The declawing debate

By Jessica

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Cat declawing, while still considered a routine procedure in the U.S., was once much more common. It’s actually illegal in the UK and Australia and many animal rights advocates, including PETA, have spoken up in recent years about the inhumane nature of declawing. It continues to draw debate and veterinarians on JustAnswer are part of that discussion, offering differing views on the pros and cons of declawing.

According to many sources, including Veterinarian 101 on JustAnswer, the primary reasons to reconsider declawing are the high amount of post-op pain the cat might suffer and its inherent inhumanity. In order for the claws to be permanently removed, veterinarians must not only surgically remove the claw, but also the top of the bone where the claw grows from to make sure the claw doesn’t grow back. Cats are usually administered a large amount of pain medication after the procedure, but can still suffer painfully for days, even weeks, after.

And although most cat owners are careful to only declaw an indoors-only cat, if he ever found himself outside or lost, a cat that’s been declawed would have little way of protecting himself. The obvious argument being that cats were born with claws for a reason.

But according to another veterinarian on JustAnswer, Dr. Z., pet declawing doesn’t have to be as traumatic, or as painful as asserted if done by careful, experienced hands. Cosmetic declawing is one such procedure that generally takes more time, but is more careful to not cut the cat’s pads—similar to the tips of human fingers.

Dr. Z is among a group of veterinarians who believe that declawing, while not always ideal, can actually benefit the relationship between a cat and its guardian. Because the destruction of furniture can be a source of great frustration, people who have a cat who scratches will tend to be unhappier with their cat’s presence and are likely to punish her.

Differing opinions aside, most vets agree that cat declawing should be a last resort, and, if done, should only be done to the two front paws. There’s little reason, if any, to declaw a cat’s back claws. Cat declawing can be done at any age, although younger cats tend to recover from the procedure quicker.

Of course, most vets do stress trying alternative methods to discouraging furniture scratching before having your cat declawed. See our Wisdom Wire post: Get those claws off the couch, for suggestions on how to stop your cat from scratching your furniture.