Cat Limping After Declaw

Cat Limping After Declaw – Should You Declaw your Cat?

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Yes, cat limping after declaw is an expected situation. In fact, your cat is very likely to limp after a declawing procedure. To understand why there might be limping after declawing, we need to understand what happens during the procedure.

During declawing, also known as onychectomy, the surgeon does not just cut your cat’s paw. The procedure also calls for the removal of the bone from which your cat’s nail grows. 

As you can imagine, such a procedure would take a toll on the health of the cat’s leg. In fact, some argue that declawing should be referred to as amputation since a portion of the limb is removed. It is, therefore, no surprise that your cat will not be able to walk normally after the procedure. 

Limping is however only normal during the recovery period after the procedure. If your cat is not provided the right care, limping can persist and even result in permanent lameness. 

Consult your vet if your cat limping after declaw persists and shows no signs of improvement after two weeks.  

Cat Limping After Declaw: Are Cats in Pain?

Are Cats in Pain After Declawing

Yes, your cat will most likely be in pain after a surgery such as declawing. During the procedure, your cat’s surgeon will provide general anesthesia that will help your cat feel less of what is happening. However, the anesthesia will wear off some hours after the surgery.

Your veterinarian will most likely give you pain medication to take home after the surgery. In some cases, your cat may have to be hospitalized. In such a situation, she will still be given pain medication as needed. The pain sensations should resolve with time if proper care is given. 

What to Expect After a Cat Declaw

So, we established that cat limping after declaw is normal, but what else is to be expected? Well, after a declaw procedure, your cat may display some of the following behavior listed below: 

  • Lethargy. Your cat may not be as responsive or active due to a number of reasons like anesthesia, medication, and fatigue.
  • Reluctance to walk, jump, and run.
  • Loss of appetite on the day of the surgery 
  • Licking of the incision site due to pain, itching, and general discomfort.  
  • Continued scratching. Scratching is a natural behavior in cats and does not stop after claw removal.

If everything goes well, most of these symptoms should resolve starting the day after the surgery.

Signs to Watch Out for After a Cat Declaw

Signs to Watch Out for After a Cat Declaw

While some signs like pain are perfectly normal after a feline declaw, others are not and may be a sign of a more serious problem. Some signs, particularly the ones above are normal on the day of the procedure and the day after but should be a cause for concern thereafter. 

Signs to watch out for after a declaw include:

  • Extreme lethargy or unresponsiveness.
  • Signs of pain weeks after the procedure.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Excessive licking of the paws.
  • A broken suture.
  • Swelling or redness of the surgery site. 

The recovery period of a declaw is between 14 days to three weeks. This can be shorter or longer depending on factors like size of the cat, age of the cat, and surgical technique. Older cats tend to require more recovery time. 

Cat Limping After Declaw: Chronic Lameness 

Sadly, a cat limping after declaw procedures may never fully recover. Chronic lameness occurs in less than 1% of all declawed cats but it is still important to take measures against the possibility. 

Permanent lameness in declawed cats is usually caused by damage to the bone that comes after the one to be removed. The damage is irreversible hence the permanent damage to the leg. Long-term lameness can also cause back pain due to a change in gait which strains the muscles of the back. 

All good vets should let their clients know of the risk of chronic lameness after declawing.

How to Care for a Declawed Cat

To ensure optimal recovery, a cat limping after declaw requires special care and attention. Here are some ways to help your cat:

  • Allow enough time for rest and recovery. You may not want to take your cat to the park right after surgery. This will obviously be painful and may increase your cat’s recovery time.
  • Post-op pain management. Provide pain medication to your cat to make the recovery period more bearable. Alternative methods of pain relief like CBD and aromatherapy can also be effective as an additional therapy. We recommend Honest Paws CBD oil, made from organic full-spectrum hemp oil is designed to help cats with pain and high-stress situations like declawing. 
  • Provide a comfortable recovery space for your cat. Move your cat to a more enclosed space to limit movement. The less your cat moves, the faster the surgery wound heals. 
  • Clean the wounds regularly. Consult your vet on how best to clean the cat’s open wound to minimize the chances of infection. Usually, wiping the area with clean warm water should suffice but some cases may require a disinfectant. 
  • Get your cat a dust-free litter box such as a paper litter like yesterday’s news. Litter boxes with dust may increase your cat’s risk of infection. The litter box should also be large enough to fit your cat comfortably.
  • Avoid exposing the wound to water. Do not let your cat play in wet areas and do not give any showers for at least 14 days. Moisture at an open wound increases the risk of infection. 
  • Your cat should stay indoors at all times. Declawed cats are meant to be indoor cats as they lose some of their abilities that require paws. Declawed cats usually cannot climb or defend themselves in fights with other animals. 
  • Take good care of your cat’s wound dressing. Change the bandages as instructed by your vet. Pay attention to both technique and frequency. 
  • Regularly check your cat’s wound for swelling or discharge. The blue or green glue-like substance on the incision is normal as it is the skin adhesive that holds the flesh together as it heals. 
  • Provide a soothing environment and support relaxation. If your cat is stressed out the Honest Paws Calm CBD Soft Chews can help. The chews contain hemp-derived CBD which has been shown to alleviate anxiety
Honest Paws CBD Oil for Cats
  • Enhance bone & joint health
  • Promote relaxation & combat stress
  • Boost immune system & cognitive function

The Pros and Cons of Cat Declawing

The Pros and Cons of Cat Declawing

This declaw procedure comes with both benefits and drawbacks. A cat owner must weigh the cons against the pros and determine if the procedure is worth it. The vet’s opinion on the matter should be considered as well. 

The Pros of Cat Declawing

  • Protection of the owner and the family members that live with the cat
  • Reduced damage to the owner’s property
  • Declawing may strengthen the relationship between a parent and her cat
  • Some argue that declawing protects several cats from living in shelters as they become more manageable after the procedure. 

The Cons of Cat Declawing

  • Humane concerns. The biggest downside to declawing is how much pain it puts a cat through. Some people do not believe that any benefit justifies cutting off a portion of an animal’s leg. In fact, the declawing of domestic cats has been banned in some states in The USA.
  • Behavior problems. Anecdotal reports show that some cats, particularly older ones, may exhibit strange behavior after declawing. Such behavior includes violent outbursts and litter box avoidance.
  • Surgical complications. Like any procedure, there is a likelihood for things to go wrong. However, the probability of complications can go up due to issues like other diseases the cat might have and bad surgical practices.
  • Potential lameness. 
  • Chronic pain.
  • Nerve damage. Another possible side effect of declawing is damage to the paw nerves. This usually happens with an inexperienced surgeon. Be sure to take your cat to a verified veterinary clinic for her declawing procedure.
  • Infection. 

In conclusion, your cat’s body will be stressed by the declawing procedure. However, with good care, she will be able to return to normal activity in no time.