Captain's Cabin

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordy Wednesday - The Truth about Declawing

I want to talk about declawing a cat today. First, you should know that declawing is pretty much an American thing, it's something people do for their own convenience without realizing what actually happens to their beloved cat. In England, declawing is termed "inhumane" and "unnecessary mutilation." I agree. In many European countries it is illegal. I applaud their attitude.

line of amputation Before a human makes the decision to declaw a cat, there are some important facts they should know. Declawing is not like a manicure. It is serious surgery. A cat's claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat's claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat's "toes".

If you are a human, look at your fingers. Consider what your hands would be like if each finger was amputated up to the first joint.

When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing.

No cat lover would doubt that cats--whose senses are much keener than theirs--suffer pain. We however, hide it better. Not only are we proud, we instinctively know that we are at risk when in a weakened position, and by nature will attempt to hide it. But make no mistake. This is not a surgery to be taken lightly.

A cat's body is perfectly designed to give it the grace, agility and beauty that is unique to felines. Claws are an important part of this design. Amputating the important part of their anatomy that contains the claws drastically alters the conformation of their feet. Cats that have been declawed may also develop carpal tunnel syndrom as they get older as they feet no longer support their weight properly. Many cats also suffer a loss of balance because they can no longer achieve a secure foothold on their amputated stumps.

The cat is also deprived of its primary means of defense, leaving it prey to predators if it ever escapes to the outdoors. I know that some people have told me that this cat or that cat did well outside despite being declawed, but this is the exception, not the rule. A cat cannot always defend itself with it's body weight and teeth.

In many cases, a cat's personality will change after being declawed. Although, the medical community does not recognize this as potential side effect, the truth is a declawed cat often feels insecure. If they feel threatened, they will bite and often they will bite whatever is closest to them, even if that thing is their human companion. They are scared and frightened and just reacting, not thinking.

Cats who were lively and friendly have become withdrawn and introverted after being declawed. In some cases, when declawed cats use the litterbox after surgery, their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box...permanently, resulting in a life-long aversion to using the litter box. Other declawed cats that can no longer mark with their claws, they mark with urine instead resulting in inappropriate elimination problems, which in many cases, results in relinquishment of the cats to shelters and ultimately euthanasia. Many of the cats surrendered to shelters are surrendered because of behavioral problems which developed after the cats were declawed.

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. The additional stress placed on such a cat can also lead to a variety of other physical and psychological disorders including suppression of the immune system, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The surgery itself is not without problems. Complications of this amputation can be excruciating pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible to the eye, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken.

Two recent studies published in veterinary journals conclude that "Fifty percent of cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery.... 19.8% developed complications after release."

Today there are many alternative available beside declawing. Claw trimming, and a good scratching post are a start, as is understanding why a cat scratches in the first place. Aside from exercise and enjoyment, we also use scratching was a way to mark our territory.

Soft Paws is also a good solution. It is a lightweight vinyl nail cap that you glue on the front claws. This is great for households with small children or where the humans are way and can't watch to train you how to properly use a scratching post. They are easy to apply and last four to six weeks. They come clear or in colors...Skeezix has the colored ones I've noticed.

Remember that caps and nail trimming should only be used on indoor cats who will not be vulnerable to dangers outdoors.

Please, pass this along to any human you many know who is considering declawing a cat. It a cruel and inhuman thing to do. There is no reasonable justification for doing this procedure except due to a medical condition.

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. How happy I would be to see the United States of America and Canada added to that list!

I am glad to have an educated human who would never subject me to such treatment. I feel very sorry for any cat out there who has had to through this. Hopeful, by posting this article, I will able to change the minds of some humans before they take this terrible and drastic step - for their own convience!


Kaz's Cats said...

Hi Diamond, thanks so much posting this info - our Mum learnt a lot! Living in Australia, we aren't declawed, and thankfully have never had to face that even as a possibility. Great post!


Gypsy & Tasha

Parker said...

That was a great post Diamond!

-d ma said...

very good info. i've learned to live with torn up furniture after learning about declawing.

Daisy said...

My Mommie clips my clawrs short so I don't wreck stuff.

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

I khould see my mom's toes khurling and khlinching as she read it -


Sunny's Mommy said...

That's something we've never considered doing. There are always alternatives and we feel it's wrong to deprive a cat of it's means to defend itself.

MoMo said...

This is a GREAT post, Diamond. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of all. It would be painful enough to have a nail ripped off, let alone the whole of the terminal bone. Besides, claws are part of a cat.

We get very sad when we hear about kitties being declawed. While I live in a country where declawing is illegal, my SS would never consider it otherwise.

Cory said...

Really good info Diamond!

mog said...

Excellent info. My eldest cat will be 17 next month, indoor cat, has all his claws. Furniture is more easily replaceable than the cat. I'd never consider it, see it as inhumane.

Miz Mog and kitties

Eduardo said...

Diamond thanks for this great post! My Uncle had two declawed cats(littermates) that he resecued from the shelter, they were given up because of how they behaved after the surgery. Declawing is very inhumane!
Hugs & Snugs
Eduardo the Snuggle Puggle

Eric and Flynn said...

We just heard you had done this post so looked back to find it. This is a very well presented post and we hope it makes people think again if they are considering it. Declawing is barbaric and has no place in civilised society. It amazes us that America who leads the way in so many things has not made this practice illegal.