The Physical And Emotional Effects Of Declawing
If the declawing procedure wasnt bad enough, the consequences of this surgical procedure have tremendous implications for your cats quality of life.
One of the most prominent negative effects is the gradual weakening of muscles of the legs, shoulders, and back. If your cat is unable to use her claws to stretch and tone her muscles, this will cause muscle atrophy to occur, or muscles wasting away.
Your cat will never be able to walk normally again and her balance will be forever impaired.
This is because the cat will have to place more weight on her back legs as her front legs are no longer able to do so as easily and effectively. Forever gone is the graceful agility and poise that was her birthright.
As mentioned before, declawed cats also have a tendency to bite as their first line of defense, claws and scratching, have been taken away from them.
Since declawed cats are more tense, nervous, and stressed, they could be easily agitated and begin biting in order to vent their frustrations. Biting is usually last-resort and cats tend to not want to bite until it is absolutely needed. However, with the absence of their claws, these cats will have to bite.
Cats are very communicative creatures and use their paws and claws to let you know their boundaries. If you are petting them the wrong way or perhaps you did something to offend them, they may give you a little slap with their paws.
Cat Declawing: The Painful Truth
Does it look as if Jack the Ripper went dog day afternoon on your couch? Does it seem as if Edward Scissorhands continually carves your doorjambs? If you answer yes to these questions, chances are you have a cat.
Cats are notorious for scratching. Some scratch furniture. Some pick at carpets. A few slice human sinew. They use chair legs as scratching posts and shred drapes and tablecloths into rags. Cats scratch. That’s what they do. The American Veterinary Medical Association , says “scratching is a normal behavior of cats.” Conversely, “destructive scratching represents approximately 15 to 42 percent of feline behavior complaints.”
They don’t do it for malevolent reasons, but mainly to mark their territory, sharpen their nails, stretch their tiny cat muscles, protect themselves or remove dead husks from their claws. All of this is natural and instinctive. But because such activities can be destructive, many cat owners resort to their felines, a painful, and many would say, barbaric remedy.
But now, the cats of New York state can now purr a bit louder thanks to a new bill passed by the state legislature in June 2019 that outlaws cat declawing. Pet owners who declaw their cats can face a stiff $1,000 fine. If signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is rumored to be a dog lover, New York will become the first state to make declawing cats illegal.
Why You Should Not Declaw Cats
Cats need their claws. They rely on them to play, to climb and to feel safe. I trim my cats claws every now and then just to save wear and tear on my furniture and to avoid too many injuries when they play with each other. As soon as they are trimmed, those cats become stumbling idiots. They can not longer grasp their tree and climb up it like they usually do. They cant use the scratching post and they generally struggle until the points of the claws grow back in a day or two.
You can see that it affects them even in that short time and even though they still have claws, so I cant begin to imagine how horrible it must be for a cat to suffer like that forever. Whats more, there are also issues with the litter box as cats that have been declawed tend to have very sensitive pads and are unable, or rather unwilling, to walk over the litter.
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Cons To Cat Declawing
The main pro to cat declawing is that it impedes the cats ability to scratch. For some humans, this may be considered desirable, especially if a cat is scratching furniture or aggressively scratching its owner. Another pro is that declawing cats may mean fewer cats end up in shelters. However, the cons of declawing far outweigh the benefits in most cases.
Declawing a cat removes their natural ability to climb, jump, fight, and ultimately, protect themselves. Outdoor cats should never be declawed. If a cat is declawed, the general consensus is that the owner should then make the cat an indoor cat only. Should a declawed cat escape and have to fend for itself on the streets, it sadly, may not survive.
What Is The Declawing Procedure
The usual process of declawing a cat is inhumane at best. It is outlawed in many European countries but still legal in the U.S. Many veterinarians refuse to do the surgery. The cat claw lies so close to the bone that the last bone of the toe has to be removed along with the nail. Definitely not a surgery to be taken lightly! Some cats suffer lifelong problems and pain from declawing. The older the cat at the time of declawing, the worse the problems.
Should your cat spend any time outdoors, it needs those claws to defend itself in the event of an attack by dogs or even other cats. Without claws, it cannot scratch and some may not be able to climb trees.
Training Your Cat Is More Humane
Trim Your Cats Nails
Clip your cats toenails every week, beginning when she is a kitten. Youll only need to clip the tips off to keep her comfortable. Cats scratch in order to smooth their sharp nails. I use small, human toenail clippers, and they work just fine on my pets.
Look for Alternatives to Declawing
A product called Soft Paws glues onto the cats nails. Ive never used this one, but Im told they work quite well. The problem with these nails is that they have to be replaced when they fall off.
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Altering Your Cat’s Gait May Lead To Later Joint Problems
Domestic cats are digitigrade, meaning they walk on their toes. Removing the toe’s first digit will alter the way your catwalks and may affect the joints in its leg. This may eventually lead to your cat developing arthritis in its hip and other joints. So removing its claws can be seriously detrimental to your cat’s long-term health.
Safe And Healthy Alternatives
- Ensure that your cat has approved surfaces to scratch. Cardboard, carpet, rope or fabric scratchers can be purchased or made at home. With a variety of scratching options, youre sure to find a surface your feline will enjoy scratching more than your sofa!
- Trimming a cats claws every few weeks can drastically reduce damage from scratching.
- TIP: Make trimming a pleasurable activity for your cat by offering some yummy treats as a reward!
- Cats claws grow continuously, just like human nails. The outer sheaths of the claws, which become dull over time, are shed when a cat scratches. As cats get older, they may not wear their claws down as fast, resulting in the need for more frequent claw trimmings.
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The Truth About Cats And Scratching
Scratching is normal cat behavior. It isn’t done to destroy a favorite chair or to get even. Cats scratch to remove the dead husks from their claws, mark territory, and stretch their muscles.
Cats are usually about 8 weeks old when they begin scratching. That’s the ideal time to train kittens to use a scratching post and allow nail trims. Pet caregivers should not consider declawing a routine prevention for unwanted scratching. Declawing can actually lead to an entirely different set of behavior problems that may be worse than shredding the couch.
What Is The Procedure
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, declawing is the surgical amputation of all or part of a cats toe bones and the attached claws, and it is a painful procedure. It is not a simple trimming of the nails.
Immediate physical complications can include:
- An adverse reaction to the general anesthetic, and this can include death.
- If bandages are wrapped too tightly, the foot may become gangrenous and necessitate amputation of the leg.
- When bandages are removed, many cats continue to profusely bleed and require rebandaging.
Later physical complications can include:
- In instances in which the entire nail bed was not removed, one or more claws can grow back misshapen and useless.
- If a surgical nail cutter was dull, and because cats nails are brittle, many cats experience shattered bones in their feet which can become seriously infected. This can be corrected only with a second general anesthetic and surgical procedure.
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Is It Really That Bad To Declaw A Cat
Study shows its bad for your cat, and you. may sound like a relatively benign procedure, like getting your nails trimmed. These cats are known to chew at the stubs of their paws, and may suffer from chronic pain. In addition, many owners find that their cats become more aggressive after the surgery.
It Leaves Them Defenseless
Cats use their claws to defend themselves against predators. Taking away their claws leaves them without any method to protect themselves. Imagine if your kitten got outdoors and couldn’t defend herself! It can also lead to bullying from other household pets who are bigger than them.
Cats who are declawed have also been known to use biting as a way to ward off threats which can lead to both strangers, owners and the cats getting injured. The back claws, if they remain, are an ineffective form of defense because they require the cats to lie on their back, leaving themselves vulnerable.
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The Problems With Declawing Cats
Myers notes that declawing is a brutal procedure that can lead to significant complications.
Even when done under the best of circumstances and with the best pain management plan possible, its still painful and a lot of healing has to occur, Myers says. Complications can occur that can cause delayed healing or even lifelong pain and other issues.
A declawed cat cannot defend itself as effectively in a fight therefore, it is inadvisable to allow a declawed cat to roam unsupervised outdoors, she adds. We also do not fully understand the full extent of how declawing affects a cats behavior and mental well-being throughout its life.
In many parts of the world, declawing is banned. Martinez reports that more than 40 countries, including Australia, Brazil, and the U.K., have banned declawing. In 2019, New York became the first state in the U.S. to ban elective declaw surgery. In recent years, cities including Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have also passed declawing bans.
Paw Pain And Nerve Damage
Paw pain and nerve damage can be caused by a number of issues, but Moss notes that many are related to either overzealous or overly cautious surgeons. Declawing involves the removal of everything down to the first knuckle on each of a cats toes, he explains. Sometimes, a surgeon doesnt remove the first knuckle entirely and some claw tissue remains. This tissue tries to grow a new claw, which in some cases will form a deformed claw under the skin, which in turn leads to an abscess. That can be extremely painful and lead to long-term pain if not dealt with properly.
The opposite might also be truethe surgeon removes too much toe without intending to. Theres a digital pad next to the claw, and if this is damaged, it can cause scar tissue that leads to a lot of paw pain, Moss says.
Englar adds that nerve damage may result when a surgeon chooses the wrong surgical technique or is lacking in skill. Not all cats are exactly the same, anatomically, she explains. There are always slight variations. If a surgeon doesnt realize that anatomy may vary from the way its presented in a textbook, there could be issues.
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When Is Declawing Needed
Ultimately, the decision to declaw the cat is up to the pet owner in conjunction with their vet . Some veterinarians are open to declawing if it means the cat doesnt end up back at the shelter or out on the streets.
Samantha Canup, DVM, from Noble Creatures Veterinary Services in Washington, Georgia says she recommends the procedure, if it ensures the cat will have a home for the rest of its life. It is better than being outside and at risk for trauma or disease. She does, however, emphasize that it is not for every cat and urges owners who choose this option to commit to having the pet indoors for the remainder of its life, or to finding it an appropriate home if they can no longer care for it. Declawed cats must be kept indoors because we have taken away their ability to fully defend themselves, she explains. Dr. Richardson points out that, in addition, removing the claws removes a cats ability to climb trees and jump fences, etc., to evade predators, and they would be very vulnerable if allowed outside.
On the other hand, Dr. Richardson, whose practice is in New York City where declawing is illegal, says it should be done only if medically necessary, in the instance of an infection of the bone or toe that cannot be resolved medically, or cancer, for example. In the vast majority of such cases, only one or two digits would require amputation, rather than all of the toes. A change in your cats behavior is one of the 11 cat cancer signs to look out for.
Every Surgery Carries A Risk
When the kitty is under surgery, theyre put under anesthesia. Even if it hardly happens , some cats never wake up after being put to sleep for the surgery. Anesthesia should only be used when its necessary for the cats health. Declawing kitties is an unnecessary procedure that brings a risk of not only a bad reaction to the anesthetic agent but also other health issues Ill bring up.
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How To Stop Destructive Cat Scratching
Felines can become destructive for a variety of reasons. However, they do not understand that they are destructive they are simply letting out some frustration in the only way they know-how. Signs of destructiveness and stress include:
- Scratching everything in sight
- Urinating outside the litterbox
Causes for destruction may be due to another cat or person in their house, boredom, or emotional trauma. Perhaps the best methods to get a cat to stop scratching are preventative methods such as:
- Buy a scratching post and use catnip and hanging toys on it.
- Place tin foil, double-sided tape, or sticky items in places where you dont want cats to scratch
- Plastic caps on your felines claws while inside the house or during playtime
- Make scratching areas appealing, such as placing cat toys and favorite scents by each okay to scratch areas
Ensure you are not punishing them by spraying them or yelling and hitting them. Instead, use a low tone with a cue word such as no. Then redirect their behavior to what they can scratch.
If you notice your cat likes to scratch the couch, place cardboard or twine with a backing on that spot. Then take the concoction and place it elsewhere after a couple of days.
Physical Problems After Surgery
Cats can have immediate and lifelong problems after declawing. Even with the cat declaw laser technique, a cat’s paws are injured after surgery. A cat cannot sit still during the entire recuperation time so they are forced to walk around on 4 injured paws which causes pain and can cause re-injury. The procedure can cause problems in the tendons which makes walking difficult. Without pain free activity, a cat may gain weight or suffer more physical problems as a result of lack of movement. With some joints missing from their paws after surgery, cats shift their weight to their back legs which can lead to balance issues and can cause the front leg muscles to atrophy. The lack of balance is extremely upsetting for a cat, which relies on balance in everything it does. Some cats also suffer nerve damage or even permanent paralysis as a result of the procedure.
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Are There Alternatives To Declawing
Luckily, there are non-surgical alternatives to declawing cats that are much better options. Dr. Ochoa recommends the following alternatives:
- Nail caps: These are plastic caps glued to your cats nails. They do only tend to stay on for about 6 to 8 weeks max before you have to replace them.
- Scratching post
- Feliway Scratching Post Liquid: This is a liquid that you put on your scratching post to help entice you cat to want to scratch at these places.
- Water spray bottle: Squiring your cat with water when they are scratching something that they shouldnt to help train them to stop scratching the furniture.
- Rewards when your cat does what they should: Giving your cat a treat when they scratch the scratching post.
Study Reveals The Long
While banned in many European countries, declawing cats is common in the United States. People see it as a solution to stop their feline friends from scratching their couches and door frames and digging their claws into expensive clothes and carpets. The surgery removes a cats front claws to keep furniture safe, but recent research shows it also has long-term consequences.
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery published a study in which a total of 274 cats were monitored. Half of the felines already had their claws removed. The researchers observed the cats in their everyday lives and provided each with thorough health exams. Their results showed the cats who had undergone the declawing surgery were more prone to behaviors including aggression and over-grooming. They bit humans more often and refused to use the litter box.
Researchers concluded these behaviors to be three to seven times more common in declawed cats. As for the health of the cats, those without claws were three times more likely to experience chronic back pain than their clawed feline friends.
The reasons behind their findings have to do with the details of the declawing surgery, also called onychectomy. Many people think its simply an extreme version of nail trimming, but declawing is much more than that.
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