Declawing Unacceptable: Assoc Vets for Animal Rights

The lady with the 10 year old cat had it euthanized at the advice of her vet. Apparently it was biting people and drawing blood (declawed, surprise!)

-reported by a Heavenly Creatures
volunteer regarding a phone message
October 15, 2007

Declawing is not a "kitty manicure". Declawing is an irreversible surgical procedure with life-long physical, behavioural and emotional consequences for your cat. It involves the AMPUTATION of the last joint of your kitty's "toes". The same toes that she depends on for balance, exercise, mobility and survival.

Unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of the paws or feet, cats are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat's weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat's claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold - similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. Removal of the last digits of the toes drastically alters the conformation of their feet and causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.

PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES
1. It is painful . . . not just after surgery but later in life when she is more apt to suffer from chronic back and joint pains. Severed nerve endings may cause constant pain sensations in the toes. Read more about the very real phenomenon of phantom pain here.
2. Leads to atrophy of the muscles in the front quarters because the cat comes to rely on her hind quarters so much.
3. Secondary contracture of the tendons makes it more difficult for cat to walk.
4. Because cats rely so much on their claws for play and exercise, they are more likely to become overweight.
5. A poorly executed amputation procedure can result in painful regrowth of deformed nails or . . .
6. Infection.
7. Death.

In a peer-reviewed veterinary journal, it was concluded that at least 50% of cats undergoing this amputation procedure had one or more complications after the surgery.

BEHAVIOURAL CONSEQUENCES
1. Imagine kitty trying to dig in her litterbox after being declawed? OUCH! It is not uncommon for cats to urinate on softer surfaces after they have been declawed (like your favorite chair that you were initially trying to protect from her claws). Once this behavior starts it is very difficult to get the cat to go back to the cold, boring litter box again.
2. Not only does she KNOW she cannot defend herself...she actually can't. Many cats become very defensive and/or aggressive. They will retreat and hide just to avoid potential confrontation. And most often bite!
3. Cats have glands in their paws and they scratch to mark their territory. Wouldn't it be great if she took up urinating everywhere else to mark her territory instead? Coincidentally, cats seem to choose the most visible areas of the house for scratching (or in this case urinating) . . . like your entrance way or living room.

If your declawed cat ever gets outside, she will not have her claws to help defend herself. She won't even be able to escape harm by the very natural act of climbing a tree. That's enough of a scenario to give anyone nightmares.

EMOTIONAL CONSEQUENCES
1. Being out of balance is very stressful for kitty. How would you feel if you could no longer gain a strong foothold because your foot became an amputated stump?
2. Remember that lovable kitten who would love to snuggle up next to you every chance she got? Kitty has a good memory and they like to hold grudges. Don't start thinking she will forget how you betrayed her trust!

There's proof that the incidence of behavior problems following onychectomy in cats is high. Look at the how many cats presented with problems two months to five years (median 11.5 months) after surgery:
• "33% developed at least one behavior problem.
• "17.9% had an increase in biting habits or intensity."
• "15.4% would not use the litter box"
Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association - 2001

ALTERNATIVES TO DECLAWING
No, you cannot stop your feline friend from scratching. But there are alternatives to amputation. There are HUMANE and compassionate ways to deal with a cat's claws:

  • Behavior modification by way of positive reinforcement. Punishment does not work as a long-term solution and only makes kitty sneaky;
  • Scratching posts (or household alternatives such as that chair you were thinking of throwing out next month anyway);
  • Trim her nails and/or plastic claw caps (they even come in fun colors);
  • Spray deterrents (pheromones or lemon) to stop a kitty from climbing your curtains or scratching your couch;
  • Two-sided tape on inappropriate flat surfaces (kitties do not like having sticky paws);
  • Spray a water gun or blow a loud whistle when she is scratching something inappropriate (and then lead her to the scratching post, maybe one that's loaded with catnip for a little extra incentive!);
  • Always have an ample supply of fun toys and a special human friend to enjoy them with. . .

A declawed cat is a maimed cat, a mutilated cat and no excuse can justify the operation. Your "forever friend" trusts you and depends upon you for protection. Don't betray that trust by declawing your cat. Declawing is not just inhumane but it is very selfish and lazy. It does nothing positive for the animal.

Remember, contrary to misleading information, declawing is not a "minor" surgery comparable to spaying and neutering procedures. It is ten, separate, painful amputations of the distal phalanx at the joint.

"Declawing...is unacceptable because the suffering and disfigurement it causes is not offset by any benefits to the cat. Declawing is done strictly to provide convenience for people. 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."

The Association of
Veterinarians for Animal Rights
(www.avar.org)

Studies to support the claims of behaviour change:

• "Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination problems."
Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association - 2001

Many declawed cats become so traumatized by this painful mutilation that they end up spending their maladjusted lives perched on top of doors and refrigerators, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against whom they no longer have any adequate defense.

A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defense. Removing the claws makes a cat feel defenseless. The constant state of stress caused by a feeling of defenselessness may make some declawed cats more prone to disease. Stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological disorders including suppression of the immune system, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

"The consequences of declawing are often pathetic. Changes in behavior can occur. A declawed cat frequently resorts to biting when confronted with even minor threats. Biting becomes an overcompensation for the insecurity of having no claws. Bungled surgery can result in the regrowth of deformed claws or in an infection leading to gangrene. Balance is affected by the inability to grasp with their claws. Chronic physical ailments such as cystitis or skin disorders can be manifestations of a declawed cat's frustration and stress." David E. Hammett, DVM

The following is a partial list of countries in which declawing cats is either illegal or considered extremely inhumane and only performed under extreme medical circumstances:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

29 Responses to “Declawing Unacceptable: Assoc Vets for Animal Rights”

Shawna wrote a comment on September 18, 2009

wow! I actually thought getting my cat Declawed would fix everything..I think I could live the rest of my cats life with scratched up furniture than live the rest of my life knowing all the pain I would have put him through:( I was honestly considering having my kitty declawed untill I read this..I never knew any of the negative results and emotional damage that would have came out! I surely hope more people will read this and understand the consequences!

Crystal3d wrote a comment on October 4, 2009

I have a 15 year old cat that I had declawed, when he was young. I now regret doing that. I regret it because I also notice imbalance in walking; along with loss of confidence. At the time I wish I would have known the consequences. Vetenarians need to eduacate cat owners before doing the process. That way cat owners will not learn years later.

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