What you need to know before declawing your cat - Dr. Marty Becker


What you need to know before declawing your cat

Friday, Aug 22nd, 2014 | By Dr. Marty Becker


Should you consider getting your cat declawed? Here’s what a reader had to say via email:

Q: When I was growing up, we always had our cats declawed and I didn’t think anything about it. I took our new kitten in to the vet to have her declawed, and he didn’t want to do it. Why would he hesitate? I thought it was a normal procedure for cats. 

And here’s my reply, from this week’s Pet Connection newspaper feature:

Surgical declawing, or onychectomy, used to be common, but we now know so much more about cat behavior and needs that we’ve come to have a different view of it. Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. It’s one of the ways they mark territory and stretch, and it conditions their claws by removing the husks. Declawing isn’t medically necessary, and it takes away the cat’s ability to perform these normal and necessary actions.

Declawing surgery isn’t a minor procedure. It involves amputating all or part of the end bones of the cat’s toes. Potential risks and complications include hemorrhage, infection and pain.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Cat Fanciers Association and the Humane Society of the United States are just a few of the organizations that recommend against declawing, and it is illegal in many European countries. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s position is that declawing should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using claws destructively or when clawing presents an above-normal health risk to the owner.

Better options are to provide your kitten with plenty of options for exercising his need to scratch. A tall scratching post (at least three feet high), cardboard door hangers or boxes, or even a real log can all provide your cat with opportunities to scratch without harming your furniture or carpet. Be sure that scratching posts or other scratching implements are firmly anchored so they stay in place and offer good resistance as the cat scratches away at them. You should also trim the claws every week or two. If you start when he is young, trim when he’s relaxed and reward him with treats and praise, your cat won’t mind having his nails trimmed at all.

Read about how recycling can help pets, where the phrase “dog days of summer” came from, and more in this week’s Pet Connection!