Laser Declaw

***** Coastal Cat Clinic does *NOT* advise that you declaw your cat. In fact, we stand with the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) in strongly discouraging the declawing of cats.  AAFP Position Statement  (for declawing) ****


What, exactly, does it mean to declaw a cat?

declaw analogy

We remove the end of the finger at the last knuckle.

Declawing is NOT just a short nail trim as many people still seem to think. It is a very painful surgery which involves amputating each of the cat’s toes at the last knuckle joint.   A laser declaw simply is doing exactly the same surgery as any other declaw.   But we use a CO2 laser scalpel to more precisely remove the last bone of the toe instead of a normal stainless steel scalpel or a sterilized nail trimmer (guillotine method).

Because we use a laser to remove the toes, we do *not* need to use tourniquets and pressure wraps to control bleeding as is needed with the other methods of declaw.  The laser cauterizes as it cuts, so there is less pain and tissue trauma and a lower complication rate.  The last bone of the toe (P3) grows the nail, and if any part of it is left behind, the nail can re-grow.

What about pain relief?

There is significantly less bleeding and pain after a laser declaw versus a regular declaw.  Please notice that I said “LESS pain”, not “NO pain”.  We send cats home with their owners the day after surgery, usually walking well, and bandage-free.   We use strong pain shots to help to create consistent, long-lasting pain relief after the surgery.  Being sure the cat is as pain-free as we can make him/her is a top priority for us.  Many cats may also need take-home medicine in addition to the standard pain protocol, especially older or larger cats.   A cat may develop long-term neuropathic or central pain if its pain is not well managed during the perioperative and healing periods.



That still sounds painful! What are alternatives to a declaw?

Environmental enrichment:

We have links here to several  brochures from the AAFP on the topic of declawing and behavioral issues related to normal and destructive scratching.  Hopefully you will find them useful.  We also hope that they are helpful in finding other ways to deal with your cat’s normal behaviors.  Adding cat trees, scratching posts, food puzzles and other things to help keep your cat’s life interesting are helpful as well.  Enriching your cat’s environment is likely to solve or prevent many medical and behavioral problems, not just scratching issues.


These are two short brochures about alternatives to declawing and more information, well worth the read.  It can’t be emphasized enough that scratching is a NORMAL feline behavior.   With a little bit of effort in training as a kitten, you can direct scratching onto desirable objects.  Cats NEED to scratch.

Also, these next two links are longer but very full of useful information:  living with a clawed cat.   And yet another comprehensive guide for people trying to understand why cats scratch and how to teach cats to scratch desired objects.

Get them to scratch where you want them to:

Most cats can be trained to use scratching posts, corrugated cardboard flats (my cats love these), or use Soft Caws nail caps. Kitty Caps are another soft claw acrylic nail cap and are stocked at Pet Smart.  There is also a new product by Ceva called Feliscratch which directs scratching onto desired objects.  Use of pheromones and other tools can get most cats to scratch where you want them to.

Cornell has released a video on destructive scratching.   Managing destructive scratching behavior (video)


Declawing is illegal in some places? Really?

Yes, really.  It is probably only a matter of time before declawing becomes illegal in the US.  Denver and  few cities in California have already banned declawing.   It has been proposed for banning in some other US states and cities and Canadian provinces as well.  It is currently banned in the European Union (including the United Kingdom), Australia, Brazil, Israel and some other countries

Declawing is a very divisive and controversial topic, both for pet owners and vets alike.  And it is an elective procedure which almost never gives any health benefits to the cat.


Well, then why do you even do it?

North Carolina does not currently prohibit feline declaws.  No other hospital in the area offers a laser declaw option.  Other methods of doing this surgery are *much* more painful and disfiguring.  If we don’t do it with our laser, someone else will do it without the laser.  That is why we *do* declaw.  But we will do our best to inform  you and hopefully talk you out of declawing.  If we can’t talk you out of it, we can at least do it as kindly and painlessly as possible.  To the best of my knowledge, Coastal Cat Clinic is the only vet in Onslow County with a laser declaw option.

Some cats are harder to train onto desired scratching surfaces.  And some owners have special medical concerns or other issues which make declawing (for them, not the cat) a necessity.  Also for some, “the claws or the cat”, is still a sad reality.


What are your requirements to declaw a cat?

Any declaw candidate must visit with our doctor to be sure that he/she is well enough to tolerate surgery and anesthesia, and to explain the surgery.  Shots must be up-to-date and your cat must be spayed/neutered.  If not, we will also do these things at the time of the declaw.   We will not declaw any cat who is sexually intact for any reason.  We will not do elective surgery on cats who do not have at least basic up-to-date shots (rabies/distemper).

Your cat must also be in good health and able to withstand surgery and then the limited mobility for a period of time afterwards.  We are likely to refuse to declaw morbidly obese or senior cats, or 4-paw declaws.   Because property destruction and human injury occur much less often from the claws on the rear feet, four-paw declaws are especially discouraged.  We would like to work with you for your cat’s best interests.  The articles above will help you to ask good questions and maybe spare your cat this painful surgery.

Coastal Cat Clinic, Jacksonville North Carolina, 28540 | (910) 938-4515