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In recent years, popular opinion has shone a light on the pain, recovery, and psychological effects that declawing may have on cats. Chances are, if you’ve brought home a new kitten recently, you’ve been met with this surprisingly heart-wrenching decision: to declaw or not to declaw.

Should I Declaw My Cat?

At the forefront of this debate is a simple question: is it humane? It is an elective procedure that does result in pain and recovery time for the cat, and benefits only the cat’s owner human. Traditional methods require a 1-2 night overnight stay in the animal hospital and recovery time can last between 1-3 weeks, depending on the weight and activity level of the cat. During this time, pain medication should be available to help ease the soreness in the cat’s paws, and traditional litter should be replaced with shredded newspaper. However, after the recovery period, the cat should experience little pain once the incisions have healed, and will continue to enjoy a high quality of life for the remainder of its years.

Does it Require Surgery?

New laser technology has reduced the amount of pain, bleeding, and recovery necessary for declawing operations. Laser declaw operations use a laser rather than a scalpel to disarticulate the third toe bone. There is virtually no bleeding during surgery as the laser cauterizes the wound immediately. This also reduces swelling, and greatly reduces – though does not entirely eliminate – the pain associated with declawing. However, laser declawing can be considerably more expensive, and as it is easier to perform than a traditional clipper declaw, there is a perception that veterinarian or technicians with less experience can perform these surgeries with ease. If you choose a laser declaw method, please consult your doctor and understand who will be performing the operation – and don’t be shy about requesting the most experienced member on staff to complete your cat’s declaw.


Does it Affect my Cat?

There are many myths surrounding behavioral changes brought about by declawing operations. While declawed cats must learn again how to climb and jump onto furniture or their favorite soft surfaces, they can adapt quickly and enjoy the same quality of life they enjoyed prior to the operation. Declawed cats can still catch mice or chase toys, and will use a litter box provided you replace their traditional litter with a soft alternative during their recovery time.

Another belief is that cats that have been declawed cannot defend themselves and should not be allowed outdoors where they can potentially be attacked by predators. This remains true. General consensus among veterinary care professionals is that declawed cats should remain indoors, especially if your cat is prone to climbing trees.


Alternatives to Declawing

There are several alternatives to declawing that you may consider before making the decision. Soft Paws are plastic caps that can be applied to your cat’s claws to prevent scratching and destruction of your furniture, while still allowing the cat to indulge in the behavior, which provides a pleasant psychological release for the animal (you’ll find many declawed cats that still go through the motions of scratching the furniture due to this phenomenon). Additionally, simple training can be effective in diverting your cat’s scratching behavior from undesirable surfaces, such as your sofa or leg, to established “allowable” scratching posts or pads. Consider using catnip or treats to attract your cat to these surfaces when you see scratching behavior occurring. For some cats, simply keeping their nails clipped short is sufficient to deter scratching behavior.

Consider Cat Insurance

Whether or not to declaw your cat is a decision you should make between you, your family, and your veterinarian based on a thorough examination and assessment of your cat.  That being said, having an active cat insurance policy can help you protect your cat, and your wallet, from covered and approved vet bills. Consider taking out a cat health insurance policy today!


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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.