Your cat has been energetically using her claws scratching your brand new furniture. What originally was a beautiful couch now looks tacky, your carpet is threadbare and your curtains have been shred to ribbons.
You’ve become increasingly frustrated with your cat’s destructive and unacceptable behavior as you watch your expensive furnishings going down the tubes. In desperation you call your trusted veterinarian for advice to prevent your kitty from wrecking your home. Happily your veterinarian offers you an immediate solution by recommending a “routine” surgical procedure; having your cat declawed.
You love your cat and would never want to hurt her and seek comfort by imagining that “declawing” is just removing the kitty’s claws; similar to a deep pedicure. However, considering that you have not been fully informed about what this surgery entails and the methods used to perform the procedure, or informed about its humane alternatives; since it seems like a simple quick fix, you quickly take your veterinarian’s advice and immediately schedule the surgery.
The day following the procedure, you take your kitty home. You get some post-surgical instructions, and perhaps a day’s worth of pain control medication. And as the weeks pass, your cat appears to be healing well, is beginning to act somewhat more normally; so you don’t give the declaw surgery another thought. That is – until your cat stops using her litter box- seems depressed and withdrawn and won’t let you touch her paws. Is it possible that your cat is actually suffering excruciating pain?
While it’s obviously too late; here is the information you should have been given first about how the procedure is performed before you made that wrong, irreversible decision.
The last bone of each of the ten front toes of your cat’s paws are removed, along with the ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves and everything in between. Basically there are two methods used to perform the procedure. One is using a “guillotine” (Rescoe type nail trimmers) and the other is the “excisional” method, which is generally done with a scalpel blade or a laser; with the entire bone (P3) removed although there is a debate about whether only part of P3 should be removed.
Although the laser is touted as more humane, there are no real differences between the two. The scalpel cuts the cat’s skin and the laser burns it which is even more painful. The guillotine method severs the P3 bone in half, removing the claw and end part of this bone; and may also possibly cut through the toe pad.
Because cats are both stoic creatures and hide their pain as a survival strategy, it makes it difficult for owners to recognize their cats are hurting. Since it’s essential for kitty owners to recognize when their cats are in pain, and assess its level, this list of pain symptoms, based on the Feline Pain Standards published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, (AAFP) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is a very important resource.
A. Loss of normal behavior
- Decreased ambulation or activity
- Lethargic attitude
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased grooming
B. Expression of abnormal behaviors
- Inappropriate elimination
- Decreased interaction with other pets or family members
- Altered facial expression
- Altered posture
C. Reaction to touch
- Increased body tension or flinching in response to gentle palpation of declawed paws
- Increased body tension or flinching in response to gentle palpation of non-declawed paws
D. Physiologic parameters
- Elevations in heart rate
- Elevations in respirator rate
- Elevations of body temperature
Dr. Kirsten Doub, Director of Paw Project Utah, studied and analyzed a sampling of declawed cats in Utah shelters. Doub reported that the results were “shocking”. She discovered that of the 29 declawed cats analyzed in these shelters, 66% had left over P3 fragments from declaws improperly performed.
What’s even more alarming is at least one 33% of these 29 cats have more than 5 fragments, 45% of these cats have onr fragment larger than 5 MM, 28% of these cats have a declaw that was performed 100% improperly, meaning that a large 5 MM fragment remains on all the declawed toes.
This data translates into a 66% overall failure rate. And it isn’t the result of one or two culpable practitioners. Dr. Doub says that the percentage rate is too high for so few vets, “Which means it’s an epidemic”.
If your situation is similar to my opening illustrative scenario, before scheduling declaw surgery for your cat, explore the wide selection of amazing, attractive alternatives, such as scratching posts and cat trees. Your kitty can readily be trained to use them in preference to your furniture.
After all isn’t a living, breathing cat more precious than inanimate possessions? If you disagree please don’t adopt a kitty.
Tell us how you feel about declawing in a comment.
- Petfinder: The Truth about Declawing
- Kirsten Doub, DVM, Paw Project- Utah
- Photo credit: Cat’s claws Bonnie Huntsinger