Laser Declawing, Explained


Declawing cats has gotten a bad rap, with a number of communities considering banning the procedure. But what about laser declawing? This method of removing cat’s claws is touted by some as more humane than traditional declawing surgeries. So is it?

Not so much, said Louise Murray, the director of medicine at the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “The difference is that instead of using a metal surgical blade, [the vet] uses a laser to cut the tissue. It’s like using a lightsaber instead of a sword,” Murray told Paw Nation.
But whether it’s done by laser or by scalpel, declawing is a painful procedure that removes the last joint of a cat’s toes, she said. The term “declawing,” makes it sound gentler than it is. “It really should be called digit amputation,” she added. “There is no way to make this not be a painful surgery.Besides the pain of the procedure itself, cats can suffer from complications long after they’ve healed. They may feel phantom pain in their missing toes, or develop neuromas, swelling on the nerves that were severed during the surgery. And, Murray said, declawed cats often become moody and aggressive, and can turn to biting — either because they’re experiencing pain, or feel defenseless without claws, or both.

Letting your cat keep its claws doesn’t mean your furniture is doomed. Murray offered some tips for training your cat to scratch in appropriate places:

– If you’re bringing a new cat or kitten home, introduce her to scratching posts right off the bat, before she develops furniture-scratching habits that can be hard to break.
– Give your cat a variety of scratching surfaces to test out: horizontal scratching pads and vertical scratching posts, made of carpet, sisal, and cardboard.
– If you’re watching your wallet, you might want to try making a scratching post yourself. “Be a little patient, and give them some different options,” Murray says.
– If your kitty already sharpens her claws on your sofa, try covering the furniture with double-sided tape, at least temporarily, while she gets used to using her new scratching posts instead. Clip your cat’s claws on a regular basis.
– If she’s not used to it, start by trimming two or three claws and then giving her a treat. Gradually work up to trimming all her toes. “If you keep [claws] pretty short, it’s hard for them to do much damage,” said Murray.
– If you’re still dead-set on having a cat without nails, consider adopting a shelter cat that’s already been declawed, instead of subjecting another animal to the painful surgery.
– “That way [you] are saving a life and providing a homeless cat with a family,” said Barbara Williamson, a spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society, which operates the nation’s largest no-kill pet sanctuary and discourages declawing

It may take a bit more work to train your cat to use his claws appropriately, but the effort is well worth it, Williamson told Paw Nation. “Pets tend to ‘untidy’ a person’s life. There is automatically going to be some more dirt and mess. The payoff, however, is enormous,” she said. Compared to the love a cat gives you, “How important is that perfect sofa, really?”



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