Paw caps for cats touted as an alternative to declawing

July 01, 1992|By David McHugh | David McHugh,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Did Kitty shred the sofa again? Are you thinking about having the little dear's claws yanked?

Wait. Don't declaw that cat, pleads the Michigan Humane Society.

Instead, the Humane Society is promoting a new alternative to declawing, called Soft Paws -- tiny plastic caps glued to the front claws.

Just call them a way for kitty to have safe scratch.

"They work great," said Sherry Silk, the society's director of operations. "My cat still acts like he's scratching my furniture, but now he can't hurt it."

Ms. Silk and assistant shelter manager Elaine Greene at the Humane Society's Detroit shelter demonstrated Soft Paws, using Missy, a little white stray awaiting adoption, as a guinea cat.

Missy was held while Ms. Silk took one paw, pressed down on the paw to expose the claws, and slipped on the glue-filled caps. Missy meowed twice and fidgeted a little, but afterward went back to nosing around Silk's office as if nothing had happened. Some cats bite at the caps, but many get used to them.

Cat owners can apply them at home. You have to clip the very ends of the cat's claws first. (Of course, all this depends on just how cooperative little Boots is when you touch her paws!)

The caps are not recommended for outside cats who might need to climb or fight. (The Humane Society, incidentally, also discourages letting cats outside, saying house cats live longer.)

Silk said one application of Soft Paws has lasted up to six weeks on her cat. They come in four sizes, and one box, good for three applications, costs $12 at any of the three Humane Society shelters. (Sorry, but no glamour length.)

The Humane Society opposes declawing -- amputation of the last bone in the cat's digits -- calling it painful, unnecessary surgery that might cause the cat psychological problems.

The operation "puts the cat through a lot of anesthesia and post-operative pain that we try to avoid," said Humane Society veterinarian Dr. Robert Fisher. "If you don't have to put them through something like that, why do it?"

However, some veterinarians do not agree with the Humane Society's anti-declawing stance. Dr. Richard Thoms, a Rochester Hills, Mich. vet who specializes in cats, said declawing is sometimes "a necessary evil" if cat and owner aren't to part ways.

Thoms said trauma is lessened by declawing cats while they weigh 2 to 4 pounds and by using a scalpel to cut the joint, rather than dog nail clippers, which crush tissue and cause more paw damage. Soft Paws can be purchased from many veterinarians.

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