REGINA – After a unanimous vote, veterinarians at Lakewood Animal Hospital have stopped declawing cats, deciding the painful surgery is unethical.
Veterinarian Dr. Marilyn Sthamann says recent studies have revealed more side-effects of the procedure than originally thought.
“I have been a veterinarian for many years, and we had always been comforted by the thought that as long as we did a really wonderful job with the surgery and that post-op they were very comfortable and healed up beautifully, that was the end of the story,” she said. “We realize now, that over time, they are not comfortable to walk. We’re seeing that there’s more arthritis in their feet as they age.”
That arthritis can also spread to their backs.
At the Regina Humane Society, executive director Lisa Koch said declawed cats often exhibit unwanted behaviours as well.
“They can resort to other measures to mark their territory, like urinating, defecating in the home, or biting,” she said.
Koch was pleased to hear about Lakewood’s stance on the surgery. She said, “Scratching is a natural instinct for cats. It conditions their claws, stretches their body and helps them mark territory, both visually and with scent.”
Northgate Animal Hospital is one of many clinics around the city still offering the procedure, but only in extreme circumstances.
“Declawing is the last option, we don’t want to go for that… It’s not what people think. It’s not just cutting the nail,” said veterinarian Dr. Davinder Bath.
The surgery involves cutting a tendon, a nerve, and the outside knuckle of the toe bone off.
Dr. Bath said he encourages clients to try a variety of other methods first, including calming food or pills, or even a tendonectomy. “We cut the tendons, not the claws,” he said. “It’s less painful.”
Then there’s the option of letting your cat scratch things that belong specifically to them.
Besides your typical scratching posts and rubber nail tips, Metro Pet Market recommends having a good nail trimmer and multiple scratch loungers in different areas of the home to keep the cats off the furniture.
Staff members suggest spraying pet-friendly items with cat nip, so cats know they belongs to them, and are safe to scratch.
At the end of the day, Sthamann said any alternative is better than the surgery. “We have to find alternatives to declawing because it isn’t fair to the animals to take those toes away, and have them face a life of pain just for our convenience.”