How to Live Happily with Your Cat (and Her Claws)Published July 15, 2010
While Onychectomy, (the medical term for declawing cats), is illegal or considered inhumane in over 37 countries around the world, and eight cities in California, here in the United States and Canada, this painful procedure continues to be commonly performed by veterinarians. In fact, those practitioners who routinely declaw kittens and young cats, often offering a "package deal" when neutering or spaying felines are, in reality, not heeding the American Veterinary Medical Association policy which suggests, "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)." A Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, a renowned veterinarian and author of The Cat who Cried for Help, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, DVM, says, "The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats' recovery from anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain." "Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of analgesic drugs. Even though analgesic drugs can be used postoperatively, they rarely are, and their effects are incomplete and transient anyway, so sooner or later the pain will emerge." In my opinion this makes it rather difficult to justify declawing a three-month-old kitten which has not been given the opportunity for training in the use of appropriate alternatives to scratching furniture, carpets or other property, or whose owner doesn't have the time to trim nails or has not learned how to do this simple, routine part of feline care. So I frequently ask myself and other cat lovers why people subject their cats to declaw surgery. Since there is no medical justification for declawing cats, unless another vet has already "botched" the job and the poor suffering cat whose nails have grown back incorrectly requires additional surgery, or has severely injured a paw, declawing is never necessary. It is simply a choice that cat owners make to keep their furniture pristine, their carpets intact or to prevent an accidental scratch injury. In reality, it is totally feasible to maintain a beautiful home which is shared by cats. Since blunt claws cannot easily destroy property, if folks took the time to trim their cat's nails and provide adequate and appropriate scratching posts and trees, most cats will far prefer climbing and stretching on these items to clean their nail sheaths, to stretch and engage in territorial marking behavior. Our cats spend a great deal of time climbing on several strategically placed cat trees and scratching to their heart's content on the several horizontal cat scratching devices located in favorite places around our house. As far as "zoonotic "risk is concerned, keeping claws trimmed or using Soft Paws, (plastic covers for the nails) these dangers are truly minimized. At our place, we don't care if we receive the "Good Housekeeping" award for fabulous furnishings, or the seal of approval from "Better Homes and Gardens." Furniture can be replaced, but the love and joy we receive from our two amazing cats with claws intact, can never be supplanted. For further information on this topic, visit Dr Jean Holve, DVM's website. Do you maintain a "happy cat" household? Leave a comment and share your experiences. Picture credit: (with permission) Kattadora.