HEALTH & CARE

Declawing Cats Alternatives: Humane Solutions for Wild Problems

cat's claws
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

The “skritch, skritch” sound made when a cat is scratching away at your wall is annoying and a probable cause of conflict. Not only do the sharp claws present a danger to your cat, but they can also be destructive to your furniture, clothes, curtains, and even your skin. Many cat owners may resort to declawing. The practice is, however, a controversial one, due to the cruelty that accompanies it. This, therefore, calls for declawing cats alternatives.

These alternative methods are considered humane and less invasive. They are meant to give your cat the pleasure of keeping her claws while ensuring that your home stays scratch marks-free. We have explored each of the declawing alternatives and analyzed its effects in order to help you decide on the right alternative.

In this article, we will first explain how declawing is done. Then we will discuss the impact of declawing, and why it’s bad for your cat. Finally, we will discuss some alternatives so your cat wouldn’t have to suffer through a declawing.

How is Declawing Done?

cat lying

The destructive power of a cat’s claws has driven most people to advocate for declawing. While the procedure will leave your furry friend more harmless and your household more presentable, the exercise is extremely painful and not as simple as having a manicure or clipping your nails.

The inhumane practice has seen the procedure declared illegal in some countries since it’s only done for the convenience of humans.

So, how is declawing done? First, forget about a ‘quick fix’ solution; the procedure is a serious surgery. Unlike human nails, a cat’s are closely connected to the bone. The claw-bone adherence is so close that removing the claw requires the removal of a bone from the paws.

The last bone of the claw is removed, which is similar to cutting off your finger at the first knuckle—10 times over!

There are basically four methods of declawing:

#1: Excision

The whole claw and the last bone, from whence the claw extends, are removed. This is done by using a sterile clipper. A cut is made through the third digit (P3) of the bone. The whole tip is cut out, leaving your cat with soft paws.

The method results in significant trauma and comes with a long recovery time. The claws can also end up growing again.

#2: Guillotine

Guillotine for cats

This method of declawing involves severing the P3 bone into two parts, where the outer part which contains the claw is discarded. The procedure, also known as the removal of the distal—or end part of the bone—is done using a sterilized nail trimmer. It also comes with significant trauma and a long recovery period.

#3: Tenotomy

Tenotomy is not declawing per se, but it serves the same purpose. This is a surgical procedure which involves cutting the tendons and ligaments that attach to the bone.

The claws remain, but the structures that operate them are removed. This surgical procedure results in alteration of the feet but does not carry the risk of regrowth.

#4: Laser Declawing

laser cat declawing

This is a fairly new procedure that is rising in popularity. Laser beams are used instead of scalpels and other more invasive surgical instruments during the declawing. The procedure is considered to be less painful and more humane than other surgical methods.

However, laser declawing also comes with a set of risks. It’s a highly delicate procedure. If botched, it can lead to the scarring or damaging of other tissue near the claws.

Therefore, it’s paramount that you seek the services of a qualified vet and one who can provide testimonials of his or her previous work. Laser surgery is expensive and can also lead to a delay in healing.

The Impact of Declawing

What the proponents of declawing take refuge in is the fact that the procedure is done under full anesthesia. Unfortunately, just like other surgical procedures which require numbing the body, the drug does eventually wear off.

When your cat comes out for recuperation, pain will kick in and she will be quite uncomfortable. The experience will cause a significant strain in her everyday activities and life in general.

Your fur baby will have to walk, play with her toys and other pets, jump, climb on to furniture, and more importantly, scratch on the litter box and other surfaces. These are all part of normal feline behavior, and a cat will engage in them, no matter how sore or painful her paws are.

#1: Avoiding the Litter Box

cat and litter box

Some of the material used in litter boxes can prick your cat’s tender paws. She may also have difficulty when scratching the substrate due to phantom pain from the surgery. This will lead to the association of the box with pain, which will make your furry friend avoid the box entirely.

The only option left will be to replace coarse substrate with softer litters and retrain your cat on using the box.

#2: Development of Illnesses

The fact that the physiology of the feet is altered by declawing causes the functionality of the paws to become impaired. Your cat may change her gait while compensating for the missing bones and claws. This may lead to stiffness in the joints and the spine, which is a recipe for arthritis and other such crippling illnesses.

See Also: How to Tell If Your Cat is Sick

#3: Becoming More Aggressive

aggressive cat

With a major part of the cat’s defense mechanism missing, your furry friend will adopt other ways of protecting herself. She may start biting other cats or dogs who invade her territory.

She may also become annoyingly vocal while trying to keep danger at bay or when trying to warn you of an intrusion. In some instances, the incapacitation will make a cat depressed or withdrawn.

Simply put, claws are part of the design that gives cats agility, beauty, and a survival edge over other pets. Removing them puts your cat a disadvantage and could actually leave her helpless when confronted by an adversary.

Alternatives to Declawing Cats

You can avoid the emotional trauma of seeing your cat going through painful recovery by opting for non-invasive alternatives to declawing. Also, as earlier noted, the practice is illegal in most countries. For example, declawing was outlawed in the UK in 2006 by the Animal Welfare Act. Such laws also exist in most European countries.

Similarly, the Humane Society of the United States advocates for the practice only in cases where declawing is beneficial to the cat. Such circumstances include the removal of nails plagued by cancer.

So, if declawing is not an option, what are you left to do? What alternatives are available and equally effective? Here are some methods which include behavioral modification and the use of nail-concealing devices:

#1: Nail Trimming

cat nail trimming

One of the safest and cheapest alternatives to declawing is trimming the sharp tips. With blunt nails, your cat will not be able to damage furniture, your clothes, or harm herself during self-grooming. The practice can, however, be uncomfortable for you and your cat; it should, therefore, be done with delicate hands.

Introduce your cat to nail trimming when she is still a kitten. This will teach her that it’s not a practice to be feared. To start with, clip the nails when the kitten is in a deep sleep.

Using feline-friendly clippers, extend the nail by gently squeezing the paws. Clip the nails over several days, one at a time. This will help your fur baby get used to the tickling sensation.

Care should, however, be taken not to cut into the quick. This is the nerve and blood vessels’ ending at the nails. It’s a dark or pink colored section at the base of the nail. If cut, it will lead to bleeding.

You should, therefore, use sterile clippers and have medical spirit and surgical wool at hand. If you are queasy around blood or find the idea unnerving, you should have the vet or a professional groomer do it.

#2: Nail Caps

Nail caps for cats

For those who can’t stomach taking a clipper to their cat’s nail, there is the option of simply covering the sharp edges. Simply known as ‘Soft Paws,’ these are nail caps that were developed by a concerned veterinarian. The design comprises of non-toxic vinyl that is shaped to resemble true nails. They are hollow inside; hence they can easily be slipped on to the paws.

The bonding makes use of a non-toxic veterinarian-grade adhesive. This ensures the product is safe on the skin and stays in place even when a cat tries to remove it. Nail caps are light and are made to fit nails perfectly, so much that your cat will probably not notice them.

The design also goes a step further in ensuring that retraction and extension of the claws are not hampered.

The caps are blunt, hence scratching will not cause damage to you, your cat, or the house furniture. For this reason, it’s advisable not to put them on outdoor cats who may be disadvantaged by blunt claws. The caps are well tolerated by most kitties and can last for up to six weeks before they tear or fall off.

When the caps are first introduced, most cats will groom them for some time before they get used to them. This can make them fall off sooner than intended, but the caps can be replaced easily. They also come in different sizes and can be trimmed from the base to fit small kittens.

#3: Mood Therapy

cat-friendly pheromones

Pheromones are chemicals released by the body and have the capability to influence the behavior of others. These chemicals are usually synthesized and used to modify the behavior of animals such as cats. Such pheromones-in-a-bottle are a good alternative to declawing, especially for cats who are prone to destructive scratching.

The products are sprayed into the home or places in a perfume diffuser. This provides a dose of feel-good chemicals that calm and comfort your cat. With relaxation comes less destructive behaviors like scratching, urine spraying, or aggressive behaviors like biting and picking fights.

Go for cat-friendly pheromones from reputable brands. It’s also advisable to consult the vet on the right type of pheromone to buy and the best mode of application. That said, most pheromone diffusers last for about a month, but spray cans can go for longer depending on the frequency of use.

#4: Scratching Surfaces

cat scratcher

While it’s safe to trim or cover the nails as alternatives to declawing, there are some cat lovers who like their pets to remain au naturel. If you are such a person, then providing a surface for your cat to exercise her claws could be the only way out. Such surfaces will be perfect diversions from the places or items that you do not want her to dig her nails into.

You can get sisal-covered posts from the local pet store. You can also turn this into a DIY project and have fun making one as your cat watches—this will actually get her used to the post more readily. If you have the time or can afford it, buy several posts with different shapes. This will make it exciting for your pet.

The posts can also be made from different materials and placed on various places around the house. This will remove the monotony of your cat having to go the same place to scratch. You can also make the posts more appealing by spraying catnip on them. Another alternative would be to buy sisal posts whose fibers are already doused in catnip.

Scratching posts covered in cardboard can be cheaper alternatives to sisal posts. Since cardboards are readily available, the option will come in handy especially for felines who reject sisal posts. You should ensure different elevations for the posts to make them more playful and challenging.

See Also: DIY Cat Scratcher

Wrap Up

cat's paws

Cats can be destructive pets especially when they have long claws. Their paws can also look unsightly if the claws are left to grow wildly. Although most felines, particularly the ones in the wild, have their own ways of keeping their paws from being overgrown by nails, your indoor cat may need some help.

To keep the growth of the claws in check, declawing is usually carried out. The practice is, however, painful, inhumane, and outright barbaric. Apart from the pain, declawing can leave your fur baby crippled, defenseless, and spending her days immobile as she recuperates.

It’s when faced with such predicaments that alternatives to the practices have been developed. Such methods include nail clipping, the use of pheromones, nail caps, and providing distractions such as scratching surfaces.

Do your cat’s claws need to be taken care of? Are you planning to declaw her or opt for other alternatives? Tell us all about this in the comment section below. Next, check out our article on how to cut cat nails. With routine care, your cat won’t need any declawing, and they will be happier in the long run.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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