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Cat Owners Debate Declawing Issue
By Marcela Cartagena
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When indoor cats destroy furniture and scratch people, owners know that declawing will take care of the problem, but many may wonder whether this medical procedure is too extreme.
"Declawing is not painful for cats, when performed at a young age,"said Dr. Kent Stauffer, a clinical instructor with Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "It is not traumatic for them and it does not affect their behavior as is often said."
Stauffer said the 10-minute surgical procedure is done under general anesthesia with pain medication administrated during and after the procedure.
Declawing is not recommended for cats who live outdoors, because it decreases their ability to climb trees, defend themselves or hunt.
Cats usually get their front feet declawed. Declawing all four feet is not recommended, unless it is extremely necessary.
Generally, the healing process lasts about seven days, but it will depend upon the cat's age.
"Younger cats heal much faster, that is why it is preferable to declaw cats that are 1 year old or less. They also recover their normal mobility quickly," Stauffer said. "Older cats could suffer a little pain and the healing process is slower."
Stauffer said after the medical procedure, cat owners should not let the cat use litter, instead they can use paper shreds.
Since cats usually do not show external signs of pain, the owner must pay attention to the cat's behavior after the procedure. Signs of infection or pain can be clumsy walking, holding a foot up, excessive licking or draining from the foot. If any of these signs are present, the owner should take the cat to the veterinarian immediately.
Alternative medical procedures could resolve problems. Cutting a particular tendon will end the cat's ability to extract its claws.
Another option is placing pieces of plastic over the cat's claws to avoid damage to the furniture. These nail pads are replaced once a month.
"Cats are natural predators," Stauffer said. "That's one of the reasons they scratch furniture in the house. Scratching allows them to test their environment and to sharpen their claws."
Cristina Badea is a graduate student at MSU who had her cat declawed a couple of weeks ago and no regrets the decision.
"I think it's inhumane. It's painful to see my cat not being able to do things cats naturally do," she said. "One day I took him outside the house and he tried to climb a tree. He fell on the ground. I felt sorry for him."
Contact: Dr. Kent Stauffer, (601) 325-1357