Should I declaw my cat?

Thinking about adding a cat to your family but afraid that he might ruin you furniture? You’re not alone. It is possible to take proper care of both your furniture and your cat. Cats can make wonderful companions without destroying your couch as long as you take the time to understand how important claws are for your cat and provide your new baby with alternatives to scratch instead of your new carpet.

Before you bring your new cat home, make sure your house is full of alternatives for him to scratch. Cats build security through scent and scratching transfers their scent onto what they decide to dig their nails into whether it be sessile, cardboard, or carpet-like material. In order to build your cat’s trust, he will need to scratch things near the furniture that smells most like you including your bed, the couch in front of the television, or that chair you sit in to catch up on work. Make sure to pair each valuable piece of furniture with something cat-approved to scratch so that you are inadvertently teaching your cat exactly what to scratch. If they make a mistake, which they might, take them from the couch and put them on their scratcher and praise them. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to ready my blog on cat introductions at https://bark-bots.com/2017/07/14/cat-introductions/

Since your cat is so sensitive to smell, it can be overwhelming to be let loose into a new home. Instead, place your cat into a room that you enter often like the bathroom. Each time you enter, call his name and give him some treats to strengthen your bond. Leave him with a soft fleece blanket, some toys, and something to scratch. All of these things will become his since he will transfer his scent to them. After a day or so, move these things into another room and slowly disperse them around the house to help further build a security for your new cat. 

If you just brought home a kitten, take the time to touch your cat’s paws in a gentle and loving manner so that your cat doesn’t always associate his paws being touched with a vet appointment or nail trim. Massage his paws just as often as you pet him. If you just brought home an adult, take this process much more slowly since he may already have negative associations to his feet being touched. Old cats CAN learn new tricks. 

Your cat’s nails should be trimmed every 2 weeks or so. You can desensitize him to his clippers by leaving them in a place he can see them all the time rather than just when he is about to get his nails cut. 

Seems like a lot of work? In reality, it only takes about 2-5 minutes a day to ensure a happy and healthy life for your new cat. Cats are like no other animal. Claws are intrinsic to who they are and enable them to connect their scent to a site. Cats use their claws for scratching, grasping things, play, grooming, stretching, kneading, climbing, balance, and defense. Nails grow from the bone from the third phalanx unlike ours that grow from our skin. 

Still seems like too much work? You can buy a product called “soft paws” that act like caps or tips over your cat’s claws. They come in an assortment of colors, last at least 6 weeks, and most cats don’t mind them since they can still get to keep their claws.

Are you considering declawing your cat? Since a cat’s claws grow from their bones, declawing is an amputation. Veterinarians use Resco nail trimmers that look very similar to the guillotine nail clippers we use to trim their nails to cut off the tip of their paws. This procedure is similar to a physician using a cigar cutter to remove the tips of our fingers down to the third knuckle. Veterinarians also use lasers which may be even more painful since they burn the skin in addition to cutting the bone.

The procedure takes 3-4 minutes per paw and not only amputates but severs two important tendons, the deep digital flexor and extensor tendon which control movement of the forearm, wrist and claws. 

Remember, claws are a very important part of the cat’s anatomy for not only mobility but behaviorally. Without claws, cats are more likely to inappropriately eliminate and bite. Removal of your cat’s primary defense will cause them to bite in fear. They also cannot dig in the litter properly which may cause them to dig in the carpet or couch which is softer. Other consequences of declawing include anatomical change to the entire limb, crippling, premature arthritis at the wrists, elbows and shoulders, pain, infection, swelling, inflammation, nail regrowth, emotional issues, inability to flex and extend, and loss of the desire to play.

Cats NEED their claws to perform behaviors that make them cats so please give them a new life without taking away anything from them.

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