I am a first time cat owner, and can honestly say I didn't know better at the time.
We got Trent declawed at the same time of his neuter (6 months) on the advice of our vet at the time.
When we brought him home with little "drumstick" legs (with the bandages up to his armpits), he acted really pathetic and I immediately felt horrible for having done this to him.
He asked to be lifted to do everything, from coming into bed to going to the litterbox. I THOUGHT he was OK when he took off running when the forbidden room's (the computer room) door was opened, but I was wrong. His toes got infected, he stopped eating and drinking because it hurt too bad to walk. He became very dehydrated so we took him to the emergency vet. They kept him there overnight, with an IV drip to rehydrate him. He was put on antibiotics (which he was well enough to HATE and get more of the liquid on himself and me than in him most of the time.) Even with the medicine, I truly believe that the only reason that we didn't lose him is that on one of his worst days, I stayed home and forced him out of his hiding spot at least every hour, made him drink and eat, and loved him
(I know, the drinking and eating helped more than the love, but that is when he became very attached to me. Before he was Daddy's boy.).
Because of this experience, I am very opposed to declawing. I know that some animals may not react the same way that Trent did, but he almost died because we were being lazy and didn't want to train him not to claw things, and because the vet either didn't see the after-effects and was not informed or just because they wanted more money from us (which they did get! Not only the additional cost of the operation, but the emergency visit, overnight stay, medicine, etc.).
On the flip side, we did not get Ophelia declawed. She was a rescue kitten (we think she was 5-6 weeks old when we found her) who at 6 months still barely let me touch her. Going to the vet just wasn't really feasible at that time. After Trent's experience we never considered declawing an option for her. We did take the time to work with her about clawing furniture. Of course, she is a very smart kitty who does not like to get into trouble and it was very easy to train her (one NO and she won't do it again - ever!
) She is very good with her claws.
Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to let people know of a real experience. I know that there are good idealogical reasons not to do it, but sometimes real experience can be a better deterant than just ideas.