Speaking of Pets: Declawing does more harm than good for your cat | VailDaily.com

Speaking of Pets: Declawing does more harm than good for your cat

Joan Merriam
Speaking of Pets
Denver was one of the first cities to outlaw declawing, and the practice is already illegal in the United Kingdom, Israel and Australia.
Special to the Daily

Getting a manicure is an enjoyable experience for humans — but what if it meant snipping off the bones at the tips of your fingers?

That’s precisely what cat declawing is. The claw is actually a part of the distal phalanx (the last bone) of the cat’s toe. Declawing involves amputating the whole phalanx up to the joint, including bones, ligaments and tendons.

Most cats are declawed for the convenience of their owner. Obviously, a cat with no claws can’t shred your furniture or leave your hands ripped and bleeding after a play session. Some people say they just like the look of fluffy cat toes without those menacing claws at the tips.

However, the American Academy of Feline Practitioners, the ASPCA and Humane Society all strongly oppose declawing, which can cause extreme pain, infection, tissue death, nerve damage and lameness.

In addition, cats often experience discomfort when using the litter box after surgery, which may lead to their refusal to use the box altogether. Other behavioral changes can range from fear and anxiety to increased aggression and biting.

Finally, declawed cats risk being killed by predators when they go outside, because it cannot protect themselves.

Denver was one of the first cities to outlaw declawing, and New York just became the first state to ban the practice without medical justification. It’s already illegal in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel and Australia.

One of the best alternatives to declawing is training: Kittens typically begin to scratch around 8 weeks old, which is the ideal time to teach them to use a scratching post and get their nails trimmed.

Try using soft plastic nail caps, or attaching special tape such as Sticky Paws to furniture.

Though it may take a while to get him or her used to the process, clip your cat’s claws regularly.

Set up catnip-scented scratching posts and horizontal scratchers, and praise your cat when he or she uses them.

Finally, remember that scratching isn’t something your cat does to annoy you: It’s a natural, instinctive behavior — and part of being a cat.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever, Joey, and Maine coon cat, Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.