A declaw is a surgical procedure performed on cats by which the last digit of each front toe is removed, thereby eliminating the patient’s claws permanently. The back claws are almost always left untouched. It is best to perform a declaw when the patient is 5-6 months old, as younger cats recover significantly faster than older ones. Most veterinarians discourage the declawing of older cats, as they tend to recover slowly, and often experience recurrent pain from the procedure. Additionally, we recommend that declawed cats be kept indoors, as their main means of defending themselves has been removed with their claws.
At Plaistow-Kingston Animal Medical Center, we are pleased to perform declaws via the use of modern C02 surgical laser technology. This technology offers many advantages to the traditional scalpel. As it cuts, the surgical laser automatically seals small blood vessels and nerve endings around the cut, causing less bleeding and pain for the patient, as well as a reduced recovery time. As with traditional declaws, all patients are placed under general anesthesia during the procedure.
Most declaw patients will need to spend 1-2 days in the hospital following the procedure. The first week of recovery is absolutely essential to proper healing and adjustment. Movement is restricted and pain medication is administered for a full 7 days. A small bit of blood-spotting is normal on the toes. Sutures from the procedure will usually dissolve completely within 14-21 days.
Although difficult, once home, owners should do everything possible to restrict their cats’ activity–especially jumping–as this can lead to rupture of the healing toes, and require further treatment/expense, as well as additional pain for the patient. Care should be taken in observing the cat, making sure there is no chewing or excessive grooming of the toes or sutures, as this can again lead to rupture.
Until healing is complete (usually 14-21 days), the cat should be kept indoors, and the litter box filled with shredded newspaper or a non-granular litter (such as Yesterday’s News), to prevent the packing of litter into the healing toes, which can also lead to rupture and/or infection.
It is normal for a cat to limp or favor a paw for a week or two following a declaw. If this behavior stops then starts again, please contact the hospital.
Additional symptoms to report to your veterinarian include:
- Heavy bleeding, beyond the light spotting which is normal.
- Swelling of the toes, foot or leg.
- Discharge or foul odor from the toes.
- Loss of appetite.
- Any other noticeable changes in your cat’s behavior.