Is it wrong to declaw house cats?


Fact Box

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association explains that declawing is “the surgical amputation of all or part of a cat’s third phalanges (toe bones) and the attached claws. Most often the procedure involves the front paws only, but sometimes the claws are removed from all four paws.” 
  • Animal welfare group, The Paw Project, estimates that “25%–43% of all cats in American homes are declawed.” 
  • In a Today’s Veterinary Practice poll of 400 US veterinarians, 94% agreed with New York state legislation to ban cat declawing. 
  • According to Pets Best Pet Health Insurance, the average cost to declaw a cat ranges from $600 to $1,800.

Andrew (Yes)

No one likes to be scratched by a cat or to have furniture or other household items destroyed by feline claws. And all too often, cat owners resort to removing their cats' claws without considering the considerable harm that this procedure may cause their pet. Firstly, removing a cat's claws changes how their feet touch the ground, impacting their body and producing pain akin to 'wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes.' Cats are finely tuned animals with amazing balance and agility. Removing their claws takes away part of their innate cat-ness.

Aside from affecting ease of movement, removing a cat's claws can cause a host of other problems, such as infection, tissue necrosis, and lameness. We often think of declawing as a minor procedure, similar to simply clipping one's nails. The truth is that declawing a cat is major surgery, more similar to removing a human's finger up to the first knuckle because in order to prevent the claw from growing back, the last bone of each toe is removed. This is true for both conventional surgery and more advanced procedures such as laser surgery

It is unnecessary and unethical to make a cat endure all of these changes and risks to future health simply because we want less scratching in our lives. Rather than changing the cat's physiology, the more sensible and compassionate solution to scratching is to figure out why a cat is misbehaving and work to change how it interacts with humans and its environment

Amani (No)

Despite the negativity and controversy surrounding cat declawing, this surgical procedure is only banned in two states and a handful of cities nationwide. This could be because of the merits this procedure offers both pets and their owners. 

In general, cats have a natural need to scratch due to reasons such as marking their territory. At times, it may be easy to curb this destructive behavior. However, not all cats, especially aggressive cats, may respond to behavioral training. 

Despite its reservations, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that declawing can be considered “when a cat’s excessive or inappropriate scratching behavior causes an unacceptable risk of injury or remains destructive despite conscientious attention to behavioral modification and alternatives.”

Opting to declaw a house cat goes beyond wanting to protect valuable possessions and furniture. The procedure can also safeguard other members of the household, such as children and patients on blood thinners. This, in turn, improves the relationship between pets and their owners. In some cases, excessive scratching has led to owners relinquishing their cats, housing them outdoors, or euthanizing them. Therefore, declawing ensures that cats stay with their owners until death do them part.  

The AVMA further recommends declawing for cats affected by diseases such as paronychia and neoplasia of the nail bed. The procedure, in this case, is curative, especially when the infection is well-established. 

Therefore, declawing isn’t wrong--not for the cats or their owners. That said, this is a surgical procedure. So, it should be carried out after a thorough consultation with a vet to ensure the cat’s future safety and health.

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