Declawing Cats, Banned in Many Countries, Is Thriving in the United States

Categories: Cover Story

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Poor kitty.
So your cat just slashed your prized Australian aborigine drum set. Or maybe that cute as a button kitten you got just a few weeks ago took out the wall paper in your den. No problem: just have your cat declawed and all that goes away. You'll never have to worry about home destruction or battling with a cat to get its nails trimmed.

Except that having a cat declawed isn't just like a handy dandy permanent nail trim. You are actually removing part of its foot - which means immediate pain and may lead to later anti-social behavior such as increased biting (a cat's got to do what a cat's got to do) and avoidance of the litter box. So the argument that hey, this is better to do than abandoning a troublesome cat in the street doesn't always hold water. Just check out the animal shelters where declawed cats have been dumped.

And even the vets who do the procedure say that if it's done on all four of the cat's feet, that kitty cannot go outside. It could not defend itself.

In humans it would be the equivalent of removing a finger down to the last knuckle.

While most veterinarians across the United States continue to perform this lucrative procedure - average cost is between $400 and $800 - that's not so in the rest of the world.

As this week's cover feature "The Cruelest Cut" by Alan Pendergast (with contributions from Craig Malisow and Molly Dunn) explains "Most pet-friendly nations already outlaw onychectomy. The United Kingdom's Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons deems the procedure "not acceptable" under most circumstances, and laws in most European countries explicitly prohibit it. In Israel, declawing a cat can result in a fine of 75,000 shekels -- more than $20,000. Authorities in Brazil, Japan, Turkey and Australia also frown on the practice."

We talk to some vets who over time have come to the decision not to perform the surgery - which is still taught at nearly all the veterinary colleges across America, including at Texas A&M (although students who object do not have to perform it).

Anyhow, it's all worth reading about before you make the decision to take Fluffy for a life-altering irrevocable trip to the vets.

Because a cat may have nine lives, but it only gets one shot at its toes. They don't grow back.

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16 comments
bestuvall
bestuvall

have not had a cat for a few years but anything that keeps a cat in it home should be allowed we castrate almost all male cats that live in homes.. why?  because they ruin things by spraying .. so why not declaw your cat if it is ruining your home.. we tell ourselves that one type of major surgery is ok ( a neuter or even more so .. a spay) but another is not.. foolish people

Matt Li
Matt Li

yakuzas regularly declaw their members and they're perfectly respectable organizations

Kim Stringfellow Long
Kim Stringfellow Long

It's a disgusting and cruel practice, plus totally unnecessary. You can trim a cat's claws, and while it's not always easy, it's kinder than cutting part of it's foot off. De-clawing absolutely makes cats mean; my cat Gage was declared before I rescued him and we have worked long and hard with him to help him with his biting issues, which I believe are from him having no other defense. Plus, it's heartbreaking to see him go to the scratcher (we have another cat that does have her claws) and scratch...

Houstess
Houstess

My cat is front declawed, though always an indoor cat.  The last one died at age 18, also front declawed. Both cats happy, healthy, well adjusted and well loved.  Yes, scratching posts don't always work, neither do any of the other home remedies.  People who are adamantly  opposed to declawing often favor letting cats outside to freely roam, which means their life expectancy goes to about 7 years, tops, even with claws.  How cruel is that?  Write another article about the effects of car engines, tires, garage doors and predators on the health and safety of cats.  Oh, and maybe clipping the ears and tails of certain dogs so they LOOK PRETTY!  

JimWC
JimWC

What about getting the cat to stop scratching the children?  And offering a scratching post doesn't automagically make them choose the post.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

I am a cat owner and I will NEVER declaw any of my pets.  To me, it seems cruel and unnecessary, more abou the convenience to the humans than for the welfare of the cat. Yes, I have had to stop my felines from scratching up the furniture, but you solve that by getting a scratching post.

curbsidepoetry
curbsidepoetry

The differences between spay/neuter and declawing are many. First the declaw procedure is done to benefit the humans and their furniture, not the cat. S/N benefits the animal in many ways: lessening urges to roam, eliminating the risk of reproductive cancers, ending serious overpopulation that leads to the killing of 3-6 million cats an dogs yearly in US shelters. Secondly, declaw is a much more painful surgery, it requires the removal of a bone on each finger. These are constantly walked on and pain is often felt. Animals don't go to use their reproductive organs and go "oh,no!" It is natural for a cat to claw things. And there are many alternatives to the procedure.

bestuvall
bestuvall

@Kim Stringfellow Long maybe he just does not like you

curbsidepoetry
curbsidepoetry

None of the animal advocates I know agree with any type of mutilation and prefer cats be kept indoors. If you cannot handle the cats scratching your furniture perhaps adopt a declawed cat, or get a dog. And remember that cats are very good at hiding their pain. A huge amount of declawed cats experience arthritis later in life and about a third end up with behavioral issues. It is bound to happen if you continue declawing your cats.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

Houstess: All my cats are indoor cats only.  The only time they go outside is in a cat carrier, on the way to a veterinarian appointment.  As for other methods not working, well, nothing is 100%. I had to keep an eye on my own felines, they know that scratching anything other than a scratching post means a spritz or two of water from a spray bottle.  They hate water. But, I refuse to put my cats through a painful and needless operation. Yes, we will trim their nails, but never fully declaw.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

Jim, it has been my experience that a cat will scratch a human only if it feels anxious or threatened. I learned that pretty early on. I watch my cat's body language and know when to leave the cat alone.  If the cat is constantly scratching people and being aggressive, a vet appointment is probably in order, if only to rule out a possible medical condition that is causing bad behavior in a cat. My male cat was being a bit aggressive, yowling etc. I had him neutered and within a couple of weeks, his negative behavior came to a stop.

bestuvall
bestuvall

@Hanabi-chan did you have them spayed?  neutered?  both of those are  painful surgeries

Houstess
Houstess

@Hanabi-chan Unfortunately, I must leave the house daily.  And the surgery was neither painful, nor in my opinion needless.  But I have no quibble with your choice since it works for you.  It's just not for me.

JimWC
JimWC

@Hanabi-chan Yeah, well, getting the kids to self-control their compulsive obsessiveness with the "amals" is an issue.  But our cat is hyperactive.  I also don't think he realizes that scratching hurts us because we're so much larger than he is.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan topcommenter

@Houstess @Hanabi-chan I have to go to work too. I understand your position. What I don't like, and I am not saying this is true in your case, is those pet owners who won't exhaust all other means of teaching a cat not to scratch where they aren't suppose to and put their kitty through this surgery.  I still have to keep an eye on my cats, and by no means is it an easy process, but over time they got the message. If anything, having a pet teaches you patience.  I am glad that your kitty did not suffer and is doing well.

curbsidepoetry
curbsidepoetry

What you need to be concerned about more than scratches is biting. Cats who are declawed are much more likely to bite and that is much more dangerous than scratching. Try playing with your cat more often, and do not use hands as toys. Play with a wand toy. If the cat is dangerous, look into rehoming him/her.

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