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Declawing: Is It An Option For Your Cat?
I never wanted the responsibility of taking care of a pet, but once my husband and I decided to make a cat part of our little family I wanted to be sure we would never harm the animal. My sister has owned cats since she was on her own and had them declawed and the idea did cross my mind. Ashley, our new kitten, was only six weeks old when we brought her home, therefore there would be a lot of behavioral training for the new member of our family.
My main concern was our furniture and the damage that could occur from her scratching. However, I have a girlfriend who I have known for almost twenty years who loves animals and I knew our friendship would have been tested if David (my husband) and I had Ashley declawed. Denise, my girlfriend, had mentioned to me that declawing was not healthy for cats and can be harmful and she had regretted having two cats declawed and would never do it again. David and I also heard his father state on numerous occasions how he wished he never had gotten their “Kitty Boy” declawed. The days after the surgery seemed to be hard on the cat and it broke his heart to think Kitty Boy was suffering.
In the weeks right after bringing Ashley home it was a struggle to keep her from scratching our furniture. However, over time and purchasing a scratch post we have been able to dissuade her from doing this on unwanted areas. We have observed that she only seems to do it to get our attention because if she did it all the time the furniture would show evidence of it.
David and I never had a cat before so naturally we bought a book or two, my girlfriend lent us some books and we listened to the veterinarian on proper care. It was in reading these books that I came across how declawing can be harmful to a cat and I was very glad we had not done this to Ashley.
According to the book “Cat Facts” by Marcus Schneck and Jill Caravan the procedure, which is done under general anesthetic, removes the claws, the germinal cells, and some or all of the terminal bone in the toe. The authors of this book also point out that in removing a cat’s claws, their main defensive weapons are gone. Cats with no claws should never be let outside because they have no way of defending themselves and they cannot climb. This book also explains that scratching is not to sharpen the cat’s claws but to mark their territory. Between their paw pads cats possess sweat glands and the act of scratching serves to secrete a scent. I was very surprised to find out that according to “Cat Facts” declawing is illegal in Great Britain and many other countries, except for medical reasons. The Association for Animal Rights (AVAR) has stated that “declawing is generally unacceptable because the suffering and disfigurement it causes is not offset by any benefits to the cat. Declawing is done strictly to provide convenience for people.” (Learn More About Declawing)
This is probably why my sister had her two cats declawed, she did not have the time to try and train them. Fortunately, they do not seem to have suffered because of the procedure. However, my girlfriend’s cat did not fair that well. After the procedure was performed the cat got ill and subsequently died.
In an article from the New York Times by John M. Broder one veterinarian in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Jennifer Conrad, refuses to perform declawing on cats since she has had to repair the feet of many cats in pain from the procedure. However, in the same article another veterinarian from West Hollywood, California, Dr. Howie Baker, states that while most vets do not like performing the procedure it is better than the alternative. Cats could be tossed out on the street or taken to shelters to be killed. Dr. Baker and his partners at the TLCPetMedicalCenter have a laser surgery machine, which performs declawings with less pain, but is more expensive.
Besides training our cat not to scratch the furniture we bought plastic devices to put over the corners of the couches where she would most likely scratch. The other training method we used was a spray bottle. She would receive a light spray of water when she did the unwanted behavior and then run for her life. Another action we take care of for Ashley is that we trim her nails. It is not very hard to do and over the years Ashley has gotten so used to it that she doesn’t back off, unless I try to trim her back nails.
All of this takes time which die hard cat lovers have done for years. As a person who did not want the responsibility of a cat, this was work. However, once the vet put Ashley in my arms I was hooked and I have done things for her that I never thought I would do. A few years ago she had gotten very ill and lost about three to four pounds (she only weighed eight at the time). We had to hand feed her and give her medicine, quite an experience. After tests were conducted the vet attributed her illness to the insecticide our pest control man had used. Therefore he does not spray in the house anymore. As stated we do a lot for “Our Miss Ashley,” and although she is an indoor cat, I am glad we never had her claws removed.
Broder, John M. “In West Hollywood, A Cat’s Right To Scratch May Become A Matter
Of Law.” New York Times 25 Jan. 2003 Vol.152. Issue 52374: pA12 New York Times Archives 29 September 2003 <http://query.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res>
Learn More About Declawing Proposed Anti-Declawing Legislation in California. News
Release Feb. 2003 28 September 2003 <http://www.declaw.org>
Schneck, Marcus & Jill Caravan Cat Facts. London: Quarto Publishing, 1990