I occasionally receive emails from owners of declawed cats after they have read one or more of my articles against declawing. The gist of these emails is usually this:
"We tried everything to keep our cat from destroying our furniture, but nothing worked. Since declawing, our cat is happy and has had none of the problems you've described. If we couldn't declaw him we would have had to put him to sleep (or surrendered to a shelter). Why are you so adamant against declawing?"
I abhor declawing because it is an inhumane and unnecessary mutilation, most often done because the cat owners value their possessions more than they value the welfare of their cat. It has been my experience that people who say "we tried everything" have only half-heartedly tried, by squirting water at the cat or by buying one scratching post. They always come prepared with a handy list of excuses in hopes I'll approve their declaw decision:
- My cat wouldn't let anyone trim his claws
- He didn't like his scratching post
- He'd never hold still for the application of nail caps
- He's a stubborn cat and impossible to train
So you think your declawed cat is a happy camper? Let me tell you about cats and pain: these magnificent creatures are adept at masking pain and discomfort. Because your cat purrs, he is not necessarily pain-free. Severely injured and even dying cats will purr with their last breath. I've always thought it was a way of saying, "Please don't hurt me anymore. I'll be good." Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, of Englewood, Colorado, a pro-claw advocate, says of this trait:
"Declawing is ten to eighteen separate amputations, so it is not unreasonable to believe that declawed cats experience phantom pain in one or more toes. Cats typically conceal pain or illness until it becomes unbearable. With chronic pain, it may be that they simply learn to live with it. Their behavior may appear normal, but a lack of overt signs of pain does not mean they are pain-free."
People often claim that their cat still gets the benefit of scratching because they've seen the cat "scratching." Declawing cats causes the tendons in the toes to retract, which eventually results in the attendant joints "freezing." Dr. Hofve says that the fact that cats may continue to make scratching motions after declawing, could be explained as the "cat's desperate desire to stretch those stiff contracted joints." The true muscle stretching and toning benefits of scratching result from the cat's hooking his claws into a surface and pulling strongly away from the surface. A declawed cat does not have these isotonic benefits, because he has nothing left to "hook" with.
Unlike other mammals, cats walk on their toes, rather than the balls of their feet. Declawing causes the cat's gait to change as his painful toe stubbs heal, which throws off the entire balance of the cat. Eventually this altered gait can lead to arthritis and multiple joint pain.
Cat lovers with fully-clawed cats can derive considerable pleasure in watching their cats exercise their muscles through scratching approved surfaces, jumping, climbing, running, and playing. To settle for less is a disservice, both to the cat and to his human companion.
If for some reason you feel you must only have a declawed cat, you can find plenty of them in your local shelter, but be prepared for behavior retraining. Declawed cats are typically surrendered because of biting or inappropriate urination problems. Some of these cats can be retrained - some can't, so ask questions before making the commitment.
Better yet, educate yourself about declawing, and consider its ramifications. You may decide to join us.
AB395 is just the beginning. Regardless of its fate, the first shot has been fired in the war against declawing, and has struck home, in West Hollywood. It may be a long and difficult battle, but we shall overcome the cruel and inhumane practice of declawing in America!
One city - one state - one cat at a time.