Sunday, September 15, 2013

Should I declaw my cat?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ
First, let's explore what declawing entails.  Declawing is a surgery in which a partial toe amputation of each toe on both front feet is performed by a veterinarian.  Based on that description, most pet owners know there is some pain involved, but may not realize that their cat could experience moderate to severe pain.  For this reason, all of the alternatives to this surgery should be explored before considering having this surgery performed on your cat.

Cats love to and feel a drive to claw objects, such as furniture.  Most cats will accept more appropriate scratchers if they are introduced properly and convenient for the cat to use.  I recommend cat owners have individual scratchers made of cardboard, carpet, and wound rope.  Some scratchers should be horizontal on the ground and others should be vertical surfaces.  Scratchers should be stable and secure so that the cat can feel comfortable using the scratchers and can use them effectively.  The scratchers should be located in places where cats spend most of their time, not hidden away.  Cats can be lured over to scratchers with favorite treats, catnip, cat toys, and laser pointers.  When using laser pointers, be sure to not directly point the light into your cat's eyes.

If your cat still prefers to scratch inappropriate objects, you can work on making those objects less appealing to your cat.  Couch or seat covers may help.  Placing sticky tape, sticky side out or double sided tape onto areas the cat has been scratching can help.  Plastic wrap or foil can be wrapped over preferred scratching areas.  Certain sprays are available at the pet store to keep cats away.  While using these methods, it is important to continue to redirect the cat to the appropriate scratchers.  We want to replace the bad behavior with good behavior. 

While transitioning your cat from scratching undesired surfaces to preferred scratchers, nail trims can be very helpful to limit destruction.  Soft paws are a type of soft nail cap that is glued onto a freshly trimmed nail. 

Kittens and some adult cats use their nails on their owners when they are playing.  Typically this is because the kitten or cat has been allowed to play with the owner's hands or with a small toy in the owner's hand.  Instead, consider using wands toys where there is several feet between your hand and the end of the toy in contact with the cat's claws and teeth.  This helps eliminate scratches on humans during playtime.

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