THE PROBLEMS WITH DECLAWING

For many cat owners, their pet's natural impulse to scratch can become a problem, and declawing may seem a logical solution. However, declawing creates more problems than it solves.

What exactly happens when a cat is declawed? Veterinarian Dr. Paul Rowan outlines the most common procedure used to remove claws:
1.The cat is given a general anesthetic.
2.The fur around the feet is clipped.
3.A tourniquet is placed around the leg.
4.The nails are rinsed with alcohol.
5.The amputation of the nail is accomplished with a guillotine nail cutter, which cuts across the first joint of the toe and may also involve the foot pad.
6.The toes are then bandaged tightly to prevent hemorrhage.
7.The bandage is removed two to three days post-operatively.

Immediate physical complications can include:
1.An adverse reaction to the general anesthetic, and this can include death.
2.If bandages are wrapped too tightly, the foot may become gangrenous and necessitate amputation of the leg.
3.When bandages are removed, many cats begin to hemorrhage and require rebandaging.

Later physical complications can include:
1.In instances in which the entire nail bed was not removed, one or more claws can grow back misshapen and useless.
2.Because their nails are brittle, and because the surgical nail cutter may have been dull, many cats experience shattered bones in their feet which can become seriously infected. This can be corrected only with a second general anesthetic and surgical procedure.

Declawing is a painful procedure that has long-lasting effects on cats. Once their claws have been removed, they can no longer perform their natural stretching and kneading rituals. They become weaker as they age and may experience debilitating arthritis in their backs and shoulders.

Furthermore, cats without claws have lost their first line of defense, and because of this, they live in a constant state of stress. Less able to protect themselves, they cannot fight off other animals, or escape quickly from a dangerous situation. They may also become biters because they no longer can use their claws as a warning. Groomers, veterinarians, and people who care for declawed cats in shelters find many of them to be nervous, irritable, and difficult to handle.

Finally, declawed cats often stop using their litterboxes. Some apparently associate the pain they feel in their paws when trying to cover their waste with the litterbox itself. They seek a less painful place for elimination, such as the carpet or bathtub. Even though there are effective ways to modify a cat's litterbox behavior, it is a particularly difficult challenge because a declawed cat's aversion results from pain.