As discussed previously in The Truth Behind Declawing, there are bound to be some differences in a cat after the surgery. A veterinarian will keep a cat for a few days afterwards to monitor how well it is healing, and if everything seems to be fine it will be sent home with its owners. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all is well…
After the surgery, a declawed cat is prone to paw pain and sensitivity that lasts upwards of a few weeks if the surgery is performed correctly. If the surgery was not performed correctly, well, that is a different story. If the surgery does not go as planned, the cat is susceptible to various physical ailments.
These afflictions range in severity and can be as benign as pain and swelling in the paw, lameness, back pain, loss of balance or as serious as infection, hemorrhage, deformed nail regrowth, and tissue necrosis (tissue death), as noted by the Humane Society of the United States and Max’s House.
More often than not, most cats can leave the surgery without these serious conditions; however, the AVMA’s Literature Review states that…
The reported incidence of postoperative complications ranges from rare to 50%. An examination of medical records at a veterinary teaching hospital revealed that two of 76 (3%) cats developed postoperative complications. In another study, one or more surgical complications were observed during the immediate postoperative period in approximately 50% of 163 cats.
To face the facts, it is not probable that your cat will have surgical complications, but then again it is not unheard of… is it a gamble you would be willing to take?
For surgeries that go without a hitch, the pet parent still must accommodate their sore, healing furry friend. One example includes swapping its cat litter with shredded newspaper to prevent irritation to the wounds.
These changes may come as a shock to a cat causing changes in behavior. Similar to physical changes, behavioral changes lie on a spectrum as well. They could be as minor as reclusiveness during the healing process, refusal to use the new substrate in the litter box (and finding other places around the home to relieve themselves), or as serious as a total personality change.
As we heard with Sarah’s cat, Ezra, she went from being loving and affectionate to distant; this would break most pet parents’ hearts. A transformed personality as such is the least of a pet parent’s concern, for there are many worse changes that can occur. For instance, cats’ claws are their first line of defense; by removing them it may cause insecurities in the cat and they “…become biters because they no longer have their claws for defense,” as noted by The Humane Society of the United States. They may exhibit nervousness and aggression due to these insecurities, often acting skittish around the owner they once loved.
Another problem that may arise, as mentioned previously, is the avoidance of the litter box because “…their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box…permanently, resulting in a life-long aversion to using [it],” as stated by Max’s House, as well as marking their territory with urine instead because they cannot mark with their claws.
In spite of these problems, it is important to note that declawing itself does not necessarily lead to any behavioral changes—it depends on the outcome of the procedure as well as how the cat itself handles these changes. Some cats experience major temperament shifts, whereas others go about their daily lives per usual.