In preparing for 2017, our leadership team discussed at length whether we should continue to offer the elective surgical amputation of cat's toes at the last joint, commonly known as a "declaw". Over the last 30 years, thoughts on declawing have changed dramatically. Our practice looked at these changes and began to consider what stance would continue to fit our core value of "being an advocate for our clients, patients and team". We reviewed the position statements of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association. In addition to reviewing these statements, we felt that as a newly certified Cat Friendly Practice, we would not be very cat-friendly if we continued to perform declaws. It did not take us long to realize that declawing is not an elective surgical procedure that we will be performing any longer. Instead, our focus will be on Alternatives to Declawing and educating our clients and team. In March 2017, one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians, researched declawing and shared some facts as well as alternatives.
Doesn't declawing keep cats in homes?
- Evidence shows that declawed cats are surrendered to shelters at a higher rate, or presented for euthansia due to medical or behavioral problems that have developed.
- Veterinarians tend to overestimate the tendency of owners to surrender non-declawed cats to shelters. In a survey, only 4% of owners indicated they would have surrendered their cat had it not been declawed while vets believed that 50% of these owners would have.
- Top reasons for surrendering pets are #1 house soiling, and #2 aggression. Both reasons are associated with post-declaw behavior. Destructive scratching did not even make the top 10 reasons to surrender. Only 3% of surrenders cited scratching as a reason. Two surveys found that 70-75% of cats relinquished to shelters were declawed. More of these cats were "unadoptable" because of behavioral problems (up to 80% euthanized)
- For owners with compromised immune systems: declawing cats is not a recommendation of the CDC, US Public Health Service, NIH, or infectious disease experts because declawed cats have a higher propensity for biting. Bite wounds are worse than scratches so declawing actually would put these owners at more risk of a serious injury from their cat. Infections are more likely to come from the environment vs healthy companion animals so use a common sense approach by practicing good hygiene - wash hands after petting and before eating and keep your cat's nails trimmed. Teeth and litter boxes are much larger sources of potential infection. Prevent external parasites like fleas that can transmit cat scratch disease (bartonellosis) by keeping your cat on year-round flea preventive.
What alternatives do cat owners have instead of declawing?
- Train the cat to use a scratching post. Pay attention to what surfaces the cat likes to scratch and get a scratching post that matches with the cat's preference - wood, cardboard, carpet, sisal. Some prefer vertical and some horizontal to scratch. Catnip may help attract them to the desired appropriate scratcher.
- Double stick tape can be placed on furniture to help deter scratching. Other deterrents include: aluminum foil, sheets of sandpaper, or plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up/out
- Soft paws/soft claws
- Adequate exercise & vigorous play sessions to channel cat's energy away from destructive behavior.
- Discourage your kitten/cat from playing roughly with bare hands. Redirect this type of play with the use if laser pointers, wand-type toys, etc.
- Regular nail trimming
- Environmental enrichment like climbing trees, perches, a rotating variety of toys, etc
- Calming agents like Feliway may help some cats as well
We have embraced new technology, medicine, surgical techniques, etc over the many years of practicing medicine and caring for your pets. We are excited to change our thinking on declawing and we hope that with proper education, we can cut down on the number of declaws that are performed in central Indiana.
Why Do Cats Need Claws (pdf) The Paw Project (link to website that advocates no declawing) Sticky Paws (link to website that sells furniture protectors) Scratching Posts (link to website with scratching posts) Keeping Cats Indoors (pdf) The Indoor Pet Initiative (link to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine website)
If you would like to share any additional resources that have worked for your cat or have helped to educate yourself in declawing, please contact us and we will research it and share it on our page.