Posted by: Glamour On The Rocks | April 14, 2008

Why you shouldn’t declaw your cats. EVER.

I found this on the ASPCA message boards.  There is more information on this topic in a book I bought called Cat World as well. That talks more about those who oppose it and are for it, which allows you to hear both sides of this issue. Though I must admit, the reasons for declawing cats are on par with working to hard being one of the vices you’d tell a prospective boss during a job interview. There really are no good reasons to do it. 

Declawing Cats: Mutilation?

Cats’ claws and the bones and cartilage that hold them in place allow
cats to balance properly, climb, and defend themselves, among other
functions. Declawing, which removes these claws, bones, and cartilage,
is a painful and permanently crippling procedure that should never be
performed. There are effective and humane alternatives to declawing
that can prevent cats from inflicting damage with their claws.

Why Do Cats Claw Objects?
Cats claw to have fun and exercise, to maintain the condition of their
nails, and to mark their territory—visually and with scent. They
stretch by digging their claws in and pulling against their own
claw-hold. Cats’ natural instinct to scratch serves both their
physical and psychological needs. Before domestication, cats satisfied
these needs by clawing tree trunks. Today, domesticated cats can be
guided to satisfy their desire to claw without damaging valuable
property.

Understanding Declawing
Declawing involves 10 separate, painful amputations. It is a serious
surgery, not just a manicure. Declawing a cat involves general
anesthesia and amputation of the last joint of each toe, including the
bones, not just the nail.(1) The following are possible complications
of this surgery:
• Adverse reaction to anesthetic
• Gangrene, which can lead to limb amputation
• Hemorrhaging
• Permanent nerve damage
• Persistent pain
• Reluctance to walk
• Scar tissue formation
• Sequestrum (bone chips), requiring additional surgery(2)
• Skin disorders

After surgery, the nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain
but remaining invisible to observers. Declawing results in a gradual
weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and because of impaired
balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats have to relearn to
walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.

Lasting Difficulties
Without claws, even house-trained cats may urinate and defecate
outside the litterbox in an attempt to mark their territory. Declawed
cats may be morose, reclusive, and withdrawn or irritable, aggressive,
and unpredictable. Many people think that declawed cats are safer
around babies, but in fact, the lack of claws, a cat’s first line of
defense, makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to bite more
often as a means of self-protection.(3) A study published in the
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)
reported that of those observed, 33 percent of declawed cats developed
at least one behavioral problem and 80 percent had more than one
medical complication.(4) Declawed cats are also more likely to be
surrendered to shelters.(5)

Banned by Countries and Cities and Condemned by Vets
Nearly two dozen countries—including England, Australia, and Japan—ban
or severely restrict declawing surgeries.(6) Catalonia, Spain,
prohibits declawing under its Law of Animal Protection.(7) A declawing
ban was passed in West Hollywood, California, where one City Council
official explained, “As guardians of animals, we have a relationship
of respect, that the animal not be amputated or subjected to
techniques that create harm.”(8) Following a lawsuit against the city
filed by the California Veterinary Medical Association—which argued
that West Hollywood had infringed on veterinarians’ professional
rights—a court struck down the ordinance. Nonetheless, on the heels of
that precedent-setting legislation, the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors adopted a resolution “condemning” declawing and urging
veterinarians to drop the procedure.(9)

Many vets refuse to perform the surgery. Dr. Jennifer Conrad wrote in
JAVMA that “[r]outine declawing (unlike sterilization) is never
performed for the sake of the animal” and that as a veterinarian, she
has “an obligation to do what is best for the animals and not what is
most convenient for their owners.”(10) Dr. Melinda Merck does not
perform declawing surgeries at her Georgia clinic, saying the process
“is an amputation … and it’s awful.”(11) The Cat Practice in New York
City tells its clients, “If you love your cat … don’t declaw!”(12)

Compassionate Alternatives
With a little effort and patience, you can protect your furnishings
and preserve your cat’s claws at the same time. The following hints
will help:
• Trim your cat’s nails regularly. When the cat is relaxed and
unafraid, gently press on the toes until the claws extend. Use a pair
of nail clippers and cut only the tip of the nail, taking care not to
damage the vein or “quick.” The nail hook is what tears upholstery, so
removing it virtually eliminates damage.

• Buy or build two or more scratching posts. They must be sturdy, tall
enough to allow the cat to stretch (3 feet or taller), and properly
placed. Bark-covered logs, posts covered with sisal, or posts covered
with tightly woven burlap work well. Soft, fluffy, carpeted scratching
posts don’t work—they are one of the greatest causes of declawing
because cats don’t like the posts, and frustrated human companions
resort to surgery. If you use carpet, secure it to the posts with the
rough backing on the outside; soft carpeting will not satisfy a cat’s
need to claw. Place one scratching post where your cat is already
clawing and another near the area where he or she normally sleeps
(cats like to stretch and scratch when they first wake up). An
excellent scratching post is available from Felix Katnip Tree Company,
3623 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103; 206-547-0042.

• Consider cardboard or sisal “scratching boxes” that lie flat on the
floor. These are inexpensive and small enough to scatter around the
house, allowing your cat easy access to an “approved” scratching spot
at all times. They do wear out fairly quickly, however, and will need
to be replaced every few months—otherwise, cats may get frustrated and
revert to using furniture.

• Teach your cat where to claw and where not to claw. Place your cat
on the new scratching post and move his or her paws, or pretend to
scratch it yourself. This will scent the posts and encourage
exploratory clawing. Make the post a “fun” place to be. Play games
with your cat on and around the post, and attach hanging strings,
balls, and/or bouncy wire toys to it. Try sprinkling catnip on the
post, too. (A once-a-week or so refresher application will keep your
cat interested.) When kitty uses the post, reinforce this behavior
with praise, but be careful not to startle or frighten him or her.
When your cat claws furniture, discourage this behavior with a firm
voice or other loud noise, but never with physical force. Directing
lukewarm water from a squirt gun at the animal’s back is often
successful. During the training period, you may need to cover
upholstery with plastic or other protection (cats don’t like the
slippery feel and will quickly learn to stay away).

• Strategically placed double-sided tape, such as Paws Off (available
at PETACatalog.org), also discourages the clawing of furniture and
upholstery.

What You Can Do
If your friends or family members are considering having their cats
declawed, let them know about the danger and cruelty of this serious
and unnecessary surgery. Support legislation to ban declawing in your
community.

An excellent book that will help you understand your cat better is
Ingrid Newkirk’s 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You,
available at http://www.PETA.org. By learning to understand cat behavior and
using common-sense precautions and behavior-modification methods, you
can prevent clawing damage without inflicting pain on your feline
companion.

References
(1) “Onychectomy (Declawing of Cats),” The Animal Medical Center, 2003.
(2) Maria-Elena Choherty, D.V.M., “Feline Declawing (a.k.a.
Onychectomy),” AskVetAdvice.com Newsletter, 16 Jun. 2003.
(3) Ibid.
(4) S.C. Yeon et al., “Attitudes of Owners Regarding Tendonectomy and
Onychectomy in Cats,” The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical
Association,” 218 (2001): 43-7.
(5) G.J. Patronek et al., “Risk Factors for Relinquishment of Cats to
an Animal Shelter,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical
Association, 209 (1996): 582-588.
(6) Christianne Schelling, D.V.M., Declawing.com, last accessed 4 Aug. 2004.
(7) Geoff Pingree and Lisa Abend, “Abandoned Pets Find Haven,” The
Christian Science Monitor, 23 Jun. 2004.
(8) Louinn Lota, “West Hollywood Becomes First in State to Ban
Declawing,” Associated Press, 8 Apr. 2003.
(9) Simone Sebastian, “Supervisors Condemn Removal of Cat Claws,” The
San Francisco Chronicle, 24 Sep. 2003.
(10) Jennifer Conrad, D.V.M., letter, Journal of the American
Veterinary Medical Association, 223 (2003): 40-1.
(11) Bob Keefe, “California City Considers Ban on Declawing Cats,”
Palm Beach Post, 2 Feb. 2003.
(12) The Cat Practice, “If You Love Your Cat …” Feline Health, last
(13) http://www.ASPCA.org
accessed 4 Aug. 2004.


Responses

  1. Thank you

  2. I acctually have a cat who is declawed in the front. She is a polydactyl cat and it is not uncommon to declaw these cats for MEDICAL reasons. They can suffer from ingrown nails, nails growing between toes and nails growing stabing other toes because the toes can be naturally bent.

    I would never recommend declawing under other circumstanses but if done right the cat can live a near normal life. She does great with my clawed cats and is still a great climber. Obviously not trees.


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