So you’ve got a new feline family member and you’re considering declawing. After all, you don’t want your furniture – or skin! – to be shredded by those sharp talons, and it’s not like your cat truly needs those claws, right? Well, only about as much as you need your fingertips.
While declawing your cat may seem like a more permanent way of simply clipping his nails, in truth, the process is a lot more involved, intrusive and painful than you might think. Thankfully, there are alternative ways to protect yourself and your furniture from scratches that don’t involve surgery for your pet.
The ugly truth about declawing
Despite the misleadingly benign name, declawing doesn’t just involve removing a cat’s claws. Instead, declawing – or onchyectomy – as the procedure is officially known involves amputating the last bone on each digit, along with the claw and nail bed, explains the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Obviously, this requires some fairly major surgery, which means exposing your pet to the risks associated with anesthesia, not to mention the pain of recovery, which can last several days after the procedure. You also put your furry friend at risk of infection or other complications arising from the operation.
That’s a lot of pain and risk for a little cat, and when all is said and done, you, as an owner, may not find your situation all that improved, warns the American Humane Society. The trauma of the surgery may instill new behavioral problems in your cat: Fluffy may stop using the litter box or even start biting. Imagine trying to function after having each one of your fingertips amputated. Meanwhile, those with weakened immune systems sometimes decide to declaw their furballs in order to protect their own health, but cat scratches can pose less of a risk than bites, kitty litter and fleas.
Scratching that itch
So if you can’t in good conscience have your kitten declawed, are you doomed to live with ruined furniture and scarred skin? Of course not, there are alternatives that can protect your well-being and your belongings without needing to subject your furry family member to an operation.
In addition to special double-sided tape strategically placed on furniture, the Humane Society of Broward County offers six such suggestions that can help curb your cat’s scratching. These tips include providing a variety of different styles of scratching posts, and positioning them near any furniture your cat likes to scratch. You can also train your cat to scratch in the appropriate places: clap your hands loudly whenever he goes for the furniture and then show him the proper place to scratch – be sure to reward him when he does it right!
Of course, just keeping your cat’s claws trimmed can alleviate a lot of the damage, but if that isn’t enough, you can also try using small plastic tips to cover your furball’s claws, suggests CTV News. These blunt vinyl caps are glued to each claw like a sheath, and are intended to keep them from piercing skin or fabric. You can apply them yourself or see if your vet will do it for a small fee.
Declawing your cat is a major operation and requires some serious consideration before you give your vet the go-ahead. Most animal welfare groups recommend it only as an absolute last resort – if at all. For a happier, healthier feline, it’s worthwhile to choose more humane alternatives.