To Declaw or Not Declaw… That is the question *
* hint – the answer is NO
by Linda Hall, Cat Behavior Experts
Oh, those precious kitty paws! Who doesn’t melt when they see those toe beans? Have you ever noticed how many kitties have those white paws that look like socks? Sweet! With all of that fuzzy beauty, you can’t help but love those precious paws.
But wait… there is a hidden danger in those paws. CLAWS! Have you ever had a kitty climb up your leg when you are wearing shorts? I’ve gotten more than my fair share of scratches trying to wrestle a cat into a carrier. Is your furniture showing signs of scratches?
What is a human to do?
Would You Cut Off Your Fingertips?
For all of those reasons, declawing was popular when I was young. But what happens when we declaw a cat? Take a look at your hand. Come on! Hold it up and look at your fingers. Go down to that first joint.
What if I told you I decided to amputate the top of your finger, down to that first joint? What’s that you say? No way??? I agree. Sadly, that is what happens when a cat is declawed. You have to get all the way down, below the root of the nail to truly vanquish it. Ouch! That’s going to be painful and take time to heal.
Many of these surgeries are not totally successful. Pieces of bone or nail can get stuck in there and cause tremendous pain! It may require more surgery to correct and kitty’s precious paws may never be the same. This is why it has become illegal in many places.
How Declawing Affects Cats
Also, declawing cats can cause paw pain, back pain, infection, tissue death, and lameness, not to mention #litterboxavoidance. Cat Declawing also changes the way a cat’s foot touches the ground; this can cause pain like wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. Improperly removed cat claws can also regrow, causing nerve damage and bone spurs, and much pain, to the cat. Litter Avoidance can often be the result, as the litter may cause pain where the claws have been removed. So, what should we do instead?
Alternatives to Declawing Your Cats
One alternative to declawing your cat is to use Nail Tips. These are placed over the cat’s nails to cover them. I saw some that came in a rainbow of colors and told my cats I thought it would be absolutely glamorous. My cats disagreed. They believe they are already the epitome of feline fabulousness and needed no adornments. Sigh. I can’t argue with that. I have heard of people using them successfully but I’ve never tried them.
You usually will need someone (vet or vet tech) to put them on for you, and as the nails grow they will need to be replaced every 4 to 6 weeks. Additionally, they are not a good choice for cats that go outside since they will be unable to defend themselves.
Read about using them in this article, 5 Myths You Should Know About Cat Nail Caps, written by the National Cat Groomers Institute, to see if they are a good choice for your cats.
I’m just my cats would not tolerate putting these on… NEXT!
SCRATCHING POSTS & PADS:
A cat’s just gotta scratch. It’s in their nature. Even declawed kitties will often go through the motions of scratching. Instead of furniture, let’s provide some options.
Cat Scratchers and Posts are a great alternatives, and they are often inexpensive. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally. They will love a scratching pad on the floor! Some cats prefer vertical scratching. I have some great scratching scratching posts for that which are covered in sisal rope. There are scratchers that hang from door knobs, too. So many options! (CAT TIP: spray or sprinkle the scratching surfaces with Catnip or Silvervine to entice your cat to use them.) This is the alternative I prefer to declawing my cats, and my cats all love them.
See this article written by the AVA for more details and Alternatives to Declawing
Kitty Manicure Maintenance
Now that your kitty can satisfy that scratching urge, let’s talk trimming!
How to Trim Cat Claws
You can have your vets office trim those nails or you can do it yourself. Some people use toenail clippers made for humans. They also make nail clippers specifically for cats. Grinders are another option. They are similar to taking a nail file to reduce the nail, except that it’s motorized and will get the job done faster. See that little hook on the end of your cat’s nail? That is what you want to remove.
As the nail gets closer to the paw you may be able to see a little pink. It’s harder to see on some kitties but it’s called the quick and just like our nails, we don’t want to cut down there. Have you ever torn your nail and it hurt? Ouch! We aren’t trying to make the nails short. We are only trying to remove that sharp little end.
Preparing Kitty for Nail Clips
If you have a kitten, this is a great time to prepare for nail trims! Touch those tiny toes often to get him used to it. It will make it easier later! If your cat is older, all is not lost. I start by just touching the feet lightly and no longer than a second or two. If kitty tolerates it, I will increase it. If not, I back off and respect that cool cat! I’ll come back later and try again.
Desensitize those Nail Clippers
Also, leave the clippers out where kitty can see them. If he gets used to seeing them, he won’t be so tempted to pull away at the sight of that strange thing. If you are using a motorized grinder, don’t just come over and get to it. Start by leaving it out, just like the clipper. Later, turn it on, away from kitty a few times to get him accustomed to the noise before approaching with them. Be patient. Cats can take a bit to warm up to things!
Where is Declawing Cats Illegal?
While some states here in the US have made declawing illegal, but we still have quite a way to go before we can say all kitty toes are safe… Too many states still allow this outdated and barbaric procedure. Before you decide to declaw, please consider all the alternatives. #dontdeclaw
Love Those Pretty Toe Beans
Before you know it, those precious paws will be clipped and the urge to scratch will be satisfied. Now, let’s get back to looking at those toe beans! Oooh! Toe beans!!!
Please share your thoughts below in the comments! Do you trim your cat’s nails? What do you use? If you have used nail caps, we would love to hear your experience!