How do I care for my pet AFTER I declawed her? This is a question asked by Libby, a visitor to PoC, who showed annoyance in her comment. I think her annoyance was misplaced but she did get me thinking.
I would rephrase the question: How do I care for my cat after declawing?
She was searching for information about caring for a cat who had just been declawed. There is no a lot of good information on this.
For the purpose of this page I am neither going to get involved in criticising people who declaw nor discuss the immorality of it. I am just going to “think aloud” and write about the subject of caring for a declawed cat. Note: I have never cared for a declawed cat but I do know a bit about the complications of declawing, which must be the starting point.
I welcome input in comments from anyone with first hand experience and wise cat caretakers.
The source material for complications comes from this PoC page (opens in new window). In addition to the list below complications for a declawed cat at home include (a) bleeding (b) bone chips left in the paw causing pain2.
“most cats heal reasonably well” – not a great recommendation2
- 19.8% of declawed cats suffer complications in the late postoperative period (the period following hospital discharge). The complications include:
- tissue necrosis from improper bandage application,
- wound dehiscence or incomplete healing with protrusion of the 2nd phalanx (P2),
- regrowth from the ungual process of the 3rd phalanx (P3) or scurs (production of deformed claw segment from epithelial cells of the ungual crest),
- retention of flexor process of P3,
- chronic draining tracts,
- palmigrade stance, and
- chronic intermittent lameness.
Phew…..all I can say is that there are a lot of potential and complex health problems and all of those listed do not refer to potential mental health problems such as (a) defensive behavior (b) anxiety? (c) confusion? I would have thought a cat would “feel” upset and confused by having ten amputations. How does this affect behavior? Defensiveness comes to mind, which might lead to increased biting and nervous reactionary behavior.
Page on cat declawing on PoC. Please respect our views. We don’t like declawing. We are entitled to not like declawing and to write about it.
If an infection in any, or all, of the ten wounds from front paw declawing is a prime post operative complication in about one in five declawed cats, the cat caretaker will have to take their cat back to their vet for a check up within a reasonable time after their cat has returned home. I would have thought that the cat’s owner should have that in mind at all times.
It could be difficult to check for an infection if there are bandages and even if there are no bandages (dressings are normally removed 2 days after the operation). I presume we are talking about a bacterial infection that will cause swelling in the paw. I’d check for a swelling in the paw and confirm with a vet visit. However, damaged blood vessels can cause swelling. Medical complications from declawing are complicated! You are going to need a vet to provide follow up treatments.
Lameness would indicate sore paws which may be caused by an infection but there may be other reasons.
Items 2-7 listed above
All of these require prompt veterinary care. If a recently declawed cat lived with me and he limped or looked in discomfort, there is only one choice: take him back to the vet for a check and follow up treatment.
As for claw regrowth, it may be possible to feel the paw for a lump that indicates regrowth. It appears to happen inside the skin so is not readily visible. I would have thought close inspection and feeling for abnormalities of the paws coupled with observing for lameness is one of the things a cat owner should do for their recently declawed cat. Feeling a sore paw should be done with great gentleness and care with an eye on your cat’s demeanor. A cat in pain will be irritable and may strike out and bite.
I presume that the cat’s owner will continue to administer pain meds. I don’t know how you can tell when to stop giving because if there are bone chips in the paw there will be permanent pain until the chips are removed and cats hide pain. It is a very tricky business assessing if a cat is in pain.
As mentioned, cats in pain will naturally be less affable and laid back. They are less likely to be as friendly as before. They may strike out because they feel pain when you touch them or pick them up. These should be considerations when handling a recently declawed cat.
A recently declawed cat has sore feet and you don’t want litter particles getting into the wounds so conventional litter is inappropriate. Shredded paper is recommended in place of ordinary litter. I don’t know for sure how long paper litter should be used. I would have thought for about a month.
If a declawed cat was an indoor/outdoor cat he is now a permanent indoor cat because he cannot defend himself with his claws. Also outdoor cats need claws for climbing expertly, running and turning to maximum capacity. Declawing prevents this.
I have probably missed something. Please tell me if I have.
- Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 352.