Determining whether you want to declaw your fully grown cat can be a tough decision. Removing your adult cat's rear claws can affect his physical abilities as well as his behavior. Knowing the risks of declawing will help you decide if its the right choice for your pet.
The American Animal Hospital Association recommends declawing cats when they are approximately 5 months old. Older cats are more likely to experience high levels of pain after declawing and will recover more slowly after surgery. They may experience reoccurring pain after the surgery has been performed. Older cats are also more likely to have difficulty with anesthesia; some animals may not be healthy enough for your veterinarian to perform the surgery. Your cat is vulnerable to infection and complications from surgery as well. You should be concerned if your cat bleeds significantly, vomits, runs a fever or experiences discharge from the joints of the toes while he is healing.
The younger an animal is, the more easily he will adapt to being declawed. If your cat is 2 years old or older, he will have to get used to a new way of functioning once you have his claws removed. Declawing removes the last joint on the end of each toe, so your newly declawed cat has to learn a new way of walking and balancing just to function on his feet. The older your cat is, the more likely it is that he will have problems with balance, running or jumping once you remove his claws. Without claws on his back feet, your cat is unlikely to be able to climb at all.
Your cat's claws are his primary method of self defense in a situation where he needs to fight to survive. Most cats primarily use their front claws for attacking but also use the rear claws if your cat goes to his back. Removing the claws leaves him without the ability to defend himself with them. A declawed cat can absolutely not be allowed to go outside, because he has no way to protect himself in the event that he is attacked by another animal or gets lost. An adult cat who is used to being able to go outside may have difficulty adapting to being an indoors-only pet.
An adult cat may not want to use the litter box after he is declawed because the litter aggravates his healing feet. Some cats may become irritable or unhappy following surgery and subsequent recovery period. Long-term behavioral changes are usually treatable with training and therapy.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.