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  • Writer's pictureClinique Vet LaSalle

Me-‘’ow’’: Alternatives to declawing

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As humans, our nails grow from our skin, but cats’ claws grow directly from the bone! Onychectomy, or more commonly known as declawing, is an amputation of the third phalange on each of their toes, which results in orthopedic pain. Studies have shown that declawed cats are more likely to develop undesirable behaviours, such as:

- 7 x more likely to urinate inappropriately (outside of the litter box)

- 5 x more likely to bite

Cats need their claws in order to express natural behaviours, i.e.: kneading.

● Cats sharpen their claws to maintain them. This permits them to remove the outer layer of the claw, as well as to keep them clean and healthy.

● This is also a method of communication: when they scratch, they release pheromones via their sweat glands.

Cats need a designated space where they can express this behaviour, i.e. using scratching posts.

● Scratching posts with a variety of interesting textures, giving your cat options to choose from (i.e. carpet, carton, rope, leather etc.)

● The surface of the scratching post must be stable

● Your cat must have the option to choose from a horizontal and vertical post

● Make sure that the vertical post is long enough for them to get a full body stretch

● The scratching posts in your house should be placed strategically, in areas where the family enters the home and welcome in guests (i.e. door frames, front door, near the litter box, near resting areas etc.)

● Each cat should have access to their own personal scratching post. Ideally, the number of scratching posts in the house should be equal to the number of cats, plus one.

My cat uses their claws in undesirable places, how do I redirect him/her to their scratching posts?

Many methods can be used to encourage your cat to use their scratching posts:

● Sprinkle cat nip, or place their favorite toy or treats on the scratching post

● Vaporise inviting pheromones on the scratching post (i.e. Feliscratch)

● Apply facial pheromones (i.e. FeliwayClassic) on the unwanted areas where your cat kneads (i.e. furniture) to help minimize the behaviour in that particular area

During the period of adaptation to the scratching posts, temporarily protect your furniture (cover them with sheets or unpleasant textures (i.e. aluminum paper, plastic wrap), apply a facial pheromone like the FeliwayClassic, or a repellent).

Taking care of their claws and how to avoid scratches:

● Frequent nail trim (every 2-4 weeks) with positive reinforcement to make the experience enjoyable, smooth and simple (i.e. canned food during the nail trim)

● Application of nail covers: comfortable vinyl capsules which cover the entire nail to protect your furniture and skin

What is a tenectomy?

A tenectomy is a surgical procedure which consists of the excision of the tendon which is located beneath each toe. This prevents cats from being able to flex their last phalange. This surgery is considered an alternative to declawing, however, the long term complications are similar to an onychechtomy. Following the tenectomy, do not forget that your cat still has their claws! Therefore, it is essential to trim their nails frequently in order to avoid complications such as an infected paw pad due to an ingrown claw.

Your furry feline pets need their claws, they were born this way. All they ask is for their family to love them from the end of their whiskers to the tip of their claws.

For more information, please consult:

Isabelle Ladouceur, cAHT

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