Declawing is barbaric and repulsive, and is the main reason why I will not export my cats to the USA. What sort of care can you expect to receive from a vet who will perform this completely unnecessary and horribly painful procedure on a cat? What sort of owner would do this to an animal they love? If you don't want claws, don't get a cat.
Contrary to most people