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Cat owners are often faced with the task of trying to redirect their cat's behavior and train cats to avoid the destruction of furniture, carpet, and wood work when sharpening their claws. However, many cat owners become frustrated in their attempts to train their "persistent" felines and then must opt for a surgical solution from their veterinarian.
The most frequently performed procedure involves amputation of the last phalanx or "declawing." This procedure is very effective at rendering the cats incapable of their destructive behavior, nut it also has several disadvantages. Declawing cats in this way involves significant post-operative pain that may persist for 2 weeks or longer following surgery. Hemorrhage, infections, and nail re-growth may also occur. Another surgical solution is available to prevent the cat's destructive clawing and is commonly called a "tendonectomy." This procedure involves removing a section of the deep digital flexor tendon which prevents the cat from being able to extend its claws from their protective sheath. The claws are held in place by the action of the dorsal elastic ligament. Post-operative care involves keeping the nails trimmed. This procedure has several advantages over the traditional declawing procedure. The most notable one is the amount of post-operative discomfort experienced by the cat. Other advantages are reduction in the amount of surgical hemorrhage and fewer long-term complications. Disadvantages are that the cat's nails must be kept trimmed, (although the frequency can vary from monthly to twice yearly.) Cats that have undergone tendonectomies have nails that appear thicker because of the inability to shed the old cuticles by sharpening the nails. Admittedly, some cat's personalities make nail trimming impossible, regardless of how often it may be required. For these cats, the traditional declawing procedure may be warranted.
The American Veterinary Medical Association's council on the humane treatment of cats in October, 1995 has recommended the tendonectomy as the procedure for "declawing" cats. Ask your veterinarian when considering surgical options for your cats.