Declawing is a topic that is generating a lot of reactions and the list of veterinary clinics and hospitals that are stopping this procedure is growing. Interventions by breeders and animal welfare advocates prohibiting this practice are multiplying. That is why the CRCC decided to shed some light on this controversial surgery.
Onyxectomy is the name given to this surgery. You probably already know that the surgical procedure involves the amputation the last phalanx of each of your cat’s fingers and not just the removal of the claw, because if that were the case, the claw would grow back (like finger nails). You may have had the displeasure of seeing this firsthand or in photos or videos discussing the topic.
Another surgical technique, which is also sometimes practiced, but much less commonly, it is the tenectomy. The tendons are severed and no longer allow the cat to contract or retract its claws. There is no real benefit to this surgery, because the claws must still be cut regularly (the claws keep growing normally and can even grow right into the pads of the toes if left without regular care). The cat can no longer retract his claws leaving them hanging at the end of his toes, which can hamper his gait.
As with humans undergoing joint surgery, a multitude of factors can influence your kitten’s recovery. If, unfortunately, recovery is not complete or if the surgery has been performed poorly, it is possible that you and your kitten may face irreversible negative consequences.
Physical consequences of surgery
Among the complications that have a negative impact, swelling, bad scarring, infections, phantom pain and degeneration of the second phalanx are the most serious or the most common.
The pain following surgery is inevitable and is controlled by medication during the first days following the procedure. The pain can however continue beyond these few days. Persistent pain could cause trauma to your cat when using his litter box or when scratching to mark his territory (yes, your kitten will still ” make his claws ” even if they are no longer present … it’s a natural behaviour for him). Even if the pain eventually diminishes, the trauma could have caused your cat to avoid the litter box or caused other inappropriate behaviours in short and long term.
Chronic pain can cause the same type of behaviours but can also create a state of stress or psychological distress.
Psychological consequences of surgery
Persistent pain is probably the main cause of stress or distress in the declawed cat. However, do not underestimate the wide-ranging impact on your companion’s well being resulting from the loss of his capacities. A cat that has difficulty grasping and climbing, that feels unable to defend himself or flee from a potential threat could develop unwanted behaviours such as hyper vocalization, biting, self-isolation or aggression.
Alternatives to declawing
Trimming nails: Trimming your cat’s claws is easy enough. A multitude of videos are available on the Internet to guide you in your first steps. In addition, your breeder will be happy to show you how to do it easily and safely. A kitten that has been used to having his nails trimmed by the breeder from a young age will be more patient and cooperative. An older cat may be reluctant. Do not rush him. The nail trimming should be done at a three to four week interval. Do not wait and let the claws become sharp and tapered. The procedure is easy; the pink vein is seen by through the nail and can therefore be avoided.
Nail caps: Colourful and affordable claw protectors or nail caps are small sheaths that are applied over the claws. Make sure the glue is surgical grade and ask a professional for help before applying them your first time. Afterwards, you will be able to do it yourself easily.
Be vigilant and purchase your nail caps from a reputable company. (Several cheap imitations are on sale on the Internet and are not adequate) Go for recognized brands such as: Soft Paws, Soft Claws, Masked Claws.
Environmental enrichment: Cat trees, scratching posts and textured toys are all solutions that will redirect your cat’s attention to something other than your brand new sofa. You don’t decide where your cat will want to scratch… so you need to be attentive to his preferences and place cat trees and scratching posts in the right places. A cat tree hidden in a dark room in the basement will not be attractive to your cat at all. He must find these alternatives in the main rooms of the house, close to you and daily activities.
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