Vail Valley Voices: Don’t declaw your cat
Vail, CO., Colorado
As a cat foster mom for the Eagle Valley Humane Society and an inveterate cat lover, I am frequently asked questions regarding declawing.
I have found that by far the majority of people have no idea of what the declawing procedure actually entails.
Please take a moment to educate yourselves:
Declawing a cat consists of amputating the first knuckle of each digit (or finger) — in essence, 10 separate amputations if only the front paws are declawed.
If you were a person getting a declaw, each finger would be cut off at the first knuckle. It is an excruciatingly painful operation that has been outlawed in many countries in Europe because it is considered inhumane and deemed “unnecessary mutilation.”
Many vets refuse or are reluctant to perform the procedure for the same reason. A good percentage of cats that have undergone a declaw procedure develop problems with aggression or using the litter box.
As humans who have a body part amputated often feel “phantom pain” where the limb used to be, it is speculated that cats can and do experience the same phenomenon.
Often just digging in a litter box will cause pain and cats may begin to avoid the litter box because they associate it with pain. If I hear of a cat that is having problems using a litter box, my first question is, “Has he been declawed?” More often than not, the answer is “Yes.”
Cats may also lash out to the people around them and become biters because their paws are always sensitive.
It is estimated that as high as 80 percent of cats that are declawed will develop problems and will be turned over to a shelter because their humans cannot deal with the ensuing problem satisfactorily.
Declawing affects a cat’s balance, puts unnecessary pressure on joints and tendons, and takes away its primary form of defense.
I know people who have declawed their cats who claim that it has not affected them badly. While some cats may not show discomfort, remember that these gentle creatures are very adept at hiding their pain, as, in the wild, their very survival depends on it.
There are many effective ways to retrain a cat that is scratching on your furniture. If you have access to a computer, check the Internet for cat-declaw articles for further information. There are also many articles to be found on humane alternatives to declawing.
By taking an animal into your home, you have in effect promised to care for him in the best way you know how. Reward his trust in you by committing to redirecting his very natural behavior in a loving manner that will strengthen your bond, honor you both and have positive effects for years to come.