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Declawing your cat

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Declawing your cat is an elective surgical procedure in which the claws are removed from the front paws of your cat to prevent damage to your house and furnishings. Declawing has become a controversial issue over the last several years, so be sure to discuss the procedure with your veterinarian before deciding whether or not to declaw your cat.

Declaw surgery is best performed on kittens or young cats because healing is generally quicker and more complete in younger animals.  While the cat is under general anesthesia, a scalpel or laser is used to remove the entire nail and nail bed of the front claws.  The small incisions are closed with surgical adhesive or absorbable sutures.  Usually, the cat is hospitalized for a day or two, and your vet may prescribe pain medications for a few days.  Kittens are usually "back to normal" within a few days.

In addition to administering any prescribed medications, caring for your cat during the first week or two after surgery includes using paper or dust-free litter (eg, pellets) in the litterbox, restricting your cat's activity, and watching for signs of bleeding or other complications.

Granular or clumping litter should not be used for a few weeks because litter granules can become imbedded in the surgical sites and delay healing or cause infection.  If your cat refuses to use paper or pelleted litter by itself, then check with your vet.  Your vet may recommend adding a small amount (1/4 cup) of regular litter that has been sifted or shaken to remove any clay dust.

Discourage your cat from jumping up on furniture and countertops during the first week after surgery. If you find your cat up high somewhere, help it down. Your cat can injure the surgical sites when it jumps down and lands on its front paws.

Notify your vet if your cat's paws appear swollen; if your cat has difficulty walking after 4-5 days at home; or if you notice any changes in your cat's general health, behavior, or appetite.  If an incision does break open, the blood should clot quickly.  Contact your vet if bleeding continues.  Do not use any topical medications without first consulting your vet.

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