To declaw or not to declaw?

by DaniGirl on July 28, 2011 · 16 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

More than 20 years ago when I adopted my first cat from the humane society, getting her declawed was a no-brainer. Everyone I knew who owned a cat had it done. When Beloved arrived in my life in 1995 with his two cats, they too were already declawed (the cats, that is – not Beloved.)

Now that we’re about to take Willlie in for the big snip, we have to decide whether we’re going to get him declawed at the same time. I’m having a hard time convincing myself it’s the right thing to do this time around.

Willie for the blog 2

Maybe it’s because I’ve read too much about how declawing actually involves chopping off not just the claws but the whole first part of the toe? Maybe it’s because I was so vehemently opposed to circumcising the boys that I can’t justify any sort of non-essential removal of parts? Regardless, I’m feeling a little squeamish about the whole thing.

On the other side of the equation, just this morning I’ve watched Willie climb two different window screens and the clothes in Beloved’s closet. I’ve already paid to repair one patio door and upgrade it to a high-end pet-proof screen, and will have to do the other by the end of the summer. I haven’t yet noticed any damage on the furniture from him scratching, but I’ve caught him doing it many times. He’s going to be an indoor cat, so he will never really need those claws.

What do you think? Did you / would you declaw your cats? Why or why not?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jo(e) July 28, 2011 at 7:37 am

I have six cats. None of them are declawed.

I once had a student who worked at a vet’s office. She described the declawing process — it sounded cruel and painful.

2 Danielle July 28, 2011 at 7:57 am

We have 2 cats and they both have claws. It just seems cruel.

Cats will scratch but you can train them to use a scratching post rather than the sofa.

3 Nik July 28, 2011 at 8:02 am

I have cats since, well, since before I could get cats. Previously I have only ever declawed the front paws of a cat, and this was done when they were kittens (much akin to a circumcision of a baby boy). Our next cat however, young or old will have all four done. The reason why? After speaking to other cat owners and asking three local vets, I now know that the laser method is much less painful procedure, with every cat young and old being back to theirselves within a day or two of the procedure. Yes, it is an amputation at the front joint. But your furniture will be happier, your kids less scratched, and I’ve yet to meet a cat who acts adversely (they still love your lap). Good luck!

4 Carly July 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

I’m with Nik – have always had cats and have always had the front paws declawed. The only exception was a 4 year old tom cat I rescued. I did have him spayed, but couldn’t bring myself to declaw him when he’d already undergone a lot of trauma in his short life. He was a remarkably laid-back cat and never scrated anything or anyone, despite having all his claws.

We adopted a kitten three years ago and had her front paws done by laser – she was running all over the place within a couple of days.

I did declaw one kitten once who did have issues though – his paws were quite sensitve and took longer to heal. We had to take him back to the vet for more pain meds (a fentenal patch) for an additional week. By then of the second week, he had completely healed. Though he was always a little nuts.

Good luck either way!

5 andrea from the fishbowl July 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

I wouldn’t do it. I think it’s cruel. I had a cat growing up and it had all its claws. Climbing and shredding was never an issue.

6 Leanne July 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

No, we don’t declaw. And our sheers now look like they’re rouched! We have been negligent about getting a proper scratching post, admittedly.

I think, if you are going to bring an animal in your home, you have to expect they will express their animalness. It is normal for a cat to climb and scratch, but they can be directed to do it on my appropriate structures. And, yeah, laser surgery or not, you are amputating your cat. I wouldn’t circumcise a son just because the doc said the anesthesia was really great!

7 Susan July 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I’ve never declawed cats, either–seems to create pain that’s not necessary (and, if they ever get outside, even if you intend them to be indoor kitties, they would be at a disadvantage). We have learned how to trim the cats’ nails and keep that up regularly.

8 Nolie July 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Having outdoor cats my whole life and doing co-op at a vet clinic had me strongly against declawing cats. Even if they were going to be indoor I was against it.

Then along came Toby. My son loved him, he fit in perfect with his family but he was destructive. Our brand new $2400 bed had claw marks in it with pieces of material coming out, my stairs were destroyed and my curtains had been climbed more times than I wanted to count. This was only 1 week into having Toby. We bought him a scratch post and he ignored it. I then found him climbing my expensive dresses and my son had scratches everywhere.

We had to make a choice. Declaw the cat or give the cat away. My lovely indoor cat Toby now has no front claws, my stuff in in tact and we are all happy.

9 Batman July 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm

We have three cats and all of them have their claws. My aunt is a big support of the Humane Society and she would probably de-claw me if I did it to the cats. Ouch.

The only thing the cats claw besides their posts is the carpet. Since we have wall to wall carpet, that’s going to be one expensive repair one of these days. Double ouch

10 Janet July 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

If cats can be toilet trained, they can certainly be trained to not scratch furniture etc… Keep a spray bottle handy and squirt him with water if he is scratching up the house.

One other thing to think about is, what if he escapes out the door? Without claws he wouldn’t be able to hunt or defend himself. Virtually every indoor cat I’ve ever known has run away on occasion.

11 Allison P. July 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Oh, don’t do it!! I used to work in a vet clinic, and the declawing process is one of the cruelest procedures out there. Many vets just won’t provide the service anymore, along with tail and ear cropping. It is awful. Awful. Cats who came in cuddly and purring awoke from surgery loudly wailing, feisty, and horrid. They were pissed, and I don’t blame them. Imagine? It’s worse than circumcision (which I also didn’t do to my son) because it takes away BONE too. It is horrific.

There are tricks — the spray bottle being one of the best. I have two clawed cats, and yeah, they’ve made marks on some furniture. Whoopdeedoo. Like Leanne said, it’s part of their animalness, and that’s what we accept for bringing them into the home, like spilled milk and a messy house with kids. It makes home, home. I give a big, fat vote for letting the sweet little guy deal singularly with the little genital snippet he needs to undergo for sure. (I am, by the way, getting very attached to little Willy through these posts!)

12 Mary @ Parenthood July 29, 2011 at 6:25 am

Ah declawing! Asking whether you should declaw or not is a bit like asking whether you should breastfeed. Or co-sleep. Or cry-it-out. Extremely polarizing topics, in other words. A site that I follow talked about it a few years ago here: There’s the same kind of comment spread as you’ve received, but also a link to an alternative that you could try instead if behaviour modification.

The Wikipedia article on declawing is also very interesting

I think what I find most interesting is the wide difference in attitude towards the process
worldwide. It’s illegal in quite a number of countries, on the grounds of cruelty. I probably wouldn’t do it myself, mostly because I think that removing weight-bearing bone structures are likely to interfere with the cat’s longterm quality of life.

13 allison-lee August 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm

We are against declawing for many of the reasons others have mentioned. Our cat likes to scratch, but we’ve been able to keep her away from the furniture by providing scratching posts and being quite religious about clipping her nails. I’ve heard a spray bottle full of water can discourage the behaviour too.

14 Londen November 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Did you go through with it? Our five year old wants a kitten but we don’t want the clawing…or fur but thats another story. I have read so many horror stories about declawing but happy endings too..not sure what to do.

15 DaniGirl November 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm

In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The extra $200 was a factor, and he just hadn’t been showing a lot of clawing behaviour. So far, so good. I trim his nails every couple of weeks and he’s patient enough to tolerate that, and they have this little tip thingees if it gets bad.

I’m happy we didn’t do it, but your mileage may vary. 😉

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