“Life is rough, so get a pet.”
I got this advice from one of my friends when I had personal life crisis. Apparently I thought it was a cool idea!
Since I am not a dog person, I adopted a kitten from a local shelter last year. I was also told by the same friend that a pet needs plenty of attention from its owner. So I took her advice and made sure to show my love. But, after a while, work became busier, and I was unable to stay on top of all of Achilles’ (my kitten) new habits. I soon became aware that there are certain behaviors that our feline friends are naturally predisposed to do; habits which can’t be stopped with standard training.
In the long list of feline habits, the most familiar and often frustrating for owners like me is ‘scratching’. Scratching is very normal behavior for cats: they usually do it while playing, to show anger, or to fight an enemy. They also need to scratch to keep their claws sharp – which, for cat owners, is twice the annoyance! Whether they require them or not, cats have claws that help them defend themselves in certain situations. But we owners understand that house cats don’t really need them. So we’ve found a solution – de-clawing.
According to a recent study, 28% of cats in the US have been de-clawed for safety purposes – safety for both cat and owner. However, de-clawing is viewed by some as a controversial procedure, and is not advised by most veterinarians in most countries. This made me curious about the procedure: how is it done? How much does it cost? What alternatives to de-clawing are there? Because I did the hard work, you don’t have to: below are all the answers to the questions you didn’t even ask about cat de-clawing.
What is de-clawing?
Scratching is a common natural behavior across the entire feline animal family, and for house cat owners, this can be destructive and frustrating when done inside the house. De-clawing (Onychectomy) is the surgery which removes the claws from the cats. It is essentially an amputation of the bones of the toe.
The procedure consists initially of removing the claws, before the small piece of bone from which the claws grow is then also removed. Otherwise, without this second step, the claws would continue to grow. Removing the bone prevents the claws from growing at all in the future.
Why do you want declaw your cat?
The procedure of de-clawing is quite controversial, and has even been banned in some countries after animal welfare activists successful campaigned that it consisted of animal cruelty. So why are we even considering this process for our beloved pets?
While the surgery can be painful and stressful for the cat, below are some reasons why you may consider de-clawing your cat:
- Cats with claws can easily harm or injure other cats or pets in a multi-pet home. De-clawing removes this risk.
- Diseases that may be carried into the home in the claws can be avoided.
- Children and babies will be safe from accidental scratching or aggression.
- A single cat scratch can be life-threatening if the owner has a skin disease or a heart valve infection.
- New family members or guests will be safe from potential aggression from your pet towards strangers.
- Cats that cannot be trained out of scratching may require de-clawing to avoid permanent damage to furniture, carpets etc.
How does the de-clawing procedure work?
Here are the basic steps to a de-clawing procedure:
- Discover cat’s scratching habit.
- Decide to de-claw.
- Find the surgeon.
- Choose your method of de-clawing, either:
- Guillotine Trim method
- Scalpel Blade method
- Laser or Radiotherapy
- Post-operation treatment and home care.
When is the right time to de-claw your cat?
Before deciding to de-claw, it’s also worth considering when the right time to do this is.
According to vets, de-clawing is easier to do when the cat is younger (although complications are also rare in older cats). Generally speaking, the costs of de-clawing are different, depending on the age of your cat.
Either way, a discussion with your cat’s vet is essential before making the decision to de-claw.
How do you choose the right veterinarian for your cat?
Find a vet is easy, but finding one that fits your budget and treats your pet with respect is not so easy. If you’re looking for the best vet to handle this sensitive operation, here’s a few key steps to follow:
- Call and book an appointment.
- Check how the clinic handles emergencies.
- Read the rules and laws in the application forms.
- Ask your friends and colleagues if they know anything about the clinic.
- Get detailed information about the costs of the surgery.
- Be proactive about your pet’s health.
How much does it cost to de-claw your cat?
When considering the costs of such a procedure, it’s important to know that costs will vary based on the type of procedure you choose to have, the veterinary practice itself, and your pet. The post-operation treatment is also something to be considered as well.
The main variation in costs depends on the type of surgery you plan to have. Here’s a quick summary:
This method is a little painful, but is the cheapest way to ensure that your cat will have no claws in the future. During this procedure, the bones of the toe will be completely removed from the cat’s paw. However, on occasion, this procedure can also cut through the cat’s toe pad as well. The cost ranges from $100-$300 per surgery.
Costs include: anesthesia, sterile clipper, stitches, glues, post-op care, pain medication, antibiotics, hospital fee.
- Takes very little time
- Lowest cost
- Possibility of infection
- No more claw in the future
- Recovery time is longer
This process is also called the excisional method. In this type of surgery, the bones of the toe are removed using a scalpel. This is less painful than the guillotine trim, but requires a well-practised surgeon with a steady hand to perform, hence it is a little more expensive: roughly $200-$500 per surgery, including post-op treatment.
Costs include: sterile clipper, post treatment care, stitches, glues, pain medication, antibiotics, hospital fee.
- Relatively fast operation
- Well-practiced surgeon required
- Mid-end cost
- Recovery time is low
With the laser surgery treatment, the tendons that operate the claws in the cat are removed entirely, but the bones at the root of the claw are retained. This surgery is the least painful of the three options, but is the most expensive, because it requires semi-regular check-ups and trims after the operation. It’s also the most complex surgery, so requires a more experienced vet. The average costs range from $300-$500 per surgery.
Costs Inlcude: laser equipment, pain medications, antibiotics, hospital fee.
- Slowest procedure
- Less bleeding
- Less pain
- No post-treatment bandages
- Highest cost
In addition, you can expect to see some additional costs like, pre-surgery blood tests or a pain relief patch which may cost you around $40-$50 each.
Are there any alternative treatments?
Many of us love our pets so much that we can bear to see them in pain. As such, we may not like the idea of these invasive procedures mentioned above. So are there any ways to curb scratching without de-clawing? Of course there are!
- Always keep your cat’s nails trimmed. Usually your vet will offer to do this on a semi-regular basis.
- Make or buy scratching posts/pads from pet stores.
- Encourage good behavior in your cat by using treats.
- Avoid any physical or oral punishments if the cat has done something wrong. Reward good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior.
- If you are really concerned about your furniture getting wrecked, then you can try to make the furniture look less attractive to your cat. For example, you could cover it with aluminum foil or plastic.
- Nail caps are readily available from many pet stores nowadays. These are small, blunt caps which sits on the end of the cat’s paws. They cost around $20. Companies like Soft Paws sell nail caps, which need replacing every so often. It’s a good temporary solution to use while teaching your cat some better habits.
Those are the best options available to the people who don’t like the surgical methods of declawing. While these alternative options are less invasive and fairly easy, they don’t offer a long-term solution to the problem of scratching. In the end, it’s up to you how you plan to deal with the problem, so that you can cuddle your cute little feline friend without worrying about getting clawed in the face!