As my cousin Karen filled out the stack of adoption forms, her new kitten Rose fussed and pushed the sides of the cardboard take-home box so hard Karen feared she would escape. Karen remembered the shelter volunteer’s straightforward warning: “This one’s a terror”. But when they first met, Rose’s baby meow and big adorable eyes made her look like a perfect angel— until she was placed in the box for the trip home. But Karen still insisted on making her part of the family, so the volunteer explained that she should prepare herself to patiently work through some undesirable behaviors. But Karen wasn’t worried. For an experienced cat mom, Rose’s reenactment of Gremlins didn’t seem too threatening.
With the warning in mind, Karen watched carefully while Rose inspected her new home. Rose was thrilled to ditch her lonesome shelter kennel for all this new, interesting space to run around. She excitedly hopped back and forth between bar stools and bounced on the couch, occasionally leaving a tiny path of claw marks behind.
Karen couldn’t bear to burst Rose’s bubble by scolding her into calming down. She wanted Rose to have the freedom to indulge in her daredevil impulses, but her destructive tendencies needed to be addressed. Although declawing was once a popular practice among many well-meaning cat owners years ago, Karen knew there are now many healthier, safer alternatives which do not involve permanently altering the paw. She decided declawing was not an option for Rose because the procedure can cause post-operative pain, encourage cats to bite people, and significantly hinder their self-defense abilities. In some cases the claw tries to grow back, causing an extremely painful wound and requiring a second surgery. Karen searched for a compromise that would prevent further physical damage to furniture and hands during play, help avoid the need to scold, and most importantly: be completely safe for Rose.
Once I witnessed the success of vinyl nail caps for many patients at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals, I suggested Karen try this safe alternative. The caps cover the sharp nail, do not cause any pain or discomfort (although their application might cause a temporary, minor annoyance for fussy cats), prevent scratches on furniture and people, and do not permanently alter paws. After scrolling through dozens of colors and several size options online, Karen ordered small pink nail caps and took Rose to have a veterinary technician trim her nails and glue the cap securely in place.
Now that Rose’s razor-sharp claws are covered, she can hop around on the furniture as often she wants without leaving marks. She can play rough without making someone look like they were attacked by a wild animal rather than a kitten chasing a string. Karen doesn’t have to constantly babysit, doesn’t fear finding the drapes in shreds, and never has to scold Rose for embracing her mischievous nature.
Declawing is not recommended due to the high risk of post-operative pain and sensitivity which occurs as a result of permanently removing part of the paw. If the cat is not declawed at the proper age, they often have difficulty adjusting to the change. Declawing also makes cats unable to defend themselves against aggressive animals. Although declawing procedures were once fairly common, now safe and painless alternatives are easily available. Vinyl nail caps provide a safe, painless option. They typically remain in place for six weeks and do not involve permanently altering the paw. These readily available alternatives are in the best interest of the cat rather than declawing.