Alternatives to Declawing

Sunrise Veterinary Services - Reedsburg, WI. | cat 750259 1920
Declawing, or an "onychectomy," is the surgical amputation of the last bone in each toe. It is not simply removing the claw. It is also removing the attached nerves, ligament, tendon, and joint capsule. Compared to a human, it would be the same as cutting off the finger at the last knuckle. We recommend trying alternatives to this procedure, such as nail trimmings, applying soft nail caps, utilizing scratching posts, and behavioral modification. 

What You Should Know About Declawing

Feline Behavior:

Over half of all cats scratch. It’s a natural behavior! Completely eliminating it can cause a lot of stress and is unrealistic. Scratching helps remove dead skin cells and leaves behind a scent, communicating where a particular cat’s territory is. Climbing also falls under this category. 

So how can we fix a behavior that is natural, into something that we can tolerate? First, we need to recognize what surfaces our cat likes to scratch. Is it vertical or horizontal? What type of material is it? Also make a note at what height the object is. Next, we need to try to imitate that object and create something that is appropriate for them to use. Encourage scratching in these locations by offering treats/kibble anytime they use it or adding pheromones to the object. Pheromones are a scent that cats leave behind when they scratch. Many companies make commercial sprays that can be applied to these surfaces. One we often use is called Feliway. 

Climbing can also be an undesired behavior by our standards. However, it is natural and we need to give them spaces to climb and jump. Not only is it great exercise, but satisfies a predatorial need and can reduce stress. Cats require 360 square feet of living space to claim. In multiple cat households or apartments this can be met by adding cat shelves or trees. We are then able to place food in these locations to promote appropriate climbing (a great source of exercise) and scratching. Making these places more desirable can also reduce them climbing onto countertops, or other unwanted locations. 

Another reason owners often want to declaw is due to scratching during play. We need to be aware of what type of interaction we are providing them. Playing with your hands or feet at a young age will lead to predatorial play directed at us. Unfortunately ignoring the behavior isn’t effective. We need to create play sessions multiple times a day. During these times we should be playing with a toy of choice, in a desired area (ex: cat tree). By doing this we are providing an appropriate outlet of play.  Using toys that are battery operated or at the end of a line is helpful. We want them to be able to distinguish between the toy and our limbs.