|Declawing & Humane Alternatives
By Franny Syufy
The U.S. Lags Behind
The United States is way behind the rest of the civilized world in its attitude toward declawing of
cats. Declawing has been illegal in England for several years. Australia, New Zealand, Germany,
Wales, Finland and Brazil are among the many countries that either consider declawing illegal or
inhumane, and only allow it under extreme circumstances. More and more cat aficionados, Cat
Fancy organizations, and veterinarians in the United States are mounting protests against
declawing, calling it inhumane and unnecessary.
Not Medically Necessary
Indeed, in all my research on the Internet, I have yet to see a veterinarian cite a common medical
reason for declawing, except to repair a badly done first job, in which the claws have grown back,
causing crippling pain to the cat. The closest one might come to a "medical" purpose is to
prevent the owner from having the cat euthanized because of destructive scratching. Some
veterinarians will reluctantly perform this procedure for that reason alone. I consider this a form
of extortion on the owner's part. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights call it "being
taken emotional hostage." It's a sad plight that many people will still insist on this surgery,
simply because of their cat's "destructive clawing", without even trying the alternatives.
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of "The Cat Who Cried for Help," has this to say about declawing:
"The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats' recovery from
anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, 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 overwhelming pain.
Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure,
disjoint, 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 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."
A cat's claws are vital to its physiology, providing protection, balance, and mobility. Cats who find
themselves outdoors without claws are virtually defenseless. To understand exactly what happens
during the surgical procedure, let's examine what declawing actually entails.
Declawing is not merely the trimming of the claws. It is the surgical removal of the claws, which
are closely adhered to the bone. In order to remove the claw and prevent its regrowth (which
sometimes results from incomplete removal), the entire first joint of each of the cat's "toes" is
amputated. This procedure is often likened to amputation of all a human's fingers to the first
knuckle. You can imagine the subsequent pain. The comparison ends there, however. Cats walk
on their "fingers and toes"--we do not (but imagine the pain if you had to, after amputation). Cats
depend primarily on their claws for defense-- we do not (but imagine your helplessness if you did,
Many cat owners who have had cats declawed in the past now say they would never consider it
again, knowing what they now know, and remembering the aftermath of the surgery. Happily,
there are other alternatives:
Nail Trimming - Cats cannot do the serious damage to furniture, drapery and rugs, with blunt
nails. Trimming is a simple procedure, and if you wait until your cat is sleepy and quiet, and take
it one nail at a time, over a period of several days, your cat will soon find out it's not to be feared.
Simply lightly squeeze the cat's toe to extend the nail tip, and snip the tip. You can buy
inexpensive clippers for this purpose at any pet store. Be careful not to cut into the dark part on
the underside of the tip-- this will cause bleeding. If you're trepiditious about doing this yourself,
ask your veterinarian to pet groomer to teach you. It's a lot less expensive than declawing, and a
lot easier on the cat and your conscience.
Invest in, or build your own, scratching post(s). - Sisal-covered posts are highly recommended.
Most cats can be easily trained to use the post instead of your furniture. The post can be
"enhanced" with catnip, making it practically irresistible. Posts can be obtained through pet
stores, or if you have any carpentry talent at all, you can build your own with a 4'x4' post, a
sturdy base, and some sisal to wrap it. Many cats love tree trunks-- nature's own scratching
posts-- so you might want to consider something like that, if you have ready access to one. Don't
stint on the number of posts. Many cats enjoy having several surfaces and elevations (vertical,
horizontal and plane.) Fortunately, one of the most popular surfaces is cardboard, and
inexpensive cardboard scratching posts are readily available.
Try Soft Paws - Soft Paws were developed by a veterinarian, and are vinyl nail caps which glue
right over a cat's claws. They come in clear or colors, which can look quite fancy, and also are
easy to locate if one should come off. The caps grow out with the natural growth of your cats
nails, and are said to last four to six weeks, on average. The manufacturer states that Soft Paws
and the accompanying glue, are harmless if swallowed. Most people can apply them at home, and
the application seems to go more easily when the cat is relaxed and sleepy. Soft Paws may be
ordered directly from the manufacturer at their web site, and the cost is reasonable.
There is no valid reason today to even remotely consider declawing as a solution for destructive
scratching. Any of these alternatives or a combination of them, can end your furniture-damage
Bottom line: Don't declaw! It is truly an unnecessary evil.