Several Reasons Not To Declaw

Sadie decided to take a day off and go boating with her parents and since I am not inclined to do such things, my Mom (Sadie's Gram)decided to let me talk about declawing.

As an indoor/outdoor cat I am very much against it, but I know some humans think it is the only way to go. I know I have made my mark on a few of my Mom's things and I have since learned to use the scratching post when I am indoors.

So before you decide to declaw your cat, please read on.

Does your cat's scratching have you thinking of declawing?

Don't even think about it.

There is a better way.

Scratching is as normal for a cat as scratching an itch is to a human. So please take a moment or two to read what I have to say.

Possibly if you understand the importance of what scratching means to a cat and what declawing does to a cat, you will change your mind. If it doesn’t, at least I have tried.

Your cat was born with its “scratching instinct.” It is part of a normal cat’s behavior.

Using its paws and claws, a cat is able to place its territorial mark and establish its turf.

The claws play an important part in the physical health and well being of a cat. Think of the claws as a cat’s personal gym workout. Scratching and stretching is cat exercise. Scratching stretches, pulls and works the muscles of your cat’s front quarters and feels so good. Think about how good stretching feels to you.

There are a few other reasons a cat scratches. Cats like to keep their claws sharp and clean.

Cats also use scratching to loosen the outer sheath around their claws as they shed them periodically.

Keeping your cat indoors is a good thing, the bad part of that is, kitty can’t have access to tree trunks, which are its scratching posts of choice. However, there are some choices you can make that will help kitty find the answer to its scratching needs without the benefit of declawing.

First of all, punishment will not work, cats do not understand physical punishment.

You need to understand that you cannot make a cat do anything it does not want to do. The secret is to re-direct the cat into doing what you want it to do without the cat knowing it.

Punishment for scratching (other than a sharp NO) will only create fear in the cat and it won’t do it if you are around.

Cats have fabulous memories and have been known to hold some very serious grudges.

Cats do not do anything for spite (no matter what you think.) Cats just do what cats do, and that’s it.

So how do you re-direct your cat’s energy away from your prized possessions?

The answer is simple, but recreating a new behavior is not so simple. You will have to be patient, you will have to pay attention to your cat and you will have to invest in some sturdy scratching posts ( I said plural as you will need more than one.)

However, before we go into the scratching post thing and while I still have your interest, I want to explain to you what you will be doing to the cat should you decide to declaw it.

Declawing is major surgery. The surgery is called an onychectomy, the procedure consists of amputating the toe to the last joint.

Think of it as cutting off your finger at the knuckle just below your nail.

The misconception a number of people have is that declawing is just removing the claw (sort of like cutting it off so it won’t grow any more,) not so. In many animals the claw is just a toenail, but in a cat it is a movable part attached to a muscle with strong ligaments and tendons that give the claw the ability to extend and retract.

This surgery cuts, damages and destroys the sensory and motor nerves in the paw. It takes many months for the feeling to come back.

Declawing affects your cat’s ability to grasp things, (forget catching mice, if that is why you have a cat) its ability to get the proper footing for running, jumping, climbing or stretching.

A cat’s senses are stronger than ours, recovery is painful, many vets think the pain is excruciating. There are a number of vets that will not do this surgery.

There are very few if any, painkillers that can be given to a cat. Most painkillers are toxic to cats and some can cause death.

Imagine if you will, having a portion of each toe cut off all at once and then having to stay on your feet all the time.

A cat needs its paws to use the litter box, to walk to its food dish and to do all the things a cat does. It can not lie on the couch and be waited on.

As with any surgery there can be complications, such as an incomplete removal of the nail bed, an accidental removal of part of the digital pad, infection or a bad reaction to the anesthesia.

It is also possible for a claw to grow back and not in the normal manner causing more pain and possible surgery.

Did you know that only in America is this done with any great frequency. Americans do this to their cats as a matter of convenience for themselves, it certainly not doing the cat any favors. In England declawing is called “inhumane” and an “unnecessary mutilation.” In many European countries it is illegal to declaw a cat. It is considered animal cruelty.

A cat is a unique creature. A cat is graceful. A cat without its claws is defenseless it has no way to protect itself from other cats, dogs or other animals.

There are people that declaw a cat, get tired of it and put it outside to fend for itself, it can’t. A clawless cat cannot fend for itself by catching mice or rats, cannot fight off other cats or dogs, cannot climb a tree to be safe from predators.

Declawing a cat has been known to change its personality. Some cats become “biters” using biting as a form of defense. Some cats become withdrawn, lose their “spunky personalities.”

A declawed cat is at the mercy of its caregiver and if the caregiver decides to quit caring, the cat is in a peck of trouble.

Now you know a little about declawing and you understand that it is not a nice thing to do to your cat, but you are still concerned about your furniture.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however it will take some patience on your part, some scratching posts for kitty and a little cooperation from both of you.

If you are a first time "cat caregiver" and are not familiar with cat behavior (thought cats only ate, slept and washed themselves) shame on you for not doing some research before getting your kitty.

However, you are forgiven and if you will read answers to declawing you will have a better idea of what to do and what to expect.

Your cat is unique and special and needs to be treated with respect and love. Declawing is not the answer. Patience and re-direction is.

I hope that this has shed some light on why you should not declaw your cat. Just remember, with patience we can learn, we are just stubborn sometimes. Thanks for letting me talk about this and maybe one day Sadie will let me come back.

Until then, I will remain

Miss Tiger, the visiting feline