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24 July, 2015
  Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, turtles & rabbits
 
Clinical Research - Cats 
 
DECLAWING CAT  SURGERY
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
First written: Dec 21, 2009
Update: 24 July, 2015
 

On Dec 18, 2009, I agreed to an interview by Ms Amanda Wong, Media Journalist from the Straits Times Razor TV, www.razortv.com.sg.



Here are her questions:

1. How is declawing done?
2. What are the reasons for it?
3. Is it harmful to the animal?
4. Are there many people who request for declawing to be done to their cats? Who are these people? How many to date? Is there an increase?
5. What is your personal view towards it? Why do you choose to provide this service?

Answers:

1. Surgery under general anaesthesia - remove the 3rd toe bone (phalanx). An illustration was given. Now, there are video clips of a cat being declawed in the webpage. These are NOT cases from Toa Payoh Vets but it would appear to be since it was included in the webpage.

It was taken from the internet. I told Ms Amanda Wong that I had not done any declawing surgery for the past 9 years and I would not the appropriate interviewee. Most likely, she could not find other vets to talk about declawing as activists deem declawing "cruel" and so no vets will want to be interviewed.

According to "My Paper", 6/10 vets reported an increase in request for declawing. Certainly, I do not have any request for declawing in the last 9 years as regards my area of practice.

2. Two reasons I would do declawing as a last resort and after asking the owners to wait 1-2 weeks to re-consider. These are damage to property and injury to family and other pets. These are the two of various reasons cats are euthanased or sent to the animal shelter where they may be put to sleep.

3. Besides anaesthetic risks, there may be post-operation complications like bleeding and infection. As in any surgery, asepsis, antibiotics and pain-killers prevent most complications.

Th
ere is the worry from cat lovers that the cat will have behavioural problems like being more aggressive.

However, there are owners who say that the cat becomes more gentle. The big worry is that the cat can't defend itself when attacked. This is unlikely in an indoor cat.

4. Nobody has requested for cat declawing in the past 9 years in my practice. I can only remember one case where I advised buying a scratching post and clipping the cat nails regularly and the owner did not continue further. In fact, there is a trend for younger owners not to declaw.

A Willetton Rose?  October 2009, Perth, Australia. Toa Payoh Vets5. My personal view is that I will perform the surgery only when the cat-owner relationship is strained such that the cat will be sent to the animal shelter where it will be put to sleep or the cat owner will need to get the cat put to sleep.

Failure in training e.g. use of a solid scratching post, anti-clawing spray, nail caps, food treats for positive reinforcement training, balloons, noises, water guns, noisy paper wrapping over furniture and weekly nail clipping during the 1-2 week cooling off period.

If the owner still can't resolve the problem, declawing is preferred to euthanasia. Many young children feel distressed when the cat is euthanased due to parents having to do it if they don't have declawing as an option. In such instances, I will perform the surgery.

I had told Amanda Wong, I do not have any declawing surgeries in the last 9 years. I advised training of the cat. 

Training needs time, patience and perseverance.

Get a strong scratching post for the new kitten. Train it to use the scratching post or give it an unwanted piece of carpet to declaw.

Firm verbal commands when the kitten starts clawing furniture and give treats on success may be effective if done consistently and at an early age.

C
lip nails weekly for older cats.  Do not grab, grip or play tug-of-war with kittens as they may scratch out of defence.

"You have got the wrong vet to interview. You need to interview a vet who performs such surgeries recently," I said to her. She said she was interviewing other vets. She asked me whether declawing was a recent American concept.

I said declawing had been practised for some 40 years or more but nowadays the younger generation in Singapore does not favour declawing as it is cruel. I was surprised that she said that there was an increase in demand for cat declawing.

She asked why I did not have any cases since a newspaper dated Dec 14, 2009 said that 6/10 vets interviewed reported an increase in demand. "Maybe it is the type of cat owners in Toa Payoh and the surrounding neighbourhood," I said. "My clients do not buy expensive cats or I don't get their cats for declawing. I don't know."      

This is one of the subjects that vets don't want to be interviewed if they perform declawing as the animal rights activists will put them in the "declawing hall of shame" and there is one such website.
http://www.declawhallofshame.com/
It would not be good for the veterinary business. 

However, many cat owners need to be educated that regular nail clipping and the provision of a strong scratching post or training the cat to use the
scratching post is the possible solution to destructive damage of expensive sofas, cupboards and curtains or scratching injuries to children and pets.

I don't do declawing on demand. In agreeing to Ms Amanda Wong's interview, I risk getting named and shamed by animal rights activists.

They do name vets in "the declawing hall of shame and claw pimps". Such webpages do exist e.g.
http://www.declawhallofshame.com/. Cat owners may avoid such clinics. 

It is best to bring out the declawing issues in the open to educate the younger Singapore cat owners as to the alternatives to declawing.

Animal rights activists must understand that cats are family members and if the cats have to be put to sleep or sent to the animal shelter to be put to sleep, declawing may be needed to save the cat's life.  

Lotus Flower. Singapore. Toa Payoh VetsUpdate on December 21, 2009:
Ms Amanda Wong had asked me during the interview as to whether cat declawing is an American way of thinking and a new idea. I said that declawing had been done by cat owners from other nationalities and that it was done more than 40 years ago.

After the interview and saying that I did not have cat declawing surgeries for the past nine years, the Divine powers from above sent me this case on Dec 21, 2009 to test me apparently.

On a fine sunshine Monday morning of Dec 21, 2009 when I thought I would go for some photography, I had an appointment at 10 am for a cat neuter. The Caucasian American woman sent her 6-month-old cat in for neutering as she did not want the cat to urine-mark the apartment. "He produces a strong urine smell if I don't neuter him," she cited the reason for neutering.

At least 10 red scratch marks from 1 cm to 3 cm lined her right wrist and hand. This cat had scratched her. "My son has cat scratches on his face. One time, his tongue and lips were scratched," she said.

"Why would the cat scratch him?" I could not understand. "Well, he held onto to the cat when the cat wanted to get away." I did not comment although it seemed to me that there was some rough play from the boy and the cat scratched him to get away.  

She continued, "When this cat wanted attention past midnight, he would scratch the side of the bed to wake me up to play. I really needed the sleep." She was more concerned about her son's facial injuries and asked me with solemn eyes, "What is your personal view about declawing?"

"I have not performed declawing for the past nine years," I said. "I will ask owners to  take a week to review as declawing is deemed a cruel act to cats. Have you talked to your husband and family members?"

"Are you able to perform declawing?' the lady wondered whether I was up to scratch since I said I had not done one for the past 9 years. Whether I was competent enough to do it.  "It is a simple surgery, unlike liver, heart or stomach surgery," I said. "You need to discuss the declawing issues with your husband and family first."

Her husband whom I had not met had not minded the cat waking him past midnight to play. She went home and phoned me later to say that her husband was against declawing.

This was one American who was against declawing. Declawing appeared to be an "American culture" as apparently stated by another vet interviewed by Ms Amanda Wong. This was a strange episode, as if the Divine Powers had sent me a case to test my handling of a prospective declawing case and to show me that not all Americans want their cats declawed. 
 

P.S. My December 18, 2009 interview by Ms Amanda Wong of 2 vets and 1 cat owner is at:





http://www.razor.tv/video/688828/i-declaw-cats-because-declawing-cats-pt-1


In 2015, the estimated cost of anaesthesia, declawing of the front paws of the cat, medication and 2-day in-patient observation is around $350.
 


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