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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jaax & Staff

Why Won't Dr. Jaax Declaw?

Dr. Jaax will not perform declaw surgery. She is a member of the Paws Need Claws campaign ( Declawing is not practiced in most European countries and is in fact, illegal. In the United States, the number of cities working to legislate and ban declawing is growing.

Declawing, or “onychectomy,” is multiple amputations comparable to the removal of human fingertips at the first knuckle. The standard declawing procedure calls for the removal of the claw, the cells at the base responsible for the growth, tendons and ligaments, and the terminal bone of the toe. The cat experiences considerable pain in the recovery and healing process

Scratching is a natural and instinctive behavior. Cats use their claws for protection, balance, exercising, for stretching the muscles in the legs, back, and paws, and to mark their own territory. Not only does the cat mark an object visibly by scratching it, but by scratching they leave deposits of secretions from glands in the feet that can be smelled by other cats. In addition, scratching gives the cat reassurance of self-defense by the contraction of the claws.

There are various long-term consequences to declawing:

  • Pain & Litterbox Avoidance. A cat may develop sensitivity and/or chronic phantom pain in their paws, which could in turn result in litter box avoidance and urine-soaked furnishings or carpeting.

  • Stress-Induced Illness. A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defense, so removing the claws may make a cat feel defenseless. This could lead to a constant state of stress which could make some declawed cats more prone to diseases such as cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Change in Temperament. Cats, like people, react differently to physical handicaps. Some appear to be unaffected, and others will show a nervous and defensive state. Cat owners often decide to relinquish their cat or have him or her euthanized by a veterinarian when a dramatic temperament or behavior change occurs.

  • Biting. Stripping a cat of its primary defense system can result in a cat resorting to nipping or biting with very little warning, or destructive chewing problems.

  • Arthritis & Crippling. Cats walk on their toes; pain in the toes can cause changes to the cat's normal gait, which eventually can cause stiffness and pain in the legs, hips, and spine.

  • Less Enjoyment. The procedure could hinder the sensations and enjoyment involved in walking, running, springing, climbing, and stretching in the future. Scratching is also a natural instinct for cats; cats enjoy scratching, and declawing may cause a significant degree of deprivation with respect to satisfying the instinctive impulses to climb, chase, exercise, and mark territory by scratching.

  • Defenselessness. Declawed cats who are allowed outdoors are at an increased risk of injury or death because they cannot defend themselves adequately against attacks by other animals.

Try these alternatives to declawing:

  • Modify the cat's behavior, making changes in the living environment so that a cat’s natural scratching behavior is done on an appropriate area such as a scratching post. Owners need to allow more than one scratching surface, and the scratching posts or boxes cannot be in hidden areas, but rather need to be in all areas of the home where the cats reside.

  • Provide different types of scratching surfaces such as corrugated horizontal cardboard boxes, and vertical (at least 30 inches tall) and sturdy sisal or carpeted posts that do not tip when scratched. Using flimsy or short posts that tip may be a reason that cats scratch sturdy furniture.

  • Rewarding spontaneous scratching on the post with praise, petting, or a treat will help encourage that behavior.

  • Cover your cat’s claws with protective soft covers (available on many websites).

  • Add sticky tape or double-sided tape on furniture that is being scratched, to make it uncomfortable for cats' claws.

  • Apply a nontoxic spray deterrent such as "No Scratch" on furniture

  • Apply a pheromone product such as "Feliway"that mimics the scent of a cat’s facial glands

  • Keep your cat’s claws trimmed. When nails are trimmed, cats cannot do serious damage with their claws to people, furniture, drapery, and rugs.

The key is not to try to change or prevent the natural scratching behavior, but rather to change the preference for the location or surface for scratching. For the welfare of your cat, take the time and effort to explore and implement the alternatives. And remember that we’re always happy to discuss alternatives with you!

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