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Declawing Your Cat


By: Kris Field

Executive Director, Barnwater Cats Rescue Organization 
Behavioral and Nutritional Feline Consultant 

So, now you have a cat and you think you’d like to declaw it. Before you decide on unnecessary, costly, and perhaps hazardous surgery just to correct a behavior problem, consider the following facts. 

When a cat is declawed, the vet anesthetizes the cat and amputates the last joint<.i> of each toe. Part of the bone is removed also to prevent the claw from growing back. The healing process that follows is extremely painful and can be full of complications such as hemorrhage, bone chips (which prevent healing entirely), possible permanent damage to the radial nerve, continual pain, and nails that may perhaps regrow abnormally. Now that she has been declawed, the cat will never have the proper balance she once had, and because she has no defense mechanism, she is always fearful and often stressed and must be kept indoors for the rest of her life. Cats that are declawed often become "biters," because they have no other way of defending themselves. 

Studies have shown that declawing also can result in emotional complications. Nature gave cats claws so they could defend themselves and escape from the enemy. When we tamper with this survival mechanism, there are repercussions. Veterinarians also have observed bladder problems (not using the litter box regularly) and skin problems because of declawed cats’ insecurity. Many cats resort to marking their territory with urine rather than by scratching an area, and many become chronic wetters andurinate or defecate outside their litter box when they become anxious. In England it is against the law to declaw cats, and the national Cat Fanciers’ Association will not allow declawed cats to be shown at their cat shows because such cats are considered "handicapped." 

Sometimes people feel that they need to declaw their second cat because they already own one declawed cat and they are afraid that the cat with claws will hurt the other one. This is not true. When cats fight with each other, they usually bite or kick with their back feet. And once the cats get to know each other, they probably won’t fight anyway, except in play. 

People who have their cats declawed usually do not understand how important claws are emotionally and physically. Vets often underplay the severe pain and trauma that declawing causes. Some friendly, outgoing cats become distrustful and unfriendly and refuse to interact with family members after coming home from the excruciating surgery. Then, when the cat ceases using the litter box, people often become so frustrated that they wind up euthanizing the cat - and all because no one warned them of the dangers of declawing! 

Cats scratch on things because they are grooming their nails. If you clip their nails and provide a scratching post, preferably a tall one with rope around it instead of carpeting so the cat does not get confused about which carpet is okay to scratch and which isn’t, I guarantee the cat will use it. With a little work and a commitment to your cat’s welfare, you will eliminate the "reasons" for declawing, and you’ll both be much happier in the end. 

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