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debunking declawing

For cats, scratching is an instinctual activity. It helps them sharpen and condition their claws, as well as mark their territory. But when the surfaces that your cat chooses to mark are your carpet and furniture, the resulting frustration may interfere with the bond between you and your purring pet. To remedy the situation, some
pet parents choose to have their cats declawed.

The procedure known as “declawing” is technically a partial digital amputation, during which the first joint of each toe is amputated. As such, it is a painful procedure with significant recovery periods and the potential for postoperative complications. 

Declawing is a controversial subject, and the procedure is illegal in most of Europe, parts of Asia and in several U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages declawing unless all other options to discourage scratching have been exhausted.

Throughout the United States, declawing is often performed along with spay or neuter procedures, when cats are between four and six months old, before proper training to discourage scratching has taken place. Declawed cats should remain hospitalized for several days after surgery to receive appropriate pain medications and have the surgery sites monitored. Once the cat is ready to go home, she will likely need additional pain medications, special litter that won’t stick to the surgical sites, and days or weeks of restricted activity.

Luckily, you can avoid putting your cat through a painful procedure but still nix his itch to scratch, as there are plenty of other ways to address the problem:

Clip kitty’s claws: The easiest (and most inexpensive) option is to keep your cat’s claws short. Trimming every week or two won’t prevent scratching behaviors, but it will minimize the damage done to your home.

Consider covers: Soft Paws® are plastic nail caps that are designed to fit over each nail, covering their sharp points and preventing damage. They are temporary, and will need to be reapplied every four to six weeks. They
can be put on at home, but many pet parents choose to have their veterinarian apply them.

Tricks for training: Teach your cat to distinguish “good” scratch surfaces from the family furniture. Provide vertical surfaces like scratching posts and horizontal surfaces like corrugated cardboard scratchers. Entice
your cat to the scratching posts with catnip and reward appropriate scratching behaviors with treats. Discourage cats from scratching inappropriate items by using Sticky Paws® or double-sided tape to cover them.

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