When I took my beautiful cat, Dolly to be declawed, I didn’t realize that I’d be ruining her life. Sweet Dolly wasn’t particularly rough on the furniture, but she had attacked my other cats Rosie and Jack, causing them both to need stitches. I was married at the time and this prompted my now ex-husband to tell me to get her declawed or find another home for her. I decided to have her declawed, but I deeply regret this because it obviously caused her pain and changed her into a timid, nervous little cat.
Thinking of having your cat declawed? Here’s what you should know:
The fact is, declawing is so painful and cruel that several nations have outlawed it. In this irreversible surgical procedure, a cat is permanently maimed, and this can lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral problems, according to CatScratching.com. Some people think declawing is little more than a manicure, but this is absolutely false. It’s a surgical procedure in which the last joints of a cat’s toes are amputated. The corresponding surgery for you would be to have the first joints of your fingers amputated. Sound painful? It’s likely just as painful for your cat, and secondary problems can arise from declawing. Other complications can include lameness and abscesses, according to Born Free U.S.A. Joint stiffness also occurs because the tendons that control the toe joints retract after the surgery and become immobile or “frozen” over time and are permanently contracted. Arthritis can also set in and damage multiple joints in the spine and hind legs.
In most cases, only the front paws are declawed. Obviously, this better than having all of the first toe joints removed, but it forces a cat to shift balance to its hind quarters. Since the cat is now out-of-balance, this can cause the muscles of a cat’s front feet to atrophy. Cats are creatures of exquisite grace and seemingly infinite balance. My adorable cat Tidbit loves to hang upside down from the rafters like a sloth. She runs up trees and bounds from counter-top to table to cabinet top in a heartbeat. For a cat, balance is a way of life and intrinsic to her nature.
A cat’s front claws are important for defense as well. Even if you keep your cat indoors, what happens if she escapes? Now she has no defense if she’s attacked by other animals. She’s defenseless in an environment that may be dangerous for her, CatScratching.com reports.
This is where emotional and behavioral problems may come in. Cats that have been declawed become distressed and this can take the form of urinating on rugs, spraying furniture, becoming hostile and perhaps biting. Using a litter box is often painful for a declawed cat and in these cases, it’s not unusual for them to potty elsewhere–like, say, your favorite chair. This was an especially tragic problem for poor Dolly. No one warned me about the pain that a declawed cat suffers. I didn’t even know that the first toe joints were amputated. This was in the days when the internet was in its infancy, so I couldn’t look the information up. From day one after being declawed, Dolly never used her box again and this ruined the hardwood floor in one of my bedrooms. I never punished her, and even though I was frustrated, I never blamed her for doing this, especially after I found out just how devastating it is for a cat to be declawed. I tried to break her of this habit for 12 years, but it was no go. Dolly and I would have been better off if I had found a new home for her–one without other cats.
I will never have a cat declawed again. There are safer and healthier alternatives, including:
- A scratching post. Cats love to scratch rough surfaces, according to CatScratching.com. Of course a cat’s favorite is a tree stump, and some scratching posts are made of wood, but some of these posts can be rather large and a bit clunky for an apartment. Sisal textile material–not the rope–is nice and rough and it’s a good alternative. The ideal scratching post should be tall enough for your cat to stretch out completely and secured properly. If the post falls down, your cat isn’t likely to approach it again. After my misadventures with Dolly, I bought my cats the mother of all scratching posts. It was expensive, but my cats loved it, especially since it had cubby holes to climb in where they could hide. The scratchy, reverse side of a carpet also works well, and can be attached to any area that your cat is scratching. You can even staple pieces of the carpet to a wall or post, the site reports. Whenever I get a scratching post for my cats, I always rub it with catnip. If your cat is a catnip junkie, it’s a sure-fire way to get her to fall in love with the new scratching post.
- If your kitty still wants to scratch the sofa, it might be because she has marked the area with her scent when she claws. Using a pet odor remover will remove the scent. You can follow this up with using a citrus scented spray or potpourri. Cats are not wild about citrus smells.
- You can also use the mighty squirt gun of doom. That’s what I call the squirt gun that I fill with water and use on my cats every once in a while. All I have to do is shake it and that’s enough to make them quit scratching or beating up on each other. My cats are pretty mellow for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t “hiss” each other off every now and then.
- Trimming her nails is another option. However, if you try to trim all ten nails at once, you and your cat may both need a sedative. Most cats don’t like their paws fooled at all. My adorable Rosie comes unglued when we do this–growling, scratching and biting, so my husband and I only trim one or two nails at a time. If you decide to do this, gently place your thumb on top of her paw and your forefinger on the pad underneath, according to CatScratching.com. Gently squeeze your thumb and forefinger together. This pushes the claw out where you can see it. The inside area at the base of the claw is pink with living tissue that shouldn’t be cut. Instead, cut the clear area at the tip of the claw. When my husband and I clip Rosie’s nails, I hold her and he does the cutting. Afterwards, we give her hugs and tasty treats. It’s our way of letting her know we’re done with the unpleasant stuff. This post has more information if you need it.
Having Dolly declawed turned her into a nervous wreck. Mentally, she was in such a bad state that she licked all of the fur off of the back of her hind legs–a considerable effort because she was a Himalayan/Ragdoll cross. She was a sweet cat, but she was so full of anxiety that our vet finally prescribed Prozac for her. That’s how bad off she was. Her years of suffering are over with, but I still mentally beat myself up over it. I console myself with the fact that I didn’t declaw her because she was scratching a piece of furniture. In my mind there’s no piece of furniture that is more important than the happiness and health of a cat. A chair might be beautiful but it doesn’t purr. It doesn’t run to the door when you come home from work or sleep on your chest at night. It’s not going to love you like your cat does.