Shana Bohac is a local veterinarian who writes a column about animal issues.

Cat claw trimming

Lone Star Animal Hospital clinic resident Willie, a 6-month-old cat, is held by veterinarian technician Lillie Baker while licensed veterinarian technician Holly Janak trims his nails.

A common behavioral problems cat owners complain about is clawing. Cat claws can be very destructive to draperies, carpeting, furniture, and more importantly, people.

It can be very upsetting when your pets destroy things around the house, not to mention it can be expensive to repair the damages. Children are at higher risk for getting scratched, since cats get frustrated with rough play. The elderly and immune-compromised individuals may have serious complications if clawed by a cat. Attempts to train cats to use scratching posts and appropriate surfaces should always be made first. Temporary nail caps can also be used as an alternative to declawing. These can be applied every four to six weeks.

Declawing should be used as a last-ditch effort to control clawing. It is a major surgery and is not without risks or possible side effects. Before making any decisions, all efforts should be exhausted to break your cat of clawing prior to jumping to surgery.

If you plan for a new kitten to be an indoor cat, it is best to make a decision about surgical declawing by the time they are spayed or neutered, so usually between four and six months of age. The younger the cat is when surgery is performed, the faster the recovery. Kittens that are four to six months old are often running all over the house the very next day after surgery. If you have a cat or kitten that uses a scratching post appropriately and are not destructive, it is not necessary to declaw the cat.

When cats are made to live with us in our homes, it is somewhat of an unnatural environment for them. It is, however, a known fact that cats living totally indoors will live on average two to three times longer than an outside cat because of the hazards they are exposed to. Keeping your cat indoors will help your cat live the healthiest and longest life possible. It is also a known fact that cats with a destructive clawing behavior are more likely to be relinquished or euthanized.

To make the best, acceptable, and enjoyable family member and housemate this may include declawing the cat to prevent damage to the home and those living in it. Declawing the cat or kitten may be the alternative to throwing the cat out of the house when you become frustrated with the destruction of property.

The surgery is done under general anesthesia. Many veterinarians now perform a ring block around each foot to numb the area. This leads to a much smoother recovery from the procedure. The last joint of the toe (which produces the claw) is surgically removed with a surgical blade. The surgical sites are closed either with sutures or tissue adhesive.

Soreness may remain for one to two weeks but excessive post-operative pain is rare except in older, overweight cats. Long-lasting pain injections and anti-inflammatory medications are recommended. Special litter is used to ensure that nothing sticks to the feet to cause an infection. There is no other special home care required.

Dr. Shana Bohac is a veterinarian at Lakeway Veterinary Clinic in Edna. She works on both small animals and equine patients.