Congratulations, you have just added a to your family. As a responsible pet owner, you have made an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet spayed or neutered, and maybe you wondered if you should schedule Fluffy to be declawed at the same time?
To help explain the pros and cons of declawing, let's hear from veterinarians Dr. John Moffa of and Dr. Tara Klimovitiz of the Perry Hall Animal Hospital.
Moffa, who has been in practice for about 30 years, said the declawing procedure has changed dramatically, in terms of technique and pain management. He performs one to two surgeries per week.
"What used to be a pretty barbaric procedure is really less so now. Techniques are better, causing less damage and with good post operative care, declawed cats can be kept pretty comfortable through their recovery," Moffa said.
Klimovitz, who does considerably fewer declaw procedures in her clinic, agrees that pain management is the key.
"I counsel pretty heavily about [declawing]. Sometimes, I feel it is the right thing to do and the client is making an informed decision, but often, with a little education, pet owners are willing and even happy to try alternatives. Many come in thinking they have to do it, but are relieved to know they have options," Klimovitz said.
Moffa and Klimovitz agree that the surgery is best performed on younger cats, as recovery tends to be easier. Both feel there are cases where the procedure is warranted in older cats, but neither recommends it unless no other reasonable alternative exists.
Alternatives include a wide variety of scratching posts, poles, cat climbing furniture and simple pieces of heavy card board or carpet. These items can be sprayed or sprinkled with cat nip to encourage their use.
Moffa and Klimovitz both recommend starting early and acclimating a kitten to weekly nail trimming. Soft Paws are another good alternative, but require a commitment to maintain them. These are vinyl sheaths put over the nail, essentially blunting them; they can offer an alternative to declawing when a cat is uninterested in scratching posts.
"Many of the clients who request their kitten to be declawed are families seeking to prevent children from being scratched. In cases like this, I prefer to educate and offer alternatives. When it is a matter of a much loved pet whose owner is seriously ill, sometimes there is no good alternative. In cases like this, the procedure is not really elective, as a treating physician might order a patient to declaw or give up their cat," Klimovitz said.
If you feel you must have a declawed cat, perhaps you could adopt an already declawed cat. Animal shelters are full of cats of every size, age and circumstance, including many that are already declawed.