About Declawing Kittens

For those of you unaware of what declawing kittens means, you should know it is more than just a cat nail care procedure.

It is an extreme surgery that is often done to solve a convenience issue for humans.

As an animal lover, I do have strong emotions about declawing kittens but there are many who disagree with my stance.

It is not the aim of this article to vilify those who choose this for their kittens and cats. I understand that even with this choice, people love their pets dearly.

I also understand that there can be extenuating circumstances for this procedure, such as where a cat may otherwise be put to sleep.

Working for a vet, however, I saw how people would blithely add it on to the spay/neuter surgery with an attitude of "why not?"

I hate to say it, but this wasn't usually the owners' faults.

The vets I worked for always downplayed the surgery, and when the owners came back the next day to pick up their darling little kittens, they were completly unprepared to see their arms bandaged up and them swerving their bodies around, doped on high amounts of painkillers.

So, this article is for those of you kitten owners who want some information ahead of time, before your vet tries to "sell you" on declawing.

Declaw Surgery Details

kitten declaw procedure

Many first-time cat owners don't know what to expect when they bring their new kitten to their home for the first time.

Most of these first-timers have the best intentions, and when they realize that cats scratching furniture is part of kittens' behavior, they just want to fix the problem.

Some of these owners, however, thinking that kittens cannot be trained or not wanting to invest the time to do so will consider declawing their kitten.

What they may not know (since many unethical veterinarians won't go into detail about the declawing process)is while their kitten is under sedation, the vet performs the declaw surgery by cutting off each toe on the forelegs at the first joint with a scalpel.

Edit: I have done further research into advances in declaw surgery, and laser declawing is much more commonly done than scalpel. The jury is out on whether this is any less painful, however, and the long-term effects of declawing (to be discussed) still remain, regardless of the method.

photo of cat declaw procedure It is not just the claw that is removed during the declaw procedure, but the bone, tendons, and ligaments as well. That is like losing your fingertips at the first bend--and then having to walk on your hands. So much for a "simple" cat nail care procedure! After the declaw procedure, the kitten's arms are bound and wrapped often past the elbow. Sometimes the more caring vets will ask you what color bandage you want! (Fortunately, not all American veterinarians will practice this inhumane surgery. The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) is one of a growing number of animal rights groups seeking to end this common procedure.) As the kitten wakes up from surgery, pain management is critical. Hopefully the vet prescribes enough painkillers for the owner to administer when the kitten is recuperating at home.

Post-Surgery

The healing process after declawing kittens is a long and painful one, and declaw complications can include infection, hemorrhage, damage to the radial nerve, bone chips that prevent healing, or even painful regrowth of nail tissue inside the pad that goes undetected.

photo of laser declawing cats

If abscessing results, it can mean declawing during a second surgery to remove even more bone and connective tissue on the affected toe.

And don't forget, the declawed cat still needs to walk and jump on his injury, and he has to use his litter box!

If you are caring for a recently declawed kitten, do NOT use gravel litter that can get embedded into his fresh wounds.

Find a brand like Yesterday's News, a litter made from recycled newspapers re-purposed into pellets.

After the procedure, even if the operation was a "success" and the healing process is over, the declawed cat is not out of the woods yet...

I have been questioned about the legitimacy of the surgery photos used on this site. Yes, they are real. No, they are not meant as a fear-mongering tactic.

They are meant to give kitten owners full awareness of what could go wrong when declawing kittens, even if the risk is low.

Long Term Consequences of Declawing Cats


 

Cats do not walk on the pads of their feet, they are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes.

Their back, joints, muscles, and ligaments are all balanced and designed for cats and kittens to walk, run, jump and climb.

After declawing kittens, their feet are forced to meet the ground at an unnatural angle, causing back and joint problems throughout their lives.

cat declaw diagram

Kittens' toes and claws are the only way a cat is able to stretch and tone their back and shoulder muscles, since they use their claws as isometric resistance tools to stretch their legs.

