The Declawing Debate


Cat scratching the furniture? Marking your skin? Well, declawing is the simple solution, right?

For a mere $500, you can have your cats’ claws permanently removed, thus saving your beloved ottoman or couch. I mean, most veterinarians even suggest the procedure as a quick add-on to a spay/neuter operation. So what’s the problem? If you are considering declawing your feline friend, then I urge you to take the time to gather the facts on this scarily standard, yet inhumane, procedure.

For some time now, declawing in the USA has been accepted as a routine operation. It’s a right as a pet owner and a decision made for your own personal convenience. In an age where more and more countries are making the change to ban this procedure, it is time to confront the issue, paw on.

Let’s be clear, declawing ain’t no manicure. It’s an amputation of the last bone in each toe. For humans, it would be the equivalent of hacking off each finger at the last knuckle. The procedure has no demonstrated medical benefits to the animal. In fact, declawing can have severe physical consequences. Martinez, in Veterinary Medicine (June 1993), reports post-operative complication rates of 11% lameness, 17% wound breakdown and 10% nail re-growth in cats having this surgery. Additional complications can include pain in the paw or back, infection, tissue necrosis (tissue death), regrowth of improperly removed claw, nerve damage, bone spurs, and sadly, even death. Complications aside, animals are forced to re-learn how to walk due to impaired balance. For our benefit, simply imagine living your whole entire life in a pair of the world’s most uncomfortable shoes.

As well as physical repercussions, animal activists such as PETA and The Humane Society are warning owners of behavioral issues associated with the removal of a cat’s claws. By taking away the animals first line of defense, aggression levels can increase due to a sense of insecurity. Owners of declawed cats have reported biting as well as territorial behaviors, such as not using the litter box. In a 1996 JAVMA article, Gary Patronek, VMD, PhD notes that 52% of declawed cats were reported to exhibit litter box avoidance, compared to 29% of non-declawed cats. The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy published, “The Top Ten Reasons for Pet Relinquishment to Shelters in the United States” in 2000. Biting and house soiling took the top two spots. Interestingly enough, destructive scratching failed to make the list.

I’ll admit, facts and figures can be easily distorted or simply go over our heads. However, the endless declawing horror stories posted on the Internet are significantly harder to disregard.

‘’ I decided to declaw my cats Pitch, Diva, Theo and Max, after being reassured by my former vet (He had all his cats declawed!) that this will be a common procedure and nothing to fear! No problem (his words). The next day, I picked them all up, all covered in blood, all confused and in pain.

Theo died that day in my arms-he never recovered from the horror that I exposed him to. Diva and Max seemed fine, but what do I really know how they feel. They ‘acted’ normal, but Pitch became my problem cat. He started urinating everywhere (and did it for the rest of his 12-year life.) He was always in a ‘bad’ mood-in pain!! For the rest of his life. He used to be a sweet and loving cat before the declawing and became a moody unhappy cat afterwards.

It took years for me to forgive myself for being so uneducated, if I had known then what I know now, those special friends of mine would not have suffered.’’ (Declaw Stories)

As hundreds of animal activists join the crusade to ban the act of declawing in the USA, it is difficult to sit back comfortably in perfectly scratch-free chairs. If declawing is in fact an unnecessary and inhumane procedure that jeopardizes the health and happiness of our dear pets, can we morally agree to such a practice? For now, the choice to declaw or not to declaw is still a decision that pet owners are legally allowed to make in the USA. Nevertheless, for me, there is merely no question that the risks highly outweigh the benefits. If my veterinarians were to ever suggest a ‘routine’ declawing procedure, I would kindly remind them of their oath to use their knowledge and skills for the “prevention and relief of animal suffering.” I’d choose my cat over my couch any day. And I think she’s just fine with that decision too.

The Declawing Debate

Top Tips For Stopping Cats From Scratching Your Furniture

  • Keep claws clipped reducing need to scratch and limiting potential damage.
  • Place multiple scratch posts and boards around the house. Entice and reward good use with catnip and treats.
  • Use double sided tape on problem areas. Cats dislike the sticky feeling and will avoid touching the area. After a few weeks, the tape can be removed and the behavior should be eliminated.
  • Plastic caps can be used as a humane way to prevent damage.
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