Want to start a lively discussion the next time you have your cat-lover friends over? Bring up the subject as to whether it is a good or bad idea to declaw a kitten or cat. Gina Spadafori and Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM, co-authors of the Cats for Dummies book offer some pro and con considerations before making that permanent and irreversible decision to have Simon or Susie declawed. Read their comments, and then decide for yourself to declaw or not to declaw.
Gina begins one of her on line articles on the subject by stating, “When it comes to the raging controversy over declawing cats, it’s important to remember that sometimes the choice comes down to something this simple: What’s better? A homeless cat or a declawed one?”
She goes on to state that it’s not really a hypothetical question. Rather, she says, that in one study of declawed cats, half of the cat owners who chose the declaw surgery truthfully said that they would not have kept their cats without the operation. And admitting to having an improved relationship with their pet after surgery was mentioned by almost three-quarters of the owners electing the surgery.
Gina believes that in some cases declawing is the lesser of two evils- declaw for a permanent indoor cat or get your furniture shredded to the point it ultimately leads to a shelter for your cat.
She further states that declawing “should never be a pre-emptive response to the possibility of a cat’s scratching. Nor should it be the first strategy chosen when scratching is discovered.” She has written specific articles on nonsurgical alternatives to destructiveness. These articles focus on “how to encourage a cat to scratch where you want him to, while discouraging him from digging his claws in where you don’t.” See her articles.
If retraining doesn’t work, consider two final steps before declawing: trimming or capping the claws. Gina recommends “clipping the tips of your cat’s claws on a monthly basis makes them less efficient at shredding, and you can take it a step further by gluing Soft Paws nail caps over the trimmed tips. With gentle, encouraging handling, many cats get used these procedures. Have your veterinarian show you how to get started.”
Talk to your veterinarian about declawing if you are at your wits end. He or she will tell you that there are two procedures in use in declawing a cat today- you should be well informed about both to help you make the decision to declaw or not to declaw.
Your vet will tell you that the standard declaw involves the amputation… yes amputation… or cutting off of the last digit on each of the front toes, a procedure roughly equal to the cutting off your own fingertip at the first joint. “The skin is then glued or stitched over the exposed joint, the feet are bandaged, and the cat is sent home to heal for the next couple of weeks. (Your veterinarian will have her own guidelines for after-care for you to follow.)”
The alternative of severing the tendons that allow a cat to unsheathe his claws is a second procedure that some veterinarians offer. A major drawback of this surgery is that the cats’ claws continue to grow, and must be kept trimmed.
No matter which declawing procedure you choose, you should remember that you have a special responsibility to the cat you have altered. Living indoors is safer for all cats, it’s extremely important for a declawed one. Cats with no ability to use their claws as an important defensive tool while living outside have been deprived of one of their natural instincts and are in grave danger.
This decision to declaw or not to declaw should never be made lightly. But in some situations, according to Gina, “it’s a hard choice that is better than the alternatives.”