Back in veterinary school more than 20 years ago, Christianne Schelling first discovered what a declawing surgery entails. Like many people, she’d assumed it simply meant removing the cat’s nails in a way that ensured they wouldn’t grow back. She didn’t realize that because the tissue for each nail is connected to bone, declawing requires removing the last joint on each toe.
“That means 10 separate amputations for the cat’s front paws,” she says, “and 18 if it’s a four-paw declaw.”
As a vet student, she once saw a cat hurling himself against the sides of his cage because of the pain after his declawing. “I swore I would never do a declaw surgery,” Schelling remembers. A few years later, she launched declawing.com, a website that educates cat owners about an often misunderstood surgical procedure.
Most declaws are performed for owners who want to protect their carpet, furniture and other household items from their cat’s penchant for scratching. But once people understand what the surgery involves, Schelling says, they typically decide against such a radical solution. “They say, ‘Oh, I would never do that to my cat!’ ”
Blunt instruments Trimming your feline’s claws every week will limit the damage she can inflict on your furnishings. “It’s a super simple thing to do that can make a huge difference,” Schelling says. Use cat clippers rather than human nail clippers to prevent the nails from fraying and keep them blunter for longer.
To protect her elderly mother’s frail skin from inadvertent scratches, Schelling applied vinyl nail caps to her mom’s cat. “They work by blunting the nail so the cat can still scratch without doing damage,” she says. Nail caps last four to six weeks and can be purchased at pet stores and online.
“But I still recommend that pet owners provide some sort of rough scratching surface for the cat because they love that feel,” says Schelling, “and they will still scratch.”