Behavioral Changes After a Cat Declaw

Some cats are unable to handle the severe changes that declawing creates, and they change their friendly and confident personality into one that is nervous, fearful, or even aggressive.

Some cats will resort to biting without having their claws for defense. The lack of having their claws for defense puts a declawed cat in a constant state of distress, which makes them more susceptible to disease.

photo of cat declaw complications

Cats and kittens also use their claws for scent marking, and an owner may notice that after declawing, he starts scent marking with his urine instead.

A declawed cat may also find using the litter box so painful, she will refuse to use one again.

These unacceptable behaviors often lead owners to surrender their cats to shelters, which often will ultimately end in euthanasia.

It is no surprise that most European countries, New Zealand and Australia along with many others ban this procedure except in rare cases of medical necessity.

Declaw Surgery Alternatives

Now for the good news! There are several very effective alternatives to declawing kittens.

Investing the time to train your kitten not to scratch furniture is the first step.

To do this, you must have several scratching posts available near his favorite scratching spots.

It is good to experiment with different styles of posts. Larger cats often need a good, tall post to really stretch on. Some prefer horizontal posts or scratching boards on the floor.

Also provide a variety of textures--you will find that your cat may like alternating from his sisal-wrapped cat scratching tree, to carpet-wrapped varieties, and even inexpensive corrugated cardboard.

It's good to invest in as many posts or scratchers as your home can handle to protect your furniture.

When he goes for the favored sofa, simply pick him up and place him on one of them.

Yes, it takes consistency, time, and diligence when dealing with cats scratching furniture, but that is the level of responsibility required to enjoy the company of an intelligent pet.

It is also important to maintain a consistent cat nail care routine. Trimming the tips of each nail on the front paws every two weeks or so will keep them blunted, and will prevent human injuries and painful kitten nail snags as he races across your carpet!

Another alternative to declawing kittens that has recently been developed are plastic, non-toxic cat nail caps called "Soft Paws" which glue (also non-toxic) to each nail and last for weeks with no discomfort caused to your cat. However, these are not recommended for outdoor cats.

Think of all these effective and relatively inexpensive solutions to your cat's scratching problems! All for a fraction of the cost of declaw surgery.

I hope that this article has convinced you against declawing your kitten or cat. Some of you still will say "most cats do fine" after this surgery.

But think of it this way: If only one of these declawing consequences affects only one kitten in 100, is it still worth it?

This is not a medical need for the cat--it is a human lifestyle issue almost all of the time.

With all the other alternatives available, it renders the practice of declawing kittens even less appropriate.

What are Your Thoughts on Declawing Kittens?

Do you think declawing is inhumane, or a valid medical procedure?
Tell us your opinion here!

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Declawing is Not All Bad 
I'm putting in a defense of declawing. All of my cats have been declawed and none have changed personality-wise, nor have they experienced much pain. …

A Defense of Declawing Not rated yet
I looked at the pictures of the declawed cats and not sure where you got them. They look like someone who is not a vet did home surgery. All my cats …

Not my experience Not rated yet
I've had cats de-clawed. Never a problem. Happy cats. Everywhere you turn someone's trying to put fear into you about something and push you to some …

Only Someone who Hates Cats Would Do This Not rated yet
This is illegal in the UK and it should be in the USA too. It doesn't matter if the cat adjusts, you've still done something that can best be described …

Some People Make Me Sick! Not rated yet
How could you do that to a cat? People really need to grow up and understand they are real animals, not little toys! No way would i ever take the claws …

Most cats do OK after declawing Not rated yet
A cat is a domesticated wild animal. When it lives in a human home it is completely provided for by the owner. It is often loved for and cared …

On Behalf of Our Kitten Kloe Not rated yet
Thank you for this information! I hope all who read understand how difficult our lives would be without our finger tips and toes. The toes of a …

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