Please Don't Take My Claws Away!

by Leo

Many humans think it necessary to remove our claws for selfish reasons. "My couch is expensive and I do not want Fluffy to destroy it" or "Mr. Tinkles shredded our rare English Love seat". Did these people even consider what life with a cat would be like before strolling to the local shelter and proclaiming that kitten #34553 was so adorable they just had to get him? Would you consider taking your newborn to a surgeon to have it's arms removed so as it grew your precious Porcelain vase would be safe? It is unnerving for people to imagine maiming a human child for the idea of property protection, so why is it so easy to hurt, disfigure and torment a cat because you are too lazy to teach it to use proper scratching material and take the time to maintain properly clipped nails?

My previous owners declawed me. All four paws. I had no say in it. They broke the contract they signed when they adopted me at the shelter, which stated that they would NEVER declaw me. They signed the papers anyway, never once considering that I may be a living and breathing being also, with needs, wants and feelings. I urge you to consider alternatives to declawing. If you feel that you must declaw your feline pal, consider finding them a new home. One where the price of a chair or sofa does not exceed the price of their paws, their love, their comfort and their life.

Why do cats require claws?

We use our claws (those of us lucky enough to have them) for many things: scratching, digging, protection, playing, footing, stretching, balance and jumping. Could you imagine not being able to scratch an itch? Or grab and hold a pencil? Or fluff your pillow before you go to sleep? Such is only part of the declawed cat's woes.

What is decalwing?

There are 2 types of "declawing" humans feel the need to perform on us cats, by far the most common is called Onychetomy and the least common is Tendonectomy.

Onychetomy involves amputation of each individual claw and end toe bone joint. This removes the full claw and the bone it is attached to. It is a serious surgery. A human comparison would be to remove someone's fingers at the last knuckle. After the operation your supposed friend will suffer impaired balance and will have to learn to walk differently, as would a human who lost their toes in a similar operation. Often our feet become more tender for ever and we stop using our litter box or burying our business to avoid the discomfort.

Tendonectomy does not involve actual amputation at the joints, but rather the severing of the tendons that allow us cats to extend our claws. Even with this type of surgery, you will have to trim your friends nails every 4-6 weeks to avoid complications. This option is not very well favored by most vets, because of the possible affects of not keeping the nails trimmed properly. Some vets have also reported arthritis and joint fusion problems relating to this operation.

Some common misconceptions:

  • Without claws my friend will stop marking territory in the house: This is just not true. If we want to mark the house we will just start to urinate and defecate outside the litter box, a common marking practice.
  • A decalwed cat is a more gentle cat: With no claws we can feel defenseless. With no way to feel safe many other cats develop neurosis and may even become a biter.
Dr.Nicholas Dodman, a prominent veterinary behaviorist, writes in The Cat Who Cried for Help:
Unlike routine recovery, 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. Cats that are more stoic huddle in the corner of the recovery cage, immobilized in a state of helplessness, presumably by the overwhelming pain. Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjont, 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 a 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.
AVAR (Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights) says:
The cat is treated as if he or she is an inanimate object who can be modified, even to the point of surgical mutilation, to suit a person's perception of what a cat should be. It would seem more ethical and humane to accept that claws and scratching are inherent feline attributes, and to adjust one's life accordingly if a cat is desired as a companion. If this is unacceptable, then perhaps a different companion would be in order.

Your feline friend can learn with your help:

  • Trim our nails. If our nails are well kept and short it removes much of the need to claw on things.
  • Buy or make several scratching posts for us. Just having the posts is not enough, you must take the time to teach us to use them. (In future articles we will teach you how to make a scratching post from items found at the local stores!)
  • Show us what NOT to claw on. Just remember we need an alternative. Imagine someone telling you where you could not walk and never telling you where is was acceptable.

We are not inanimate objects placed here for your entertainment. We are living and breathing beings as you humans are. We feel, we think, we breath, we sleep, we love. If you plan to place the well-being of a piece of furniture above the well-being of an animal friend you should reconsider the adoption and consider the adoption of an animal friend whom you do not feel the need to harm.

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