Declawing Cats: The Terrible Truth
Declawing cats has long been a controversial issue. But in spite of there being so many against the procedure for so long now, every year, cats by the thousands lose their claws.
I used to think (or try to convince myself, I should say) that there are times when declawing a cat is ok. For example, if the cat's owner has suddenly been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease and is on medication to thin the blood or if they are in any other way immunocompromised by, for example, HIV or chemotherapy, then I would tell myself it was better for the cat to be declawed and allowed to stay with his owner than to be placed in a new home.
My thinking has changed over the years. First of all, the main reason people call us, wanting to know if we will declaw their cat, is because they are concerned for their furniture or rugs. Almost never is it about one of the above mentioned medical conditions.
In addition, even if it does concern an owner with a medical condition that cannot allow the risk of being scratched, I no longer believe that the cat's life (and body) should be altered and maimed in order to keep them together. It's a stretch of the imagination, I understand, but bear with me and imagine a situation that involved people living together and one of them had an illness that necessitated the other moving out or cutting off the bones down to the first joint of each of their fingers. Is there little doubt which of the choices they would make?
It breaks my heart, more than you could possibly know, to see cats separated from their beloved owners and removed from their familiar surroundings. But it breaks my heart, AND makes me violently ill to my stomach, to see a cat declawed. And unless you have actually watched such a procedure, you can't fully understanding how horrifying the act is.
Well, that's exactly what happens when a cat is declawed. It's not a process where the nail is clipped really short. That, in itself, would be quite painful and would bleed. But it's much worse than that. Again, the last segment of the bone of each finger is removed at the first joint.
It is important to understand the anatomy of a cat's paw in order to understand the process involved in declawing cats.
If one were to just clip all the nails too short, it would be painful and they would bleed and the nails would simply grow back. The only way for nails to be removed and never grow back in is to remove the growth center that lies within a specific area of the first bone of the finger. If the entire growth center is not removed, the nail will grow back in and often grow back in a deformed and painful way. That is why the entire first bone (actually referred to as the 3rd, which you can see in the diagram) at the end of the finger must be taken off. And along with the bone, of course, comes nerves, tendons, ligaments, and the joint capsule.
The Age To Declaw a Cat
I have, on occasion, received emails asking me what the ideal age is to declaw a cat. My answer is always the same, "NEVER"! Yes, it is true that young kittens seem to recover faster than older cats, but it's not because they feel any less pain or have suffered any less trauma. Declawing cats isn't ok at any age.
Alternatives to Declawing Cats
There are several:
(1) Learn to clip your cat's nails or schedule regular appointments with a groomer or vet to have them trimmed.
(2) give kitty nail caps a try. I have many clients who use these on their cats very successfully. If your cat is willing, they are easy to apply and VERY cute!
(4) Punishment doesn't work with cats. You will merely create a very frightened or very aggressive cat. If a cat is doing something you don't want them to do, you have to ignore it and then praise them when they are doing what you would like.
What Other Cat Owners Have Asked
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