by Kelly Rutan
There is a very prevalent misconception in our society today about declawing cats. Many people do not know the severe ramifications of this procedure and many a veterinarian won’t tell you not to declaw your cat when they should. We love and care for all cats and we know you do too! We want to help spread the word and educate our community on this inhumane practice to protect our kitties now and in the future.
Cats use their claws for a variety of reasons. Scratching is a very natural and instinctive behavior for them, and satisfies both physical and psychological needs. They use their claws to leave their scent and mark their territory. By using their claws, they are able to stretch their muscles and tone their bodies. Could you imagine not being able to stretch your muscles when you wake up in the morning? Yeah, neither could we. Their claws are also their primary means of defending themselves.
Declawing is amputation of the first knuckles of a cat’s paws. This procedure not only removes the claws, but bone as well, as a cat’s claws grows from the bone itself. Removing these knuckles also severs nerves, ligaments, and tendons, which are necessary for healthy and normal function.
A 2001 report published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association by Yeon, et al. states that 1/3 of cats suffer at least one behavioral issue as a result of being declawed. Many cats suffer from arthritis, as declawing alters the way a cat walks. Some cats also experience bone regrowth, which is extremely painful. The pain associated with declawing causes some cats to bite, as their primary means of defense is gone. Some cats also begin to avoid using the litter box because they associate the pain they are feeling with the litter. The same study mentioned above concluded that 17.9% of declawed cats will result to biting, and 15.4% of declawed cats eliminate outside the litter box. Because of these issues, declawed cats may be given up by their owners to shelters.
Declawing was just recently made illegal in the state of New York. In addition, eight cities in California have banned declawing, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills. The city of Denver has also outlawed the procedure. Worldwide, declawing is banned in over 20 countries, including the UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, and Spain. The biggest opponent in the fight against cat declawing is unawareness. Many pet owners across North America have not been educated on this topic and are not dissuaded by trained professionals when they inquire about it.
Most cats can be trained to scratch appropriate items! Some cats like to scratch and stretch horizontally and others prefer vertically. Knowing and understanding your cat and their preferences is the first step. Giving them several scratching options of different types and textures such as, but not limited to, a scratching post, cat tree, and a cardboard scratcher. Using tools such as catnip and treats are great ways to persuade them to use their scratchers rather than your beloved furniture. Trimming your cat’s nails is another option to keep them short and less sharp (just like our own human nails). It is important to encourage appropriate play with your cat utilizing toys and treats instead of your hands which are meant for petting, not playing. Another last resort could be claw caps also known as “soft paws” to place over your kitties nails routinely — like gloves but for your cat! Remember, your cat is just doing a natural behavior for its health and happiness.
*The SPCA of Northern Nevada will not adopt out any cat to a family that intends to declaw.
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