Posted on June 19, 2015 by Pamela Merritt

Of all the cats in all the world, my friend chose the cat she renamed Bob.He’d been at the shelter for a while, because he’d lost his ears to frostbite, his tail to an accident, and all his claws to a careless owner and an unscrupulous (in my opinion) veterinarian.

I’m being rather harsh about declawing because it’s a harsh thing to do to any cat, but there’s no possible excuse for doing all four feet, is there? I keep hearing vets only do it because “it keeps the cat in their home” but what happened to Bob’s home? Where is that owner and that vet now?

Because what they did not only contributed to his losing that home, it deeply undercut his chances of getting another.

And so, after wandering the streets unable to defend himself or fend for himself, he starved, was frostbitten and maimed and miserable, and wound up in a haven that took care of him but also had trouble moving him on.

The declawing decision did not work out well for Bob.

Here’s some of the challenges of the declawed cat, and what we can do about them:

Being in pain

Bob is actually one of the lucky ones, because he does not seem to be in constant, chronic pain. Now that’s he’s settled in, he’s affectionate and much more relaxed, even with my friend’s other, older cats. That’s a great thing.

Little Big Cat notes that:

Declawing is an extremely painful procedure. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), “Physically, regardless of the method used, onychectomy causes a higher level of pain than spays and neuters. Patients may experience both adaptive and maladaptive pain; in addition to inflammatory pain, there is the potential to develop long-term neuropathic or central pain if the pain is inadequately managed during the perioperative and healing periods.”

If you read how long and how delicately the pain needs to be handled for the first two weeks, we realize very few cats get this kind of dedicated care. This, in turn, increases their odds of developing severe and chronic pain.

Look out for lameness (Little Big Cat notes that if both paws hurt, the cat will not limp,) a “mincing” walk or one paw being held up for too long, a grimace as a habitual expression, sitting so that their toes drape over the side of objects, and/or a reluctance to have their feet handled. Decreased activity and appetite are also signs of pain in the declawed cat.

Dr. James S. Gaynor, a veterinary pain management specialist, has created a protocol to help declawed cats in pain.

Increased aggression

There’s a number of factors which can increase a cat’s aggression once they are declawed. Pain, of course, is one. But it also makes a great many cats feel defenseless.

So many declawed cats become biters. They can be touchy about their boundaries and defensive when approached. Making sure they have a safe place to call their own can help them feel secure.

Supply what’s missing

Gentle massage and helping them stretch out the declawed legs can help them feel more normal. Without claws to help themselves anchor for a good stretch, their instincts are thwarted and their muscles and tendons can remain contracted.

This is also an excellent way to keep tabs on their condition. If last week they let us touch them, but this week they are reluctant, we know something has changed for the worse in their condition.

Aware of arthritis

Declawed cats are very prone to developing arthritis early. Lack of movement, paw injury, and being unable to use their bodies in a normal way all contribute to a high rate of joint problems.

In my post, Cats and Arthritis, I discuss several nutritional supplements I’ve used to help cats. Since there’s no downside to adding these items to our cat’s diet, it’s a good idea to start our cat on them right away. Warding off these ill effects is just as important as treating them when they show up.

Inform the vet of the chronic condition

Make a point of letting our vet know we don’t think this is an ethical procedure, and that we consider this cat one who needs some extra attention and care as needed.

We want our cat’s medical help to be as caring and concerned as possible, and it starts with letting our vet know how we feel. If our cat is in pain, urge them to check out Dr. Gaynor’s treatment protocol for help with treatment.

Be gentle with corrections

If this cat does bite or act defensively, it’s important that we don’t over-react and increase their sense of vulnerability.

Saying “ow” and trying to avoid fast movements and raised voices as a result of their move will help this cat calm down and start to build a relationship with us.

Declawed cats come to rescue with a lot of extra burdens. If we are able to lift even some of them, we are doing these cats a great favor. They need special handling and understanding.

But, like Bob, they can have a happier ending than their beginning was.

Here’s more ideas to help declawed cats.

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