About Declawing and Tenectomy

A cat’s claws are not comparable to a human fingernail, as some people may believe, but are in fact part of the first bone in the cat’s toe from which the claw grows. “Declawing” is performed by not only removing the claw, but also the first gone in each of the cat’s toes. Whether by laser, scalpel or even a large toenail clipper-like apparatus, declawing removes the cat’s claws, bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and joint capsules. A comparable surgery on a human would involve amputating each finger or toe at the first joint. One can imagine the excruciating pain, not to mention the handicap and future complications, this surgery would cause.

Likewise a “tenectomy” (or “tendonectomy”) is sometimes used as an alternative to declawing, but is equally cruel. A tenectomy involves severing the tendon that extends and retracts the cat’s claws, leaving the claws permanently extended. The cat loses practical use of the claws and is unable to scratch properly. Thus, the cat is unable to exercise his or her paws, limbs, shoulders and back. Also, as the cat cannot properly sharpen his claws, the claws become rough and overgrown.

Future Issues and Complications

Animal Rescue, Inc. has 35 years of experience with cats. In that time, some people have been stubbornly in favor of declawing, and many of them deny the issues associated with declawing a cat. These individuals are lucky to have cats tolerant enough to be ten and sometimes 20 time amputees without physical or behavioral issues.

Other individuals may have been unknowingly pushed into the declaw procedure, as many veterinarians will group the surgery with the spay or neuter of the cat.

When a dumped cat is brought to us and we find that she’s declawed, we can easily guess the number of issues that led to her abandonment. Here are a few we’ve found with the declawed cats we’ve seen at Animal Rescue, Inc.:

We have found that declawed cats become “biting” cats. That is, because of the removal of their claws, they have no way to protect themselves or simply tell their caretakers they’ve had enough petting/playing/ etc., so they overcompensate by biting. This behavior can be much more serious than scratching, as a cat’s mouth has potent bacteria that can cause severe reactions in the person who was bitten. Cat bites are painful and can become infected and require antibiotics.

In our experience, we’ve noticed that many declawed cats will refrain from using the litterbox. Though research, we’ve found that over time, bone fragments from the declawing surgery will settle in the bottom of the paw, causing painful irritation. In combination with standing on litter, the cat may find the situation too uncomfortable and resort to urinating and/or defecating outside of the litterbox. Because their feet are painful, they will seek out softer places to do their business, such as rugs, sofas and even a bed. There are few remedies to resolve this issue.

In some cases, declawed cats will “over clean” themselves my licking, as they do not have their claws for scratching. This leads to a significant increase in hairballs and vomiting

We have also seen cases of “hypersensitivity” in cats. Having your cat declawed, even as a young kitten, will lead to a forever imbalance in the way she walks. This can lead to a clumsier cat for you and can mean excruciating pain for her. Removal of her claws means that she must compensate by using a different part of her foot for walking. This in part misaligns her spine. Did you ever notice a declawed cat very much enjoying the back scratch you’re giving her, when suddenly she turns around and helplessly swipes or bites you? She’s feeling hypersensitivity. The scratching may feel nice on the surface, but her spine is damaged from years of misalignment and suddenly the pain becomes too much to bear.

Alternatives and Training

Just because your cat isn’t declawed, doesn’t mean you have to live with scratched furniture. Humane alternatives to both declawing and tenectomy include the proper use of tall, sturdy scratching posts, cat “trees,” and scratching pads. Encourage her to use these by placing her on the pad or tree and making scratching motions with her feet. She’ll catch on quickly! Award her great behavior with a few treats or some cat nip.

Every two weeks, trim her nails. You can buy a small cat nail trimmer at most pet supply stores. Remove the hook of her nail, making sure not to trim into the quik, the vein that runs within the vein of the nail. Haven’t trimmed them in awhile? Don’t fret! The quik will recede each time you trim the nail. If her nails are fairly long or thick, you may need to trim a small amount off every week until you get them to the desired length.

We also recommend Soft Claws™ or a comparable brand. These are soft rubber tips you can place on your cat’s claws to prevent unwanted scratching and clawing. They come in fun colors, so take advantage of upcoming holidays by making her nails festive!

Some individuals still tell us the cat claws their furniture. It’s not too difficult to kick that habit with a little patience and training. Buy a few small spray bottles and fill them with 90 percent water and 10 percent vinegar. Now get ready to play sheriff and be sure to get everyone in the family in on the game! Keep a bottle near where she scratches the furniture. When you see Fluffy scratch, give her a squirt without letting her see you (otherwise she’ll just learn to scratch when you’re not around). She’ll hate the water and the taste of the vinegar in her mouth when she’s cleaning it off. We promise it won’t hurt her, even if it gets in her eyes. She’ll learn that bad things happen (getting wet) when she scratches furniture and good things happen (getting treats) when she scratches her post or another appropriate object. Don’t let stereotypes fool you: Cats are smart and trainable! You can further Fluffy’s dislike of furniture scratching by placing some packaging or double-sided tape where she likes to scratch. She’ll hate the feeling. Follow up with the squirt bottle and praise on the post, and she’ll get the idea.

If you have further questions about this topic, please feel free to contact us at (717) 993-3232 or e-mail us here.