Nova Scotia has joined the ranks with much of the world in the 21st century by making the elective and very much cosmetic surgical procedure of onychectomy (declawing) illegal in the province.
As of March 15, 2018 veterinarians will no longer be allowed to perform this procedure for any reason other than as an intervention for the health of the cat. It is difficult to say how this will affect pet owners or veterinarians but I believe it will be a tricky transition for our cat population.
I myself had a couple declawed cats growing up. We booked them in for their spays/neuters and had our veterinarian perform the declaw at the same time to both save on money and shorten recovery time (kittens seemed to “bounce” back from surgery quickest). Our furniture looked great and we had no issues with being scratched or aggravated by their nails in any way. I currently own a cat, Winifred, with all of her claws and my couches still look perfect and she has not once used her nails on me. She gets her nails trimmed every 2 weeks. She looks forward to her manicure/pedicure because she gets to sit down and gobble up some treats once she is done with her pampering.
My concern with this newly placed ban is that it will affect how many homeless cats are brought into the shelter from owners that are becoming increasingly frustrated by their cats destroying the furniture or picking at their carpets. How many will brought to clinics because they have had their nails overgrow and become embedded in their paw pads. To help mitigate these issues I would like to pass along some advice for those cat loving souls who plan on including these furry felines in their homes.
Frequent nail trims is a very important part of maintaining a healthy cat. If left to grow overlong they can become embedded in the paw pad causing infection to set in. Many of these cats will present for lameness and require removal of the nail from within the paw pad, antibiotics and pain medications. I would recommend that you start desensitizing your cat to nail trims immediately upon bringing your cat or kitten home. This can be done by playing with their feet frequently, gently exposing them to nail trimmers, giving them treats while trimming their nails and working slow and steady until you can do a full nail trim quickly and efficiently. There is absolutely no harm in doing 2 or 3 nails at a time or one foot a day so long as all are trimmed frequently. If you are unsure how to do a nail trim please book an appointment with your local veterinary clinic, the team will be happy to walk you through the procedure.
Cats are much busier than we previously thought they were. I know that many of us were guilty of thinking that cats lazed about all day with mini breaks from their naps to grab a bite of food. My little female is always on the move. To help give them an outlet I would suggest getting them nice scratch posts and toys. You can teach a cat to use a scratching post/cat tree by placing treats in the area, with the use of catnip and with praise. You could feed them on top of the cat tree so they recognize the area as their own space. Cats also enjoy interactive play. You can do this with laser pointers, cat-safe toys and by games such as hide and go seek (hiding treats for your pet to find).
If there are places you would like your cat to avoid you can always use deterrents. There are products on the market that make noise (beeping or hissing) based on a motion detector. You could use this to keep cats away from areas you’d rather they not be (a room with antique furniture or out of your kitchen for instance). You can also place double-sided tape or aluminum foils on areas where the cat is frequently scratching to help steer away from that area.
I think we are going to look back in 10 years at this change in the legislature with pride and be very happy that we helped stop the unnecessary amputation of digits. In the meantime, your veterinary team is here to help you adapt to ownership of a fully clawed and happy cat. If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to call your local clinic.
Written by Jennifer Hurford, DVM