One of the most difficult decisions for feline guardians to make is whether they should declaw their cats. Those that consider the procedure often wonder if there are any long term complications or side effects to this commonly done procedure. Declawing cats, in essence, involves removing the last bone of each digit (like removing the end of your finger from the cuticle of your nail on up), so that the germinal layer where the nail grows does not grow back.
This procedure, although simple to perform by most veterinarians, has come under much controversy at times, even so much so that in a few areas of the country, declawing was banned for a while. Of course some of the bigger reasons why cats are declawed are either to cut down on those unwanted scratching behaviors that can certainly cause damage to human skin, including infections such as cat scratch disease, as well as cats scratching furniture, beds or carpeting.
My own feelings are that declawing should be avoided if at all possible in cats. While conventional veterinary experts continue to say that a properly done declawing procedure poses no long term risks or side effects to our beloved felines, I personally have seen both long term emotional as well as physical complications, including even regrowth of nails through the pads years later (if done incorrectly) from these procedures. A certain amount of scratching objects in the home is normal in domestic felines; however, behavior modification techniques such as providing scratching posts with catnip sprinkled on them, as well as shaking a coffee can full of coins when cats start to scratch an unwanted area, can both provide alternatives, and teach the cat not to scratch those valuable items in our home.
There is an excellent book called How to Get Your Cat to Do What You Want by well-known animal behaviorist Warren Eckstein, which offers wonderful behavioral techniques to help a feline guardian avoid putting their cat through the declawing procedure. There are also other alternatives such as Soft Paws, which can be easily applied to most cats’ nails, which literally act as nail caps, again preventing unwanted scratching of both people and furniture.
Natural calming agents such as the Bach Flower Remedy and Be Serene can be helpful in some cases. Comfort Zone with Feliway “plug-in” diffuser and spray can also help deter unwanted scratching of certain furniture or areas.
If these suggestions don’t work, and the feline guardian absolutely finds it necessary to declaw their kitty, I would suggest only doing the front feet (which is what cats scratch the most with), as well as consider some other alternatives to traditional declawing such as tendonectomies, which are less painful to cats and where I have seen cats recover faster, as well as newer laser surgeries now available for the declaw procedure.
No matter which procedure is done, proper pain control, especially in the post operative period with either prescription medications from your veterinarian, such as Metacam or the recent use of the human drug Buprenex should be used as directed and prescribed. Homeopathic medications such as the homeopathic remedies Arnica and Hypericum in 30c potency, (available from health food stores) can also help with post operative declaw pain as well.