Feline Declawing: The Straight FactsPublished May 6, 2009
Having lived with felines and involved in the fascinating world of these magnificent creatures for over 40 years, both as a former CFA registered breeder of Siamese, Oriental Shorthairs, Burmese and Russian Blues, and also as a concerned cat servant and writer, I have yet to find a topic which is more explosive and controversial, which also sparks a huge emotional reaction for cat owners, than the subject of declaw surgery. While this item is not designed as a debate, I felt that presenting the facts rather dispassionately, providing them may help owners to make a more informed decision. The USA has not banned this practice, though twenty-five other countries around the world have already made the surgery illegal, as it is considered cruelty to animals. What concerns me more are the number of people who elect to have their cats declawed, are not routinely given all the facts about what declaw surgery entails, so are not completely informed. As a result, owners are often shocked by common post-surgical complications, protracted pain and behavioral problems which declawed cats often display. A few concerned veterinarians in the United States are already refusing to perform this procedure. While the American Veterinary Medical Association's stance on declawing reads, "Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s) and adds, "It is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy", it is not my experience that this information is freely shared with clients. In fact, many people are shocked by post-surgical complications and behavioral problems which frequently occur after the surgery has been performed. According to the Humane Society of the United States, (HSUS), "People choose to declaw their cats for a number of reasons: Some are frustrated with shredded drapes or furniture, some are worried about being scratched, and others simply feel that a declawed cat is easier to live with. In many cases, cats are declawed preemptively, as a part of a spay/neuter package offered by veterinarians, even before claw-related problems occur". "Declawing is not a simple surgery", HSUS continues. "Too often people believe that declawing is a simple surgery that removes a cat's nails, the equivalent of a person having her fingernails trimmed. Sadly, this is far from the truth. Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe and, if performed on a human being, it would be comparable to cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. Declawing can leave cats with a painful healing process, long-term health issues, and numerous behavior problems. This is especially unfortunate because declawing is an owner-elected procedure and unnecessary for the vast majority of cats." Here is additional data extrapolated from a study of cats that were declawed. Published 2/1/03 on CourierPostOnline.com, "Eighty percent of the cats that are surrendered that are declawed are euthanized because they have a behavioral problem.... Declawed cats frequently become biters and also stop using litter boxes... One or the other...," said William Lombardi shelter director, Gloucester County, New Jersey. A study of 163 cats that underwent onychectomy (declawing), published in the Jul/Aug 1994 Journal of Veterinary Surgery, showed that 50% suffered from immediate postoperative complications such as pain, hemorrhage, and lameness; and long-term complications, including prolonged lameness, were found in nearly 20% of the 121 cats who were followed up on in the study. It is this writer's opinion that declawing is an unnecessary procedure. With patient and consistent training and seeking alternatives, a cat's claws can be safely preserved, resulting in a happier and much better behaved kitty. What are some alternatives to declaw surgery? Actually they are rather simple and relatively inexpensive when compared to the cost of the procedure with possible serious side-effects. * Provide your cat with a rough textured scratching post that is high enough to allow the cat to stretch out fully. *Cats need their claws to be able to stretch and balance. A cat tree is an excellent alternative as well. *Soft paws, (vinyl coverings glued to the claw) prevent scratches and damage to property. * Learning to trim your cat's claws, keeping them short and blunt works wonders to prevent scratches. For more information about declawing visit: http://maxshouse.com/Truth%20About%20Declawing.htm and http://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/claws03.html What are your feelings about declaw surgery? Leave a comment and share.