How to Care for Cats After Declawing

By Tammy Quinn Mckillip

It may seem like a simple enough procedure, but if your cat has undergone general anesthesia and surgery to remove his claws (onychectomy), he will need special nurturing and care for several days after he returns home from the veterinary hospital.

Declawing Procedures and Risks


An _onychectomy_ is a major surgical procedure that involves amputating the last bone of each of your cat's toes. Traditionally, a guillotine clipper or scalpel is used to perform the task. Laser surgery is becoming the preferred method of declawing, as it is less invasive and requires fewer post-surgical days to heal.


Another method of declawing is called a tendonectomy, in which the muscle that controls the claw is severed, and the claw is left in place. While post-op complications such as bleeding, infection or lameness are about the same for cats who have undergone an onychectomy or tendonectomy, the latter procedure can contribute to thick claws that must be clipped frequently.

Declawing is a painful procedure. Your cat will receive pain medication prior to, during and after his surgery. He may receive preop sedatives to keep him calm as he is being prepared for surgery. During the surgery, his nerves will be blocked with a local anesthetic, and he will be given general anesthesia intravenously. Your cat probably will remain at the veterinarian's office for a few hours or overnight, so he can be monitored. Your vet likely will give you oral pain medication to administer to your cat after you bring him home.

Bringing Kitty Home

Your cat most likely will be groggy, sore or irritable for a day or two after his declaw surgery and may shiver or tremble. This is to be expected. Provide him a quiet space with warm bedding where he can sleep and not be bothered by other household pets or family members.

Fill his litter box with shredded paper or store-bought paper litter for the next 14 days, as dirt and other types of litters could get into his wounds and cause an infection. Keep your cat indoors for at least two weeks after his surgery so he won't be exposed to outdoor germs or chase after a bird or squirrel before his wounds have healed. Declawed cats should be kept indoors, as they no longer have a means of defense against other animals and may no longer possess the balance they need to climb tall trees or fences.

Food and Medicine

Your cat may have little or no appetite for the first 24 to 36 hours after her surgery, so give her only small amounts of food at a time until she is ready to eat or drink more.

Administer your cat's pain medication and antibiotics on time and according to the instructions on the bottle. Never give your cat medication intended for human consumption, as it can be harmful or toxic.

Removing Bandages

*Remove your cat's bandages on the day after the surgery or as directed by your veterinarian. Start by loosening the outer tape, and gently pull the inner bandage away from your cat's paw. Never use scissors to remove bandages, as you could cut your cat's paw. If you have trouble removing the bandage, call your veterinarian to set up an appointment with a technician, who can remove it for you. Administer a dose of his pain mediation approximately 20 minutes before removing the bandages.

If your cat's bandages should come off before his paws stop bleeding, place him in a confined area with clean towels on the floor. This will help to prevent an infection and will keep your floor clean.

Healing Time

Your cat's paws should heal within two to six weeks. Older cats may take longer to heal. If your younger cat continues to limp more than five days after her surgery, call your veterinarian. Check your cat's paws a few times a day, and contact your vet if you see excessive swelling or an oozing discharge. These could be signs of an infection. Do your best to keep your kitty calm while she heals. She may feel like chasing a shadow, but the less rambunctious she is, the quicker she will heal.