My goal today is not to convert cat owners who are anti-declaw but rather to offer another option for cat owners who have decided to declaw.
As I’ve shared with you, the new kitten in my home is my first indoor-only cat. I welcomed her with my mind open about whether to have her declawed. I have trimmed her nails weekly since she’s been with me. I have set aside areas specifically for scratching. And I have redirected her scratching from my carpet and furniture to her scratching posts. Despite all this, I ultimately decided to have her declawed. I didn’t make the decision lightly. But I felt that her bond with all members of our family would improve if we weren’t feeling resentment over a growing list of property destruction and leg wounds caused by her claws.
I consider myself competent at declawing cats, but was curious about the laser method. I researched this method extensively and ultimately chose a local veterinarian with years of experience doing laser declaws.
The vet was nice enough to let me watch the procedure. The most remarkable part was the lack of blood. The laser cauterizes the tiny blood vessels as it cuts. In a small, young cat there is no need for placement of a tourniquet, which can potentially cause nerve damage during a traditional declaw.
I held my kitten as she recovered from anesthesia. There was such little blood that her feet didn’t need bandaging. As she woke up, I saw no shaking or discomfort. She snuggled against me in her blanket until she could walk. She immediately bore her full weight on her feet. Later that afternoon, she did want to chew at one paw, so we put a bandage there for several hours. Her pain control included an injection and a take-home medication to be administered every 12 hours for several days.
As a veterinarian, I have the distinct advantage of being trained to recognize pain in animals. Heart rate, breathing pattern, breathing rate and body posture all can change at times of stress or pain. But as my kitten snuggled in my lap 12 hours after her laser declaw, she had a normal heart rate and a slow, even breathing pattern. She was curled up comfortably.
I won’t deny that my kitten went through an elective surgery that caused her discomfort so she could conform better to our human lifestyle. But for my family, laser declaw was the right option. As I watch my cat run around the house days after the operation, I find it improbable that she will suffer long-term negative health results.
As I researched declawing, I saw claims that declawed cats are less likely to use a litter box and more likely to bite or have behavior problems. These statements appear to be mostly anecdotal, as I was unable to find peer-reviewed research to support these claims. As with so many animal topics that evoke strong emotional responses, I recommend that cat owners considering declawing weigh the pros and cons within their household situations and gather as much information before making a decision.
For my family, my cat and me, our decision was the right one.