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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Declawing Cats

     If you have a cat you know they like to claw and having them claw at expensive furniture is frustrating and trying methods to get them to stop can be an exercise in futility. Declawing seems like an easy answer, but it's not. 
     Most mammals walk on the soles of the paws or feet, but cats walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are designed to support and distribute the cat's weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat's claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back...sort of like humans do when doing isometric exercises. 
     A cat's toes also help the foot meet the ground at the correct angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. So, when a cat is declawed it drastically alters their feet and causes them to meet the ground at an unnatural angle. This can actually cause back pain in the cat. 
     Many veterinarians mislead cat owners into believing that declawing removes only the claws and leave the impression that declawing is only minor surgery. It's not! A cat's claw is not a toenail! It's the last bone of its toe and declawing is an amputation of the last joint of the cat's toes. My vet refuses to do it on any but newborn kittens. 
     It is painful for the cat and the recovery period will also be very painful for it. After surgery they have to have to use their feet to walk, jump, and scratch in the litter box regardless of their pain. 
     Besides pain, complications are relatively high and can include damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. Other complications include postoperative hemorrhage, lameness due to wound infection or footpad laceration, exposure necrosis of the second phalanx, and abscess associated with retention of portions of the third phalanx. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes.
     Declawing is mostly an American thing. In England it is considered inhumane and unnecessary mutilation and in many European countries it is illegal.  For countries where declawing is illegal see this list.
     Oddly, a cat that has been declawed may not show any signs of pain, but they do. We may not be aware of it because of the cat's instinctive behavior. They instinctively know that they are in a weakened position and are therefore in danger. So, what do they do? They instinctively attempt to hide it their condition. Also, some people have claimed their cat's personality changed after being declawed. 
     For our cat, Millie, repellent sprays don't seem to work and other methods have not produced satisfactory results. The one thing that worked the best is a product called Soft Paws.  These are soft rubber caps that you glue onto the cats front toenails. Sounds stupid, I know, but they work! 
     An important word of warning! The caps come with a small tube of super glue with which to glue them onto the toenails. Extreme care must be made to assure that you do not use too much glue! Too much will cause the glue to ooze out of the cap and glue it to the cat's foot. Or, too much glue will mean that as the nail grows out and the cat attempts to pull off the cap and nail, it will be unable to do so and there is a good possibility that as the nail continues to grow, it will curve backwards into the cat's foot. This is not only painful to the cat, but trying to remove the capped nail will be very, very difficult.

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