De-Clawing Surgery for Cats

THINKING ABOUT HAVING YOUR CAT DE-CLAWED? WAIT!!! THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW FIRST!

What does the “de-clawing” surgery involve?

De-clawing is a surgical procedure done in cats which involves cutting off each toe close to the first joint. The goal of the procedure is to prevent toenail re-growth. Occasionally, nail re-growth can occur despite the procedure. It is important to keep in mind that the toenails are an important means of self- defense for cats. For almost all cats, de-clawing the front paws meets the needs of the human companion while leaving the cat some means of self -defense with the rear nails. NO cat should EVER be de-clawed on all four feet unless he is going to be kept STRICTLY indoors.

Why do cats scratch in the first place?

Scratching is a very normal behavior for cats. The main reason cats scratch trees, scratching posts, furniture, etc., is to mark their territory and to stretch. For that reason, ALL cats need to be provided with an acceptable, appealing place to scratch. The scratching post should be at least as tall as one and a half times the body length of your feline companion. The post should also be centrally located so that it is “worth the cat’s effort” to mark her territory there. A scratching post kept in the corner of a rarely used room will most likely not be appealing to your cat. Conversely, a post kept in the center of your living room will likely be very attractive to your cat. It may also be useful place a scratching post near your cat’s favorite napping area since cats often tend to scratch in the same area where they sleep. It is important to pay attention to what TYPES of materials your cat likes to scratch and to find a scratching post made of similar material. Placing catnip near the scratching post may also increase its attractiveness. Perches, hiding places, and toys can also help. Most pet stores have an excellent variety of scratching posts to choose from.

When does scratching become a problem?

When your cat’s “normal” scratching behavior leads to the destruction of your favorite furniture, draperies, and rugs you definitely have a problem on your hands! What you need to remember is that your cat is acting out a NORMAL behavior and is really not trying to destroy your belongings! The goal is to channel this normal behavior by making your nice furniture a less appealing place to scratch and making acceptable alternatives more appealing. Double-sided masking tape can be placed on couches and chairs where your cat likes to scratch. Cats definitely do NOT like the feel of sticky tape on their paws. There are also “mats” (ScatMat, PetMat, SofaSaver, etc.) which can be placed on sofas and chairs and emit an alarm in response to the pressure of the cat sitting on the mat. Aluminum foil can be hung on draperies or other vertical surfaces. The loud noise made by the crinkling of the foil should serve as a deterrent to scratching. Aluminum foil can also be placed on horizontal surfaces. While these things probably won’t add a lot to your household ‘décor’, keep in mind that you only have to leave them out until your cat has re-learned where to scratch. With all of the booby-traps you have set up at your cat’s favorite scratching places, a prominently placed scratching post with catnip, toys, perches, and hiding places will hopefully become the preferred scratching place. If you have a large house you may need to buy two or three scratching posts to place in central locations where your family spends the most time. Any type of physical punishment is to be avoided with cats since it will only serve to make your cat afraid of you. Punishments which your cat does NOT associate with you, such as being squirted with a squirt gun every time the cat starts to scratch the drapes, are often effective. You could also try filling a tin can with nails; shake the can every time your cat engages in unacceptable scratching behavior. The jarring sound made by the can will likely be an aversive stimulus to your cat.

Why shouldn’t I just have my cat de-clawed right away?

De-clawing is a serious, painful, surgical procedure and it cannot be reversed. Any surgical procedure involving anesthesia puts your cat at risk, even if it is a very small risk. If there is a way to stop your cat’s destructive scratching without resorting to surgical means, it is certainly worth a try! There are some instances in which a cat is so destructive that its home or even its life may be in jeopardy. In these cases, de-clawing may be the best solution since it would allow the cat to stay in the home.

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