This article neither recommends nor discourages declawing in domestic cats, but rather recognizes that among domestic cat households, “destructive scratching represents approximately 15% to 42% of feline behavior complaints.” Declawing for many owners presents an option of living with their indoor cat without scratching behaviors. In many cases, declawing is an alternative to surrender and outdoor confinement.

When owners have exhausted other options, such as behavior modification, environmental enrichment, padded nail products, and feline pheromone products, then declawing may be considered. Societal pressures on feline owners often result in a strong sense of guilt when they reach the point of considering declawing as an option. For these owners, the laser declaw is a choice to consider.

Using a surgical laser to remove the ends of the toes, or third phalanxes, results in significantly decreased intraoperative hemorrhage (or bleeding). At AVDH, we have a thorough pre- and post-operative pain management protocol, including local nerve blocks, injectable opioids, injectable non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, along with oral anti-inflammatories to continue administering at home.

After surgery, the cat’s paws are wrapped, and they have an overnight stay at our hospital. The bandages are removed the following day, the paws are inspected, and the pet is sent home with special litter and pain medication for the recovery period. The vast majority of our laser declaw patients at AVDH are walking normally the day after surgery, and some are happily meowing and bounding around so much that we try to restrict their activity!

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) literature review of studies discusses feline declaws and includes studies showing “the frequency of owner-reported complications in patients having undergone laser onychectomy was significantly lower compared to other traditional methods.” Veterinarians, staff, and clients who choose laser declaw will attest to the fact that feline patients are more comfortable sooner with this method of declawing.

Want to learn more? Call us at (512) 288-1040 or come see us at Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital. Contact us if you have any questions regarding this procedure. For further reading resources, please view the AVMA’s cited literature review statement on feline declawing.

~ Sarah Kneupper, DVM
Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital