Owners of cats sometimes choose to have their pets’ claws removed, especially if they fear damage to valuable possessions or harm to a medically vulnerable family member who needs to avoid scratches.
Declawing — or onychectomy (onycho means “nail” in Greek and ectomy is “excision”) — is a surgery involving amputation of the distal phalanxes, which are joints at the tips of a cat’s toes that allow extension and retraction of claws. These joints contain the claws’ nail beds.
The decision to perform this surgery is one that requires consultation with a veterinarian about the pros and cons of the procedure.
Points in Favor of Declawing
Declawing your cat may provide the following benefits:
- Prevention of property damage from scratching and shredding
- Protection of family members or friends who are on anti-coagulant blood thinners or are vulnerable to infection from scratches
- Avoidance of any plan you may have for abandonment or euthanasia of the pet due to frustration over scratching.
Points Against Declawing
As with most surgeries, onychectomy requires anesthesia and pain medication. The surgery does not medically benefit cats. Some negative aspects of declawing may include:
- Surgical complications, such as infection
- Difficulty using a litter box
- Biting behavior to display frustration
- Lack of reversibility
- Vulnerability to predators if the cat gets outside.
Alternative Actions With Your Baltimore Veterinarian
Veterinary experts, including the pet doctors of Fullerton Animal Hospital in Baltimore, MD, agree that cat owners should consider alternative actions before declawing pets. These include training your cat to use scratching posts and other acceptable objects, such as boxes, for their clawing behavior.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) notes that scratching is a natural behavior that allows cats to mark territory, stretch muscles and shed the outer layer of claws called “husks.”
AVMA says it is possible to reduce scratching behavior by trimming your cat’s claws about every two weeks. Alternatively, it suggests application of plastic nail caps about every six weeks.
Please contact us at Fullerton Animal Hospital at (410) 630-8110 for a consultation if you are considering declawing. We’ll help you explore the pros and cons.