Declawing a Cat or Kitten

All cats scratch. Scratching is a natural and necessary part of feline life. In fact, it is IMPOSSIBLE for a cat or kitten NOT to scratch. They like it, it feels good and it also enables them to shed the outer layer of their nail (called the sheath). Declawing is a very controversial subject. Many people (including me) are against the declawing of kittens and cats. Several countries are also against the declawing of cats (England and Brazil) and have made the act illegal (except in extreme medical cases). So what is all the fuss about?

Well, for one thing, many people have their cats declawed due to the fact that the animal is ruining their furniture (this is the number one reason). While I agree that a scratched-up sofa is not a good thing, many people do not take the time to train their kitten or cat and turn to declaw as a quick, easy fix. If you are thinking about adding a kitten to your family, you should think long and hard about how you feel about declawing BEFORE hand. If you are obsessed with your furniture, hate the idea of hair everywhere, and don’t have the time to train your cat or kitten properly…then you should think twice before adding ANY pet to your family (I take that back, fish would probably be ok).

What does declawing a cat entail?

Many people feel that declawing is cruel and unnatural. If you take a moment to really think about what declawing entails…you might begin to feel the same way. In order for your kitten or cat to be declawed, they must undergo SURGERY. Any type of surgery that involves being “put under” has its risks. There is NO health benefit associated with declawing. The act is done solely for the convenience of the owner. Some experts believe that declawing can also lead to severe behavior problems such as aggression issues. Other risks include infection, permanent sensitivity, hemorrhage, and altered feeling in the toes. In order for a veterinarian to declaw a kitten, they must REMOVE the last joint in each toe on the front foot. Did you get that…REMOVE THE JOINT!!! Declawing is not a simple operation in which the claw is pulled out…the vet must CUT OFF the joint. If a human could be declawed…the process would entail cutting off the tips of the fingers (at the first knuckle). THINK ABOUT THAT!!!

Why is declawing a cat bad?

While declawing is not illegal in the United States, some states are looking into the possibility of making the act a crime. Animal Rescue groups and animal lovers stand behind this idea. When I rescued my Calico cat, Claire, I had to sign a contract saying that I WOULD NOT declaw her. I had no problem signing the document as I just can’t get past the fact that the process entails CUTTING OFF the tips of a cat’s toes. OUCH! It is also important to note that a declawed cat SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED to go outside under any circumstance! Cat’s that do not have their claws can no longer defend themselves! They cannot climb trees (in order to get away from dogs) and if confronted they have only their teeth to defend themselves. A declawed cat should be an INDOOR ONLY ANIMAL!!!

Additional concerns about declawing cats are purely psychological but no less important. A cat’s claws are as important to it as your fingers are to you. When you declaw a cat, you aren’t just removing its nails. Declawing removes the tool cats use to grasp; when climbing, running, reaching and any number of activities a cat might engage in. Think of it in human terms… how would you feel if all your fingers and both your thumbs were cut off? The physical ramifications are pretty obvious but consider the blow to your sense of self, your ego, your confidence at suddenly being unable to do all the things you are used to doing and all the things you are instinctively driven to do. Unlike you, your kitten can’t turn to a support group, prosthetics, or ask somebody for help. It is left to cope with its loss as best it can and that can be a real challenge.

I firmly believe that cats can be trained. More specifically, training a cat to use a scratching post (and other scratching toys) is certainly possible! Cats are smart animals and if consistently trained with love, patience, and care…you can turn their destructive behavior around. In my next post, I will dive deeper into the world of scratching and the many items that are available to eliminate scratching problems and hopefully, eliminate the need for declawing! Knowledge is power…the more you learn…the easier it is to care for your kitten! Meow!