National Cat Lover's Month

In recognition of December being National Cat Lover’s Month, let’s talk about one of the most controversial pet topics out there, and something that has recently been banned in the province of BC:  declawing cats.  To some, the act of declawing a cat is the most horrendous form of torture possible, but in some cases, there may be a medical reason why claws need to be removed.  So…keeping the well-being of our feline friends a priority, let’s discuss the facts of this subject.

Declawing, or onychectomy, is the surgical operation to remove the claws by amputation of all or part of the end bones of the animal’s toes.  “Amputation” is a frightening word and, in truth, should be taken very seriously.  Declawing has been banned in BC and may only be done to treat a medical condition such as removing a digital tumor, or treating severe irreversible trauma.  In these cases, it may only be done after careful consideration and discussion with your veterinarian, and as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted, not just to stop the cat from scratching the furniture..

Scratching is, in fact, a normal feline behaviour.  It is a way for cats to mark their territory, condition their claws, and is also a way for them to stretch.  Domestic cats that live primarily outdoors typically do not have the destructive tendencies that indoor cats do.  Full-time indoor cats should be provided with implements for normal scratching behavior, such as scratching posts that are tall enough to allow full stretching and be firmly anchored to provide resistance to scratching.  They should be positively reinforced to use these so they learn to scratch on them and not on your brand new couch!  Claws may be trimmed every 1-2 weeks to prevent injury, as well as destruction to household items.  Another option is synthetic nail covers that may be applied every 4-6 weeks.  There are also products available that help train your cat on where they are allowed to scratch (ie a scratching post and not your furniture). Most cats will respond well to one or more of these options.  It is important to consider these needs when making the decision to own a cat. As with all big decisions, it requires research and education.  Studies have shown that cats that display destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanized, readily relinquished, or abandoned.  These are serious consequences for an animal performing a very normal and natural behaviour.

In rare cases that require onychectomy to treat a medical condition, there are still risks of complications with anesthesia, hemorrhage, infection and pain.  This may go without saying, but after a cat is declawed, consider them a “full-time indoor cat”…forever!  A cat without its claws is at a serious disadvantage in the outside world and can only be let outside when they can be monitored directly. 

As with all controversial topics, educate yourself on the facts and carefully consider all options before formulating an opinion or making a decision.