Your Pet's Health - Declawing of Domestic Cats

AVMA policy

Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).

The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:

  • Scratching is a normal feline behavior, is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and is used for claw conditioning ("husk" removal) and stretching activity.
  • 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 or long 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 1 to 2 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 in occurrence, there are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection, and pain. If onychectomy is performed, appropriate use of safe and effective anesthetic agents and the use of safe peri-operative analgesics for an appropriate length of time are 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 euthanatized, or more readily relinquished, released, or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered.
  • There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.

What is involved with a declaw surgery?

  • Declawing is the surgical removal of the nail and the bone of the third digit of the cat's toe.
  • Your pet will need to be anesthetized for this procedure.
  • Patients for a declaw surgery are dropped off at hospital between 8:00am and 8:30am the morning of the scheduled surgery.
  • Declaw patients will stay overnight at our hospital and will be ready to go home the next day, please call prior to pickup.
  • You will directed to withhold food 12 hours prior (8pm the night before) and water 2 hours prior (6am the morning of) to their surgery.
  • A preoperative exam is preformed and we also recommend a pre-anesthesia blood screening prior to the surgery to reduce the anesthesia risk.
  • The technicians monitor your cat during and post-surgery for the rest of the day. We will also examine your cat's paws prior to going home the next morning
  • Your cat's paws might be sensitive for several days after the surgery, but will usually be back to normal after a couple of weeks.
  • You will need to use shredded newspapers or Yesterday's News litter for at least 5 days after the surgery.

How much does a declaw surgery cost?

  • The cost of a declaw surgery depends on your cat's age and weight, if we are doing the 2 front paws or all 4 paws, if you choose to have a pre-anesthesia blood screening done and if you want pain medication given.
  • If the declaw is done at the same time as another surgery, such as a neuter or spay, the overall cost is less than if done separately.

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