Ask a Vet:
I’ve been considering declawing my cat. Are there other options?

The first thing to try is behavior modification at home. You can do this in several ways. Start by acquiring a scratching post so there is a “safe place” for your kitty to file his/her nails down to prevent overgrowth. I prefer the flat cardboard scratching post because you can add cat nip to the holes in the cardboard to entice your pet to use it. Stay away from scratching posts made of cloth or carpet; it can sometimes be confusing for your kitty if you have carpet around your house and to know which spot is ok to scratch. You must also try to be consistent about correcting the behavior so that your pet realizes that it should not scratch the couch. Using a can full of coins and shaking it loudly or even using a water gun can help deter the behavior.

Another option is to try using Soft Paws. These are plastic covers that go over each nail. You can purchase Soft Paws from any local pet store and they can be a good non-surgical option to declawing. You apply each cap to a recently trimmed nail with a drop of the enclosed super glue. Each cap can last for 4-6 weeks. Occasionally some come off a little sooner than others but you can simply reapply them after they come off.

There is a surgical alternative to the declawing procedure called a Digital Flexor Tendonectomy. With this procedure, instead of removing the nail, the tendon connected the nail is cut so that the nail cannot be extended to scratch. This is a much less invasive surgery than declawing because it is a very small incision and there is no amputation to recover from. After the tendonectomy, a routine nail trimming at least once a month is necessary because the nails will continue to grow and can no longer be filed down by your pet. If a tendonectomy is chosen, there must be a lifetime commitment to keep your kitty’s nails trimmed monthly.

The Declawing procedure itself is a fairly routine procedure. It involves the amputation of the first digit of each toe, usually only on the front feet. It is most desirable to perform a Declawing surgery on a younger kitten between the ages of 4 months to 1 year. Prior to the surgery a health examination is performed as well as preoperative lab work to evaluate your kitty’s health and minimize anesthetic risk. During the procedure your pet is given several pain medications to ensure a smooth and painless recovery. These medications include anti-inflammatories, morphine-like pain medications, and local anesthetics that are similar to Novacaine numbing injections that are used by human dentists. Upon recovery from the surgery, your pet will stay in the hospital for a total of 2 nights. Your kitty will have its front paws bandaged for 1 day and then removed the next day. Sometimes a little spotting from the incision sites can be normal. At home, restricting excessive running/playing will help the recovery time and prevent further spotting. You will be sent home with a special pellet litter that will not stick to the toes and pain medications to give for several days after the procedure.

I hope I was able to answer all your questions concerning the declawing procedure. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation. I look forward to meeting you and your pet!