Friday, January 21, 2011

Caturday: Ozzy and other declawed cats...

I had a post all ready to go this weekend about kitty cat number two that stayed with my family, Roo. However, I happen to be house sitting this weekend and was inspired to write about a different cat, one that's been curling up to sleep with me and hold a very valuable lesson.

This is Ozzy and he is adorable! He likes to snuggle, he likes to talk, he has a cute face with big green eyes, he's very social, he was saved from a shelter by his mom, he'll greet you at the door, he's insisting I ignore his mom's orders to not give him wet food and he doesn't always use his litter box.

Yes, at least once or twice a day, Ozzy will go over to the bottom of the steps and go to the bathroom. His mom has even put a litter box there, which Ozzy is usually 6 - 12 inches away from when he continues to go to the bathroom on the floor. There's "cat attract" in the litter, it's a big, kept-clean box with soft litter and yet Ozzy won't use it. You see, Ozzy is declawed and one of the side effects of getting your cat declawed, as some people may or may not know (or acknowledge), is that sometimes they develop litter box issues for whatever reasons - it's painful? it feels funny?

This Ozzy-inspired post is to help educate people that don't know about this issue.

One of the main theories with this side effect of declawing is that your cat's claw is not just a toenail. It is actually closely attached to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat's foot has to be removed. Look at your own hand. This is not a manicure you're getting done, the surgery on a human would be like removing to the first knuckle on each finger. Keep in mind also that cats need to use this area to walk, balance and dig to go to the bathroom immediately after surgery. This is painful right after surgery and can also affect the nerves, meaning it could be permanently painful or, perhaps, feel weird and tingly like when you hit your "funny bone".

Also keep in mind that when you declaw a new kitten, they're still growing and developing so behavioral issues might not show up immediately. Like a younger person or child, a kitten might spring back from surgery ... but develop problems as they age and their body matures. My grandparents and aunts thought it best I not know they plained on declawing their beautiful kitten. If they had, perhaps I could have warned them of an issue that developed about a year later ... she started peeing not in her litter box!

Going outside the litter box has often been deemed a "behavior problem" and has been noted as one of the behavior problems that can develop. "These behaviors include biting and urinating or defecating in unwanted areas outside of the litter box". Be it painful, an increase in fear (biting is a cat's last and only method to defends its self when you take away its claws) or the cat is in pain and so its hiding, behavioral problems are a side effect of declawing.

Although these problems do not always develop after being declawed, do you really want to risk your super sweet cat turning into a biter or adding the 2x's (or more) daily routine of having to clean up after your cat when it refuses to use the litter box? And I don't care if you've never had a problem with any of these types of issues. The facts are the fact and why make an animal go through that? Oh, and in England declawing is termed "inhumane" and "unnecessary mutilation." And let's keep in mind, this is from the people who are the inventors of things like "Halifax Gibbet" (AKA the guillotine).

There are other options. Much like you'd train your new dog not to chew on the furniture, train your cat to use a scratching post. If they have a favorite spot to nap at or are particularly attracted to one corner of the sofa, try to put a scratching post near by that area. This is not always an easy task, but with time, patience and practice (just like training a new puppy), you can train your kitten/cat.

You can also use deterrents, like spraying your cat's bottom with a water bottle whenever you catch them scratching the furniture or giving a quick clap to startle them into stopping. Then, pick them up and take them to the closet scratching post. You can also use double-sided tape or tin foil on certain surfaces to try to help keep your cat away too.

If you adopt a cat who is already declawed and having litter box troubles, clean up the spots you find immediately! Just because you can't smell it, doesn't mean your cat won't and this will attract them back to the spot to go to the bathroom again. I hear this "recipe" works great (also this website is awesome - lucky australian cats!). You can also try...

- keeping the cat confined in a small bathroom or even large dog crate for a little while to try to "re-train" them to use the litter box (sometimes in a big, new house it's easier to pee on the soft, comfy floor next to them then try to find the litter box down two stair cases in the scary basement)
- increasing the number of litter boxes around the home (perhaps your one smells like your current cat and your new cat is nervous about using it)
- putting a litter box where the cat is going to the bathroom and slowly over a week or two, move it gradually back to its original location
- seeing a veterinarian about getting behavioral medications
- try different litter types, especially with declawed cats. Sometimes softer, finer litter will feel less odd/painful when they have to dig. Also, you can try using shredded newspaper. It doesn't do much to cover up smell, but it does work with some declawed cats with sensitive feet because they just need to gently push some paper aside instead of having to dig to go to the bathroom
- doing what Ozzy's mom does - put a huge chunk of plastic down where the cat goes to the bathroom and simply keeping on top of cleaning up any messes

I hope this week's post helps some cats and their owners out!