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September 26, 2010 at 12:00 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Arguments for and Against Declawing Cats

By Helen More Blogs by This Author

De-clawing is an invasive procedure that will change the cat's physiology and seems to go against the laws of nature. Cats are supposed to have claws, which is why they're born with them. Claws are used to catch prey and escape from predators, cover feces, groom, and scratch. Still, for many cat owners, the benefits outweigh the negatives, so the debate continues.

The History

While the act of declawing a cat is illegal or considered inhumane and abusive in 25 countries, Americans still commonly practice this procedure. From the early 1990s through the mid-'00s, declawing became so prevalent in the U.S. that some privately owned apartment leases required tenants to have their cats declawed. However, in 2007, Congress enacted legislation forbidding rules of this nature in publicly subsidized housing.

Declawing is so routine in the U.S. that many veterinarians don't even mention that this is a serious surgery or that there could be lasting consequences to both the cat and the cat's owner. Many cat lovers end up declawing their kitty without realizing what the procedure entails.

There are several ways to declaw a cat. Other than the tendonectomy, each procedure removes the nails as well as the first toe. With a tendonectomy, the tendon that attaches to the cat's toes is severed, leaving the nails intact, but removing the ability to extend the claw. If a cat cannot extend its claw, the cat cannot scratch. Though this procedure is less invasive and offers a quicker recovery time, it is also linked to a higher risk of arthritis.

Benefits of Declawing

The main benefit of declawing a cat is to the homeowner. A cat that can't scratch can't ruin furniture, doorways, and carpets. Replacing furniture and carpets is expensive, and while cat scratching posts can be purchased for just this reason, some kitties simply can't or won't conform. Unfortunately, when that happens, declawing or getting rid of kitty is the only viable answer.

Another upside of declawing may be the protection of small children or other pets. While most cat owners love their felines, the pet becomes secondary when there is a baby or toddler in the house. If an older pet is incapable of defending itself, declawing a growing cat may protect it from abuse.

Problems with Declawing

Declawing a cat is a painful surgery with a painful recovery period. In essence, declawing is the amputation of the cat's toes at the first joint.

Unfortunately, because cats walk on their toes, declawing alters the way a cat moves and can cause backaches similar to what a human experiences when wearing ill fitting shoes. Because declawing results in removal of the cat's primary mode of defense and method of catching prey, a declawed cat cannot feed or defend itself and should not be allowed outdoors or in situations where it may be forced to go up against another pet.

After cats have been declawed, some pet owners have noticed their pet undergoing a personality change. Some cats have been known to bite and resort to house soiling after being declawed. This is probably because of the pain associated with covering their feces in the litter box. Biting may occur because the cat has lost its primary mode of defense, leaving it confused and frightened.

Usually, with time and plenty of love, the cat's loving personality will return. It's important to note that there are alternatives to declawing, such as clipping the claws or covering them with a soft material. Unfortunately, these alternatives are not as convenient as declawing and are often overlooked by owners.


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  • I'm sorry but I disagree with your summary of the so called benefits of declawing, In actual fact declawing is either banned or considered inhumane in 39 countries and so the millions of people who live in those countries and own cats know that declawing is not the only viable answer, kindness and patience in training the cat to use a scratching post or pad is the answer and not surgery, caring for the wellbeing of the cat which you have taken responsibility for is the answer, thorough research about any procedure vets offer is the answer not handing over megabucks on the vets say so when you don't have a clue what you're letting your cat in for, ignorance is no excuse for abuse. And as for your supposition that the cat becomes second when there is a baby in the house, well this might be how some flaky cat owners behave but the fools should know that a cat bite is far, far worse than a scratch and how do they think their child will learn to fend for itself if all the dangers of the world are smoothed away by "mommy"? The pro argument for declawing is seriously flawed, there is no pro's only cons.

  • I agree that declawing a cat doesn't have any real benefit but we were recently forced to choose between giving our baby up or declawing him when our apartment complex instated a new 'not pets rule'. I live in an area where, if they allow pets at all, there is a $300 non refundable pet deposit and they REQUIRE cats to be neutered/spayed and Declawed. It's hard enough to get a dog adopted, let alone a cat. Each week there are dogs and cats euthanized for no other reason than there isn't room and people aren't being responsible pet owners. They get the animal when it's small and cute and then encourage bad behavior, again because it seems cute at the time, only to wonder why their animal is acting insane later or the fact that they didn't research and ended up with a dog that got too big or a cat that can be a terror. It is the owners responsibility to keep a handle on their pets and teach them but as any cat owner knows all cats pretty much have a mind of their own and could generally care less what you want them to do as opposed to what they want to do.
    My cat is like my child and it broke my heart to consider giving him up as opposed to declawing him. Sure he scratched when we got him wound up in play and even my niece and nephew got swiped by the cat a couple times, but he only did it when they were being excessively playful. He gave them plenty of warning and when they ignored even our attempts to get them to leave him alone we didn't interfere when they got swiped. It wasn't a serious injury, just a scratch, but they learned that they had to be gentle with kitty and considering he put up with a lot from them i didn't interfere no matter how many crocodile tears came or how mad the kids were at the cat for scratching them. Some animals are lucky and can be rehomed to good families or get adopted but there aren't any no kill shelters in my area and the ones even a couple hours drive are so full already they don't have the room to accept any. My fear that he would be either returned for not working out, thus putting us right back to square one, or put on craigslist weighed heavily upon me because of the people i see getting free animals and then charging money for them. Ultimately we chose to declaw my son and thankfully aside from being a little surly after he woke up and absolutely hating the vet office he has recovered just fine. He lets us play with his paws and there has been only 1 potty accident directly after surgery where he was still doped up and likely unsure of the litter. The litter being Yesterdays News if i remember correctly. I was very upset with myself for even considering declawing my baby and i still have guilt over it but ultimately this way i ensured that he was going to have a forever home. I could care less about the furniture, it was second hand anyway and he only ever scratched at one particular chair. He didn't really have much issue with scratching but because of the rules in my area it was going to be an issue when i moved. I'd rather be out the $300 dollar non refundable deposit than laying awake wondering if i did the right thing and if my son is happy, healthy and loved with a new family or if he was shivering alone lost in the world or worse, injured, dying or dead. I have to be extra vigilant that he doesn't slip out the door but all things considered it's a small price for me to pay. I wish it hadn't come down to giving him up or declawing him but this way he's not going to be sitting at a shelter in a cage wondering why his mom gave him away, scared and alone with strangers and stranger animals, until they kill him. It hurts my heart that he's declawed but this way he's alive and well with me and safe. He's still the same sweet boy i picked up and carried in the palm of my hand 2 years ago that cold august night, and I don't think he notices most of the time that they're gone. Pets are a lifetime commitment, not toys you can toss away when they get too old or too big. I think it's more about responsible pet ownership and this was the lesser of two evils in my eyes.I made a commitment to my cat, to my son, and just because he's furry and has four legs instead of two doesn't make him any less a part of my family than my nieces or nephew are. I love him regardless but i really wish that forcing a pet owner to choose between declawing their cat or getting rid of them was illegal so that no cat has to suffer. I've seen the damage delcawing can do but thankfully the vet who did my son's was very professional and all is well. I know other pet owners can't say the same thing and for that i'm sorry but until it's illegal here it's the best option some of us have.

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