Declawing a cat is a controversial procedure that involves surgically removing a cat’s claws. While some pet owners believe this makes their home safer and their furniture less prone to scratching, declawing has serious animal welfare implications. Many vets and animal advocates argue that declawing is unethical and can cause long-term physical and psychological problems for cats.
If you are considering declawing your cat, it’s important to understand what the procedure entails as well as the associated risks and costs. This article provides an overview of declawing, including the average cost, what the procedure involves, potential alternatives, and key factors to consider before making a decision.
What is “Declaw”?
Declawing, also known as onychectomy, is an elective and permanent surgical procedure that removes a cat’s claws by amputating the end bones of the cat’s toes. The amputation involves cutting through tendons, ligaments, and nerves to remove the entire last bone segment of each toe.
While some people mistakenly believe that declawing just removes the nails, it is in fact an invasive amputation procedure. The surgery is typically performed on kittens around 4-6 months old using a scalpel, guillotine clipper or laser.
How Much Does It Cost to Declaw a Cat?
The cost to declaw a cat varies depending on:
- Location – Prices range higher in major metro areas
- Type of procedure – Laser declawing costs more than scalpel or clipper methods
- Veterinary clinic – Prices vary between basic and luxury clinics
- Age of cat – Kittens are cheaper than adults to declaw
- Complications – Any post-surgical complications raise the total price
On average, cat declawing costs between $600-$1,800 per cat. Here’s a breakdown of the typical costs:
- Initial exam – $50-$150
- X-rays or tests – $80-$250
- Anesthesia – $50-$150
- Surgery – $300-$1,000
- Medications – $50-$200
- E-collar – $10-$20
- Potential overnight stay – $80-$100
So if you declaw two front paws using clippers, with no complications, expect to pay $600-$1,000. Using a laser will be at the higher end. Additional paws, complications, or a luxury clinic can raise the costs above $1,500.
Some veterinarians offer payment plans if the upfront cost is unaffordable. Additionally, pet insurance can offset 70-90% of medical bills when the right plan is in place before the declaw procedure.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Cat Declawing
Cat owners must weigh the potential pros and cons before deciding about this controversial surgery.
Pros of Cat Declawing
- Prevents destruction of furniture or carpet from scratching
- Avoids injuries to people with bleeding disorders or weak immune systems
- Possibly improves relationship with cat if previous scratching caused issues
- Stops transmission of some parasites under the claws
Cons of Cat Declawing
- Surgical risks from anesthesia and infection
- Often causes chronic pain and permanent injuries
- Litter box avoidance from painful paws touching litter
- Increased biting and aggression
- Permanently handicaps cat’s abilities to climb, hunt, and defend themselves
- Behavior problems from increased stress and changes to paws
- Significantly higher lifelong medical costs from complications
Most vets and animal experts agree the cons outweigh the pros except in very rare medical cases. Cat scratching is better managed through proper training, trimming nails, and providing appropriate outlets.
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What Is The Process Of The Declaw Procedure?
The declaw surgery involves the removal of a cat’s claws and is performed under general anesthesia, ensuring that the cat remains fully unconscious throughout the procedure. The following steps are usually taken by veterinarians to perform this surgery:
- Prep the paws: The fur around the cat’s paws is shaved, and the skin is scrubbed and sterilized to create a clean surgical site.
- Apply tourniquet: A tourniquet band is wrapped around each toe to reduce bleeding during the amputation process. This helps minimize potential complications.
- Amputate last bone: Using a scalpel, guillotine trimmer, or laser, the veterinarian amputates the final segment of the cat’s toe, which includes both the bone and the claw. This ensures the complete removal of the claw.
- Close incisions: The soft tissue surrounding the amputation site is sutured closed to promote proper healing and minimize the risk of infection.
- Bandage paws: Pressure bandages are applied to the paws to provide support and protect the incisions from reopening. This step is crucial for preventing post-operative complications.
- Provide post-op care: After the surgery, the cat is monitored and allowed to recover overnight at the veterinary clinic. Pain medication is administered to ensure the cat’s comfort. Detailed at-home care instructions are provided to the owner, including information on wound care and limitations during the recovery period. Stitches are typically removed 10-14 days later.
It is important to note that most veterinarians only declaw the front paws, although in some cases, all four paws may be declawed. Declawing the back paws is uncommon. The duration of the surgery can range from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of paws being declawed.
Important Factors to Take into Account Regarding the Moral Implications of Cat Declawing
Declawing is a controversial procedure that many cat owners consider for convenience. However, there are several ethical reasons why this practice is highly debated. Here are some important points to consider:
- It’s amputation surgery: Declawing involves the removal of part of each toe bone, permanently altering the cat’s anatomy. This is a major surgical procedure, not simply a nail trim.
- Risks short and long-term pain: Most cats experience post-operative pain after declawing. Moreover, it can lead to lasting issues such as arthritic joint pain and phantom limb pain.
- Reduces cat’s quality of life: Declawed cats may face difficulties with pain and mobility, impacting their ability to engage in activities like jumping and climbing. Additionally, declawing takes away their primary defense mechanism.
- It’s banned in many places: Due to welfare concerns, declawing is illegal in over 25 countries and an increasing number of cities within the United States.
- Declawed cats often surrendered: Research indicates that up to 25% of declawed cats may end up being surrendered to shelters when problems arise after the surgery. This further adds to the stress these cats experience.
Given the multitude of humane alternatives and increased awareness about the lifelong impact of declawing on cat welfare, the procedure is becoming increasingly controversial and stigmatized. It is advisable to have a detailed conversation with your vet, conduct thorough research, and carefully consider if declawing aligns with your ethics before subjecting your cat to such a surgery.
Safer Options Instead of Declawing
Here are some humane alternatives to stop a cat from destructive scratching:
To prevent cats from engaging in destructive scratching, there are several humane alternatives that cat owners can consider:
- Get claws trimmed: Regularly grooming and trimming the sharp tips of a cat’s claws every 2-3 weeks can help minimize the damage caused by scratching.
- Use nail caps: Applying vinyl caps over a cat’s claws provides a protective barrier, preventing them from scratching surfaces. These caps are safe and temporary, allowing the claws to grow naturally underneath.
- Give scratching posts: Providing appropriate vertical and horizontal scratching posts gives cats an outlet for their natural scratching behavior. Cats can stretch, exercise, and maintain their claws on these designated surfaces.
- Deter bad spots: To discourage cats from scratching furniture or other undesirable areas, using deterrents like foil or double-sided tape can be effective. Cats dislike the sound and feel of these materials, which can redirect their scratching behavior to more appropriate locations.
- Train your cat: Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats or praise, can help train cats to use specific scratching spots. Whenever they scratch in the desired areas, reward them, reinforcing the behavior you want to encourage.
- Address stressors: Identifying and minimizing sources of stress in a cat’s environment is crucial to reducing destructive scratching. Cats may scratch excessively due to anxiety, territorial issues, or changes in their surroundings. By providing a calm and stable environment, stress-related scratching can be minimized.
- Increase playtime: Regular interactive play sessions with toys can help keep cats mentally stimulated and physically active. By providing sufficient playtime, cats are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors out of boredom or excess energy.
- Try calming sprays: Feline pheromone sprays, available in pet stores, emit scents that can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation in cats. Using these sprays in areas where cats tend to scratch can deter them from engaging in destructive behavior.
- Deworm and Remove Flea on your cat for less risk with transmission of some parasites.
Read more: Are Cat Litter Boxes Recyclable?
5 FAQs About the Cost of Declawing Cats
Here are answers to 5 frequently asked questions about the cost of getting a cat declawed:
1. Does pet insurance cover declawing?
Most pet insurance plans do not cover elective procedures like declawing that are not medically necessary. Declawing is generally considered a cosmetic procedure, so insurance does not apply. Always check your specific policy.
2. Is declawing cheaper for kittens?
Declawing kittens under 6 months old is generally cheaper than declawing adult cats. The surgery may be priced at $50-$150 less per kitten. Kittens also recover faster. However, many vets ethically oppose declawing juvenile cats.
3. Can I get discounts on the cost?
Some vet clinics offer package deals if declawing multiple cats at once, or bundle the surgery cost with spay/neuter. Ask your vet if any discounts or payment plans are available. But steer clear of budget clinics offering suspiciously cheap declawing.
4. Should I declaw just the front paws?
Declawing only the front paws costs less, around $200 on average. But this doesn’t prevent a cat from scratching with their hind paws. Doing all 4 paws deepens costs. Think carefully before choosing partial declaw surgery.
5. Can I declaw my cat myself at home?
Never attempt to remove a cat’s claws at home. Declawing requires surgical precision to avoid nerve damage and bleeding. Leave this very delicate procedure to licensed veterinary professionals only.
- Declawing a cat is an elective procedure costing $100-$600+ to surgically amputate a cat’s claws by removing the final bone segment from each toe.
- Beyond the initial surgery fee, costs add up for anesthesia, post-op pain control, medical supplies and potential overnight monitoring.
- Declawing permanently removes a cat’s claws. It is not a simple nail trim, but toe amputation surgery altering a cat’s anatomy for life.
- Many vets and welfare advocates strongly oppose declawing except for absolute medical necessity. It carries risks of short and long-term pain, mobility issues, reduced quality of life and behavioral problems.
- Safer declawing alternatives exist like regular nail trims, cat-friendly furniture sprays, scratching posts and plastic caps for claws. These are much cheaper and don’t remove claws.
- Given the serious ethical concerns, potentially painful lifelong impacts on cats and availability of humane alternatives, pet owners are increasingly avoiding declawing surgery as an elective procedure.
Carefully weigh the multi-faceted considerations around declawing before making any decision about subjecting your beloved cat to this permanent, controversial and costly surgery.