Soothe your cat by speaking softly to her and stroking her head. If the bleeding hasn't stopped after a minute or so, touch a styptic pencil to the claw end or pat on styptic powder to help slow the bleeding. How often you need to clip your cat's claws depends somewhat on how much of the tip you remove, but usually a clipping every ten to fourteen days will suffice. If' your cat absolutely refuses to allow you to clip their claws, get help from your veterinarian or a professional groomer Gently press the cat's toe pads to reveal the sharp claws in need of a trim. Notice the pink tissue (the quick) on the inside of the claw. Avoid the quick when you trim the claw; cutting into it will cause pain and bleeding Remove the sharp tip below the quick (away from the toe), clipping about halfway between the end of the quick and the tip of claw
Another option to curb damage caused by scratching is a product called Softpaws. They are a vinyl cap that covers the nail preventing damage. However, they only last about 4 to 6 weeks, then you must reapply. The cat may take a bit to get used to them but most cats adjust rather quickly.
These are the most popular alternatives available, however should these fail we can help you look into other possibilities. Your cat's health and happiness are our main concern and ensuring you a well behaved family member.