The last bone of each of the ten front toes of a cat’s paw is amputated. Also, the tendons, nerves, and ligaments that enable normal function and movement of the paw are severed. An analogous procedure applied to humans would be cutting off each finger at the last joint. Declawed animals may be at increased risk of injury or death, if attacked by other animals. They are deprived of their normal, instinctual behavioral impulses to use their claws to climb, exercise, and mark territory with the scent glands in their paws. What are the risks associated with declaw surgery?
Declaw surgery exposes cats to the risks of general anesthesia and complications of the surgical procedure, which include bleeding, infection, lameness, nerve damage, gangrene, extensive tissue damage, and death. Why is declawing so common? The estimates of the prevalence of declawing vary considerably. The reason for this high number is that many veterinarians actively market and recommend the procedure without disclosing the details of the procedure to their clients with cats. Many people with cats don’t understand that declawing is amputating the bones and think they are doing «all the right things» for their beloved animal. Not only is declaw-on-demand the norm, the staff at veterinary clinics commonly encourage clients, whose cats are scheduled for spaying or neutering, to «supersize» the procedure by adding declaw surgery. Clients who bring their cats to these veterinarians typically report that neither the nature of the procedure, complications, nor humane alternatives is ever discussed.
Is declawing a painful procedure? Declawing is one of the most painful, routinely performed procedures in all of veterinary medicine. Each toe of the cat is amputated at the first joint. Declawing a cat is equivalent in a person to amputating the entire first knuckle of every finger. Declaw surgery is so predictably painful that it is used by pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of pain medications in clinical trials. Initial recovery after declaw amputation surgery takes a few weeks, but even after the surgical wounds have healed, there are often other long-term physical complications and negative psychological effects. Because these procedures are so routine, they are often trivialized by clients as well as veterinarians.
Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. There is a physiological cost associated with uncontrolled pain. However, the investigators go on to report that veterinarians often have misconceptions regarding the degree and duration of pain following declawing, as well as the safety of analgesic use in cats, despite the abundance of published data documenting the efficacy of these drugs. The article also points out the challenges in assessing pain in cats. Cats instinctively hide signs of pain. A cat’s behavior may be misinterpreted, because not all cats show outward signs of pain after surgery, such as crying, whining, or licking at a paw. Owners or veterinarians may think they’re sleeping comfortably and not in any pain.
It appears that under-medicating cats after declawing is the norm. For those animals receiving pain medication, there are potential problems. Some veterinarians have proposed the use of fentanyl patches. The patches, which are placed on the skin, contain a powerful narcotic. Their use in humans for post-operative pain was abandoned after several deaths occurred from accidental overdose. Do declawed cats have a difficulty defending themselves? Yes, declawing deprives cats of their primary means of defense—their claws.
Non-declawed cats will use their front paw claws to stave off a threat by swiping. Without these claws, declawed cats have to resort to biting to protect themselves. Many people mistakenly believe that a cat can protect itself by kicking with its back feet claws. What they do not realize is that in order to use the back claws, the cat has to be in the very vulnerable position of laying on its back, which is a disadvantage that can easily lead to losing the battle. Do declawed cats find homes more easily because they won’t damage furniture? Do people abandon or euthanize their cats, if veterinarians do not perform a declawing procedure? Actually, declawed cats seem to lose their homes BECAUSE they were declawed!
There is evidence that declawed cats are disproportionately abandoned to shelters, and that declawed cats may be euthanized more often because of the behavioral and physical problems that the cat begins to exhibit because the cat was declawed. A cat can still bite a child and may have to resort to doing so since the cat has been robbed of its primary defense: its claws. A cat whose paws hurt when digging in a litter box may avoid the litter box altogether. If someone is intolerant of a cat scratching furniture, that person is most certainly going to be intolerant of a cat biting or not using the litter box! The risk of cats being relinquished to pounds if the owner cannot declaw the animal is grossly overestimated by the veterinary profession. Veterinarians have an opportunity to intervene because people relinquishing pets are veterinary clients. She writes, «Less than a third felt confident of their ability to treat common behavioral problems. Perhaps even more disturbing, only 11. Scarlett admonishes veterinarians to ask specifically about problem behaviors to uncover problems that clients are reluctant to mention or that they may not realize can be modified. Once identified, appropriate interventions can be recommended. It seems clear that the real solution to the euthanasia concern will be convincing veterinarians to offer proper education. Treating a behavioral problem such as scratching with a surgical procedure went out of fashion with lobotomy. Declawing can cause worse behavior problems like not using the litter box and biting. These new behaviors can easily lead to abandonment and death. Yes, declawing a cat can be the reason that cat loses its home.