Many owners who consider declawing their cat are looking for a way to keep the cat from scratching people or household items. However, scratching is actually a normal feline behavior. Scratching helps maintain claw motion needed for hunting and climbing, claw sharpness, and it helps cats communicate visually and through olfactory senses.

Alternatives to declawing exist, and we encourage owners to consider other possible options, including:

  • Nail caps – these are plastic coverings that can be glued on to the claws and replaced periodically.
  • Regular nail trimming.
  • Providing appropriate scratching substrates that are tall enough for a cat to stretch tall. You can also add catnip to the post.
  • Utilizing synthetic feline facial pheromones to minimize any anxiety.
  • Utilize distraction and redirection techniques to encourage your cat to scratch on acceptable items.
  • Discourage your cat from scratching inappropriate areas by attaching sticky tape or tinfoil.

What is involved with the declawing procedure?

Overview: Declawing is considered a true surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. The technical term for declawing is onychectomy. Only front feet are declawed if people elect to have this procedure for their cat. Many people may not realize that the surgery involves amputation of the third phalanx (bone) of each toe. This is because the cat’s claw is actually part of the last bone in the toe. So in order to remove the claw, the bone and associated nerves and tissues around that bone are removed.

Possible Complications: While not always the case, complications are possible after declawing. Older cats tend to have a harder time after declawing than kittens. Post-surgical problems can include pain, bleeding, swelling, infection, and nerve trauma. Unfortunately, some cats may also develop long-term complications such as limping, changes in stance, behavioral problems, chronic pain, chronic draining tracts, or possible claw regrowth if a portion of the last bone is left behind.
Pre-Surgical Blood work:

  • When the time comes to have your cat declawed, we recommend pre-surgical lab work. This lab work will help us screen for and address any internal issues prior to or during anesthesia.
  • Understanding whether there are concerns to address prior to the day of surgery is best. We recommend that you bring your pet to the clinic a few days or weeks prior to the procedure for blood collection. This blood will be sent to an outside laboratory for testing.
  • Our clinic also has the capability of performing some lab work in the clinic on the day of the procedure.

The Night Before / Morning Of Surgery:

  • Your pet should not receive food or water after midnight the night prior to the surgery.
  • If your pet receives medication, be sure to discuss a plan with the doctor ahead of time regarding when to administer those medications.

Surgery Day:

  • On the day of surgery, your pet should be dropped off at the clinic between 7:00 and 8:30 AM. Plan to spend a few minutes speaking with our staff so that your pet can be checked in appropriately.
  • The doctor performing the surgery will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination.
  • All anesthesia patients receive an intravenous catheter.
  • Intravenous fluids may be recommended for your pet. Intravenous fluids can help support the heart and kidney function in an anesthetized patient. They can also help clear anesthetic drugs more quickly, so that your pet has a smooth and safe recovery.
  • During the procedure, we will make every effort to keep your pet safe and comfortable through careful anesthetic monitoring and pre-emptive pain control.
  • Our staff will keep you informed as your pet recovers from anesthesia.
  • Your kitten will need to stay in the clinic for two nights after the declaw procedure so that we can be sure things are healing appropriately and we can significantly restrict your kitten’s ability to move around after surgery.
  • Our staff is happy to answer any other questions you may have about declawing.

~Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS