Declawing: Long Term Effects and Humane Alternatives

In addition to post surgery pain, declawing cause long-term problems, both physiological and behavioral.

Litter Box Avoidance. A declawed cat's toe stubs will be severely painful for days or weeks after the surgery, and "phantom limb pain" may be a lifelong legacy. Some litters are very painful to the cat's tender paws, and he may avoid the litter box entirely because of its association with pain. Owners can help by using a softer substrate such as one of the paper-based litters.

Biting and Aggression. A cat's claws are his primary defense. Lacking his claws, he may turn to biting, either in defense, or as a "warning" to humans who can't read his "body language." Other cats may choose "flight" instead of "fight," and become withdrawn and depressed.

Arthritis and Crippling. Cats walk on their toes. Toe pain can cause changes to their normal gait, which eventually can cause stiffness and pain in their legs, hips, and spine, crippling and arthritis.

Alternatives. Many people who have had cats declawed in the past say they would never consider it again, knowing what they now know. Happily, there are other alternatives, so they need never subject their cats to such pain:

Nail Trimming - Cats cannot do the serious damage to furniture, drapery and rugs, with blunt nails. Trimming is a simple procedure, and if you wait until your cat is sleepy and quiet, and take it one nail at a time, over a period of several days, your cat will soon find out it's not to be feared. Simply lightly squeeze the cat's toe to extend the nail tip, and snip the tip. You can buy inexpensive clippers for this purpose at any pet store. Be careful not to cut into the dark part on the underside of the tip-- this will cause bleeding. If you're hesitant about doing this yourself, ask your veterinarian to teach you, or read instructions on this subject. It's a lot less expensive than declawing, and a lot easier on the cat and your conscience.

Scratching Posts -Sisal-covered posts are highly favored by many cats. Most cats can be easily trained to use the post instead of your furniture. Scratching Posts can be obtained through pet stores, or you can build your own. Offer several posts. Many cats enjoy having several surfaces and elevations (vertical, horizontal and plane.) Fortunately, one of the most popular surfaces is cardboard, and inexpensive cardboard scratching posts are readily available. If one post doesn't work, get a different type, and try different locations. A good place is near their napping spot or furniture they may try to scratch. Offer a variety of surfaces and elevations.

Soft Paws - Soft Paws were developed by a veterinarian, and are vinyl nail caps which glue right over a cat's claws. They come in clear or colors, which can look quite fancy, and also are easy to locate if one should come off. The caps grow out with the natural growth of your cat’s nails, and will last four to six weeks, on average.

Feliway - Feliway is a "friendly pheromone" which mimics the scent of cats' facial glands. It has been found to be useful in combating cats' urine marking tendencies, as it is thought that cats will not mark with urine where they have previously marked with facial glands. Although Feliway is not marketed for this purpose, some behaviorists believe it may be useful to curb undesirable scratching.

There is no valid reason today to even remotely consider declawing as a solution for destructive scratching. Any of these alternatives or a combination of them, can end your furniture-damage problems completely.

Bottom line: Don't declaw! It is truly an unnecessary evil. Use alternatives!

By Franny Syufy,