Declawing- a nail-biting procedure |

Declawing- a nail-biting procedure

Julie Sutor/Special to the Daily

SUMMIT COUNTY- In search of companionship, loyalty and affection, you just adopted a cuddly new kitten. From the moment you brought her home, she has been a source of joy for you and your adoring family. You delight in her exuberance over something as simple as a piece of twine. You heart melts as she purrs against your chest when you’re watching the evening news.

Life as a cat-owner is good – except for the claws.

Due to your new little pal’s incessant scratching, your Mexican-style dining room table now looks more shabby than chic, you can’t ignore the unsightly snags in your linen curtains and you’re afraid your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner will be nothing but shreds by the time basketball season starts.

It’s declawing time, you decide.

But before you sprint to the phone to schedule the soonest possible surgery, you should consider some important issues.

Animal rights advocates contend that declawing, called onychectomy in vet circles, is cruel and is performed for the express benefit of the owner, not the animal.

The procedure was condemned by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in September and was banned outright in West Hollywood. In February, a California legislator introduced a bill that would ban declawing entirely in that state.

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association – also known by its acronym, AVMA – supports declawing of a domestic cat only when the cat can’t be trained not to use its claws destructively.

Onychectomy is the amputation of each front toe at the first joint of a cat’s paw. Initial recovery takes a few weeks, but, according to animal rights group, The Paw Project, even after the surgical wounds have healed, other long-term physical and psychological effects often persist.

According to the Paw Project, short-term and chronic pain, arthritis, joint stiffness and litter-box problems can all result from declawing.

In response to the recent policy actions in California, the AVMA reaffirmed its support of the procedure’s legality. Since destructive clawing behavior can sometimes lead owners to euthanize their cat, said the AVMA’s executive board, the procedure can be a lifesaver.

The AVMA did feel, however, that vets are obligated to provide cat owners with a complete education about onychectomy before they decide to put their cats under the knife.

The AVMA recommends cat owners understand the following points when considering the procedure:

– Scratching is a normal feline behavior, a means for cats to mark their territory and is used for claw conditioning and stretching.

– Owners must provide suitable implements for normal scratching behavior. Examples are scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall enough to allow full stretching, and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching. Cats should be positively reinforced in the use of these implements.

– Appropriate claw care – consisting of trimming the claws every one to two weeks – should be provided to prevent injury or damage to household items.

– Surgical declawing is not a medically necessary procedure for the cat in most cases. While rare, there are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection and pain. If onychectomy is performed, use of safe anesthetic agents and analgesics is imperative. The surgical alternative of tendonectomy is not recommended.

– Declawed cats should be housed indoors.

– Scientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive clawing behavior are more likely to be euthanized, or more readily released or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching is an issue as to whether a cat can remain as a household pet in a home, surgical onychectomy may be considered.

– There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities.

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