I didn't have any pets except birds and fish until I was 10 (my dad was in the Navy and my mom didn't want the problems of moving with pets). We got 2 kittens in 1989. My mom asked me if I thought they should be de-clawed. She explained that she never really thought de-clawing was a good thing, but if I really wanted "my" kittens de-clawed, she'd go along with it. Now I'm a little appalled that a parent would allow a 10-year-old to make that choice, but my mom always sought my opinion on everything. Although she didn't give me any choice on spaying! She thought 3 kids was quite enough, she didn't want to deal with kittens. Plus we were all very aware (even at that age) of the difficulty of finding GOOD homes for kittens, and the cruelty that comes along with the bad homes.
Fortunately, not knowing anything about the procedure except that my cats wouldn't have claws anymore, I made the right decision. Mainly because I liked to take one kitten (the other one was too shy to go out) to the park on a leash, and I'd let her climb trees, and I didn't want to stop that. Of course, we also didn't know about scratching-post training, and they just shredded our couch. But oh well. It was just a couch. It had Kool-Aid stains and throw-up on it anyway
As a teen, I really didn't think too much about it. A few friends had de-clawed cats, and I kind of thought it was mean, but had no particular reason for thinking that. Most of them were allowed outside, and I know I thought that was a VERY bad idea.
Then, when I was 17 or so, I suscribed to "The Whole Cat Journal" and they had an article on de-clawing. Wow! I had no idea how AWFUL the procedure is and how many possible side effects there are. From then on I became the "anti-declawing zealot"!
Unfortunately the vets here are very much into the "do you want fries with that" mentality, and I've had to refuse many de-claws. My vet doesn't push, but he will do a de-claw if the owner asks, without trying to educate the owner about the procedure. Most of the cats I know are de-clawed, although I've been able to influence a few friends not to de-claw their cats, which makes me feel great! Unfortuntely, a couple of them have really had to fight their vets about it, which is not something a new cat owner should have to do.
NO cat in my care will EVER be de-clawed, no matter what! And I will continue to try to convince my friends and acquaintances to reconsider de-clawing their cats. Even if it means fighting with their vets.