For the past decade, cat owners, animal rights activists, veterinarians and ethicists have debated, discussed and argued whether or not to declaw pet cats. Now that the dust has settled, all seem to agree that there is no scientific answer to the question: instead, it's a decision each individual cat owner must decide for themselves and their pets.
Those who favor declawing their cats do so for a variety of reasons. Many owners feel that a cat that will be confined to a house no longer has any biological need for claws, and may in fact lead a happier life without them. The pet will be safe for all members of the family to pet and will cause no damage from scratching. If a family member has limited tolerance to cats because of an allergy, declawing your pet can eliminate the potential for a harmful reaction to a scratch. Across the U.S., there are numerous apartment communities where management insists on declawed cats to eliminate any potential for damage. House cats that are not declawed will need lifetime nail care. Without the friction and wear that keeps the claws of outside cats short and neat, an indoor cat needs careful manicures on a regular basis since nothing impedes nail growth. Cat claws can grow long quite rapidly in house cats, and overgrowth can be harmful.
If you opt to declaw your pet, be sure to select a competent veterinarian skilled in the surgery. Kittens heal faster than mature adult cats no matter what the operative procedure, so owners are advised to make the decision to declaw when their cat is a youngster.
Why not declaw?
Animal rights activists, ethicists and holistic owners believe that declawing is nothing more than maiming for convenience. Cats are born with retractable claws for a host of reasons besides slaughtering prey. Many note that cats use their claws for walking and running, as well as for climbing and grooming. They reason that claws provide stability in every action the cat takes and that removing them would hamper each of the animal's activities in some way. Reportedly, some cats become more aggressive after declawing. These animals typically resort to biting as they have no other option. Ethicists note that owners should think long and hard about whether their cat might someday need their claws for self-defense, particularly noting the number of felines that end up lost or abandoned each year, often spending days or weeks on the streets.
Many veterinarians have joined the movement against declawing. Early training and socialization, combined with scratching posts and other appropriate outlets for scratching behavior are often recommended as an alternative. In addition, there are now products on the market that encase each claw in soft plastic, preserving cats' balance and abilities while protecting their humans and homes. Speak with a competent veterinarian in your area to learn more about ways to avoid declawing your cat.
Declawing.com, by Dr. Christianne Schelling, 1998-2011
"The Truth About Declawing" the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, Unattributed, 2011
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