Love Me, Love My Claws
We had our first two cats declawed. It was the 90s, we didn't know better and they didn't seem any worse for the wear. Maggie especially didn't seem too hindered, she was an indoor cat and our ferrets didn't play too rough with her when they were let out of their cage.
Years later, we discussed getting another cat and Dad objected to the possibility of having to declaw one to protect Maggie. It seemed strange. Wasn't declawing just another procedure like neutering?
Not necessarily. Discussions with fellow cat owners and the research I did made me realize this wasn't a mere procedure, it was a harmful practice. When we got Lina, I found out that the shelter had stopped doing it ages ago, much to my relief. And I recently found out it's mostly an American practice, many other countries have outlawed it.
Declawing isn't just a permanent nail-clipping. A cat's claws are an appendage, and removing them is basically amputation. I won't go into too many gory details, but removing a cat's claws is analogous to cutting off the tips of someone's fingers.
You might think the cat doesn't feel the loss-I certainly didn't. But they feel it, all right, especially during the healing process. Speaking of which, if the healing process goes wrong the cat's paws can become badly infected. And no matter how well they recover they'll always be aware of their missing appendages. Even Maggie, who lived to a ripe age of 18; I'd see her kneading or tiptoeing and oftentimes I'd wonder if she was missing her front claws. Even indoor cats feel the need to protect themselves.
The arguments for declawing range from the materialistic (not wanting the nice furniture or curtains to be ruined) to protective (not wanting the children or any other pets to be hurt) to self-preservation (not wanting oneself to be hurt). The first one honestly upsets me a lot because it says "I like this animal, but I love my furniture more than them". When you adopt a cat, you're adopting all of it, even the inconvenient parts. Cats scratch, they shed, the litter box needs to be changed regularly and they make noise. If you're going to take home a pet, you need to be prepared to accommodate for everything about it.
The second and third arguments are a bit more understandable. Parents want to protect their kids, pet-parents want to protect their other animals, and people want to protect themselves. It's only natural, and cat scratches can HURT! But that still doesn't justify unnecessary amputation. There are safer, more humane and fairly inexpensive ways to keep the cat scratch damage to a minimum:
1. Scratching Posts
We have a rather shoddy scratching post (bits of the carpet covering falling off every time it's used) but Lina loves it. In fact, the only time she scratched my furniture was when she couldn't get to the post! Now that I've moved it to an accessible area she uses it regularly. Even better is if the material has a scent that appeals to cats, or the post has a toy dangling from the top.
Admittedly, I don't do this myself. I rely on the vet, because I fear Lina struggling and me accidentally hurting her. I've read articles about how to do it at home without too much of a struggle, and I plan to give it a try the next time her claws need clipping.
3. SoftPaws and other nail caps
These are like oven mitts for kids who can't stop scratching their chicken pox or mosquito bites. I don't have any, but I've heard they do wonders. Mr. Safety/Cory Williams put those on his cat Sparta, as seen in this video:
(Hopefully your cat doesn't take to biting as a substitute!)
Your Pet's Welfare is Key
With these methods available to cat owners, declawing is no longer a viable option. The fact that some shelters no longer do it is a step in the right direction, and that goes double for the countries that outlaw it.
We all love our pets. We want what's best for them, we want them to be safe and healthy and happy. By taking healthier and safer steps to curb their destructive habits, we can help make declawing obsolete.