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What's Wrong with Declawing?-Best Friends Forum

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Does it keep cats in homes? Is laser declawing more humane? What if a landlord requires it, or if there are small childrenor previously declawed cats in the home? Dr. Jennifer Conrad arms us with teeth and "claws" to answer these "prickly" questions.

You can e-mail your questions now or join the No More Homeless Pets Forum.

Forum Introduction

From Dr. Jennifer Conrad: The Paw Project's mission is to educate the public about the painful and crippling effects of feline declawing, to promote animal welfare through the abolition of the practice of declaw surgery, and to rehabilitate big cats that have been declawed.
Many people, including animal lovers, do not realize that declawing is a surgical procedure in which the animal's toes are amputated at the last joint. A portion of the bone, not just the nail, is removed. Declawing may result in permanent lameness, arthritis, and other long-term complications. The practice, although common in the United States, is rarely performed in the rest of the civilized world. It is actually illegal in many countries. Great Britain's Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons goes so far as to declare declawing "unnecessary mutilation."

Domestic cats are declawed by pet owners who give the reason that they wish to protect their household furniture. They are seldom fully informed of the potential consequences of declawing by their veterinarians. Behavior problems in declawed house cats, such as biting and litter box avoidance, are not uncommon. The unfortunate feline victims are frequently relinquished to the "pound." With poor prospects of finding understanding new owners, these animals are usually destroyed. Let's talk about what we can do to help the cats, big or small.

post #2 of 3
Thread Starter 
Does declawing keep cats in homes?
Question from Crystal:
I'm very much against declawing, but think that it's definitely preferable to euthanasia. Does declawing keep cats in their homes? Is it ever OK for someone to declaw as a last resort? And if not, what can be done to keep cats in their homes? I believe there are just too many cats in shelters and/or facing euthanasia, and if the choice is between declawing or the cat being surrendered to a shelter or put to sleep, I'm afraid I'd choose the lesser of two evils, much as I hate declawing.

Response from Dr Jennifer Conrad:

Certainly, we all want to prevent the unnecessary deaths of companion animals and ensure that they have loving homes. It is an unfortunate fact the a few people don't tolerate a cat's natural need to scratch. Before we condone declawing the cat in these cases, we need to answer the question, "Does declawing really save lives?"

My understanding of the facts says that declawing does not save lives. Here is why:

There is compelling scientific evidence that the net effect of declawing is that cats are at a higher risk of relinquishment and euthanasia because of the behavioral and physical problems that can result from declawing. The behavioral problems most often associated with declawing, litter box avoidance and aggression, are much less tolerated than unwanted scratching and much more likely to land the cat in the pound.

Why are declawed cats at such a high risk of relinquishment? People who declaw their cats typically cite protection of their furnishings or avoidance of bodily injury as the main reasons for having a cat declawed; however, they may not realize that the pain and complications from the surgery can cause behavioral problems that are even worse than the scratching problem for which the cat's toes were amputated. A declawed cat can still bite a child and may become more likely to do so if it has no claws. A cat whose paws hurt when scratching in a litter box may avoid the litter box altogether, and might even choose the expensive couch as the new toilet.

In a 1996 JAVMA article, Gary Patronek, VMD, PhD, using multivariate statistical analysis, found that declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment to animal shelters when compared to their clawed counterparts. His study also showed that among relinquished cats, 52.4% of declawed cats were reported to exhibit litter box avoidance, compared to 29.1% of non-declawed cats. These behavior problems that arose from declawing ultimately lead to the demise of declawed cats.

The truth is this: Declawing and euthanasia is not a simple "either/or" proposition. In many cases, rather than "either declawing or euthanasia," it is "declawing leads to euthanasia."

People with cats need to know the risks and alternatives to declawing and veterinarians must take an active role in offering and assisting with the alternatives, despite their own financial interest in declawing. (Some veterinarians are making as much as $1200/hour declawing cats). As veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, board-certified animal behaviorist and Professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, says, "There are very few people (who would consider euthanizing a cat if it could not be declawed) ... who could not be reeducated by an enthusiastic and well-informed veterinarian as to the inhumanity of this approach."

The real risk of cats being relinquished to pounds if the owner cannot declaw the animal has typically been grossly overstated by the American veterinary profession. (European veterinarians consider declawing "unnecessary mutilation," and do not have higher rates of relinquishment than Americans do for their animals.) In a survey of owners of cats that had been declawed and their veterinarians, reported by Dr. Gary Landsberg in Veterinary Forum, September 1994, only 4% of the owners said they would have relinquished their animals had it not been declawed. In contrast, the veterinarians surveyed in the same article rationalized performing the surgery by speculating that 50% of the owners would have relinquished their animals.

Alternatives to declawing exist. For those 4% who really can't live with a cat who claws furniture, there are many other options:

1. Regular nail trims

2. Appropriate scratching surfaces, especially ones that the cat approves of. If the cat likes to scratch on wood, get a wood and sisal scratching post; if the cat prefers carpet, get carpet posts. Corrugated cardboard will most likely not disappoint the cat and is inexpensive to provide. Train the cats to use them.

3. Soft Paws are vinyl sheaths for the nails.

4. Double-sided tape will protect furniture.

5. Cat-Around scratchers will fit on corners of couches.

6. Re-home the cat before mutilating it. If you can't stand claws, get a stuffed animal…or a snake
post #3 of 3
I couldn't even comprehend declawing - I mean, you wouldn't rip out the nails of a person because they scratch too much!! You keep them clipped. And in a human babies case - You put mittens on their hands to stop them from scratching themselves - You don't pull their nails out - So whats the difference?
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