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Declawing & Humane Alternatives

North America Lags Behind the Rest of the World

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The United States is way behind the rest of the civilized world in its attitude toward declawing of cats. Declawing has been illegal in England for several years. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Wales, Finland and Brazil are among the many countries that either consider declawing illegal or inhumane, and only allow it under extreme circumstances. More and more savvy cat aficionados, Cat Fancy organizations, and veterinarians in the United States are mounting protests against declawing, calling it inhumane and unnecessary.

Not Medically Necessary

Indeed, in all my research on the Internet, I have yet to see a veterinarian cite a common medical reason for declawing, except to repair a badly done first job, in which the claws have grown back, causing crippling pain to the cat. The closest one might come to a "medical" purpose is to prevent the owner from having the cat euthanized because of destructive scratching. Some veterinarians will reluctantly perform this procedure for that reason alone. I consider this a form of extortion on the owner's part. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights call it "being taken emotional hostage." It's a sad plight that many people will still insist on this surgery, simply because of their cat's "destructive clawing", without even trying the alternatives.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of "The Cat Who Cried for Help," has this to say about declawing:

The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats' recovery from anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain. --Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to this surgery. Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of analgesic drugs. Even though analgesic drugs can be used postoperatively, they rarely are, and their effects are incomplete and transient anyway, so sooner or later the pain will emerge."

A cat's claws are vital to his physiology, providing protection, balance, and mobility. Cats who find themselves outdoors without claws are virtually defenseless. Cat scratch for three primary reasons:

  1. Exercise: A cat will select a surface where he can hook his claws, then pull against the resistance. This is a form of isotonic exercise which both strengthens the muscles and provides suppleness to muscles and joints.
  2. Marking Territory: Scent glands located on the cats' feet effectively mark the area as "his." You'll notice this behavior frequently with indoor-outdoor cats who will mark trees by scratching.
  3. "Anger Management": Although there is no scientific evidence for this, in over 45years of observing cats, I've noticed a marked increase in scratching behavior when a cat is annoyed or upset.

What, Exactly, is Declawing?

To understand exactly what happens during the surgical procedure, let's examine what declawing actually entails. Declawing is not merely the trimming of the claws. It is the surgical removal of the claws, which are closely adhered to the bone. In order to remove the claw and prevent its regrowth (which sometimes results from incomplete removal), the entire first joint of each of the cat's "toes" is amputated. This procedure is often likened to amputation of all a human's fingers to the first knuckle. You can imagine the subsequent pain. The comparison ends there, however. Cats walk on their "fingers and toes"--we do not (but imagine the pain if you had to, after amputation). Cats depend primarily on their claws for defense-- we do not (but imagine your helplessness if you did, after amputation).

Next page> Long-term effects

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