Many of the problems that exist with our relationship with animals, are caused by some sort of lack of education or knowledge about something. Such is the case of declawing cats. Many people that do this to their cats may think they are doing something right, they think they are correcting a behavior and they may even see it as a permanent manicure. The problem is that this is a decision that most of times lacks the knowledge of what it really implies.
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Declawing is more than just removing the claws. It’s actually a very painful and cruel form of amputation. In humans the nails grow from the skin, but in cats the claws grow from the bone, which means that to stop the claw from growing, the last bone of each toe has to be amputated. The equivalent in humans would be to cut off each finger from the tip to the bone of the knuckle. Not so much of a manicure, isn’t it?
It is a very painful procedure. Pain medication is administered before the procedure, immediately after and then for another week at home. But there is at least 30% of the veterinarians in the US that don’t even bother to provide pain medication. If the claws were not completely removed, they can grow back into the paw pad, causing terrible pain to the cat.
This is why this procedure is already illegal and considered to be a very inhumane practice in 25 countries that include England, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Serbia, Brazil, Bosnia, France, Portugal and others.
In the United States and Canada it’s still not banned, as a matter of fact it seems that between 25 and 45% of domestic cats in the US are declawed. However, there are still many organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and The Paw Project that are actively trying to educate the public so more and more clinics stop performing this cruel procedure.
The clinics that already stopped declawing, claim it is not medically necessary and agree that there is nothing that justifies it, but there are many reasons to stand against it.
First of all, it is important to understand that cats use their claws not as a rebellious behavior against their humans or their furniture. They actually need their claws for many things. For a start, to keep balance. Cats walk on their toes and without their claws, they are out of balance and they need to find another way to keep their stability and for their feet to touch the ground without pain.
READ MORE: CATS AND THEIR CLAWS
In addition to that, they need their claws to scratch, stretch and to defend themselves. They use them to strengthen their muscles when they stretch so without them, their tissue will degenerate faster and can develop arthritis as they age.
Without their claws “they are deprived of their normal, instinctual behavioral impulses to use their claws to climb, exercise, and mark territory with the scent glands in their paws”.
People that declaw their cats do it to prevent them from scratching the furniture, other pets and even small children. But when they are deprived from their claws, some cats start biting and another issue starts.
Declawing is a debate among veterinarians. Some think it’s the only way to prevent so many cats from being dropped at the shelter and eventually euthanized because of unwanted scratching. The problem is that most declawed cats develop other behavioral issues that can also send them to shelters, so the problem is not really being solved.
The main behavioral issue they develop is that they stop using the litter box. The rough litter on their paws is painful after the procedure so they do their business somewhere else. According to Jennifer Conrad, the founder of The Paw Project,
“Cats are the type of animal that they know where they received pain, they know a litter box is causing pain. They don’t perceive it as ‘Oh it’s just after surgery and my paws hurt’, they think it’s painful to use it now — so they don’t want to use it anymore.”
Probably many people wouldn’t declaw their cats if they knew everything that it actually implies. The problem is that many veterinarians don’t inform people about it and they even offer it as the only solution they can think of to solve a “problem”.
But there are solutions and alternatives if you don’t want your cat to scratch your furniture of your family. You need to give your cat an escape for their natural scratching instinct. A scratching post for a start is precious. You can always encourage them to use it with a little bit of cat nip. Most cats love that stuff! And always praise them after they use the post. Cats work better with rewards than with punishment.
If your cat uses the scratching post but still scratches you during playtime, you can also consider trimming his/her nails with frequency. This procedure is actually the manicure, not the declaw. You also cut your nails when they are too long and in the way, so think it as the equivalent. If you don’t want to do it, most veterinary clinics can assist you with that.
READ MORE: 6 TIPS ON HOW TO TRIM YOUR CAT’S NAILS
Let’s stop this practice once and for all. For a start you can spread the word so people get educated and make decisions with knowledge for all animals’ sake.