Why people declaw cats
People often mistakenly believe that declawing their cats is a harmless "quick fix" for unwanted scratching. They don't realize that declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite. People who are worried about being scratched may be told that their health will be protected by declawing their cats. However, declawing is not recommended by many specialists. The risk from scratches for people is less than those from bites, cat litter, or fleas carried by their cats. Cats are usually about 8 weeks old when they begin scratching. It's the ideal time to train kittens to use a scratching post and allow nail trims. Pet caregivers should not consider declawing a routine prevention for unwanted scratching. Declawing can actually lead to an entirely different set of behavior problems that may be worse than shredding the couch.
What is declawing?
Too often, people think that declawing is a simple surgery that removes a cat's nails—the equivalent of having your fingernails trimmed. Sadly, this is far from the truth. Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.
Medical drawbacks to declawing include pain, infection and tissue necrosis, lameness, and back pain. Removing claws changes the way a cat's foot meets the ground and can cause pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be a re-growth of improperly removed claws, nerve damage, and bone spurs. For several days after surgery, shredded newspaper is typically used in the litter box to prevent litter from irritating declawed feet. This unfamiliar litter substitute, accompanied by pain when scratching in the box, may lead cats to stop using the litter box. Some cats may become biters because they no longer have their claws for defense.
What you can do
Scratching is normal cat behavior. It isn't done to destroy a favorite chair or to get even. Cats scratch to remove the dead husks from their claws, mark territory and stretch their muscles. Most rescues oppose declawing except for the rare cases when it is necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors. Many countries feel so strongly about the issue that they have banned the procedure. But you don't have to let your cat destroy your house. Here's what you can do:
* Keep his claws trimmed to minimize damage to household items.
* Provide several stable scratching posts and boards around your home. Offer different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard, as well as different styles (vertical and horizontal). Use toys and catnip to entice your cat to use the posts and boards.
* Ask your veterinarian about soft plastic caps that are glued to the cat's nails. They need to be replaced about every six weeks.
* Use a special tape on furniture to deter your cat from unwanted scratching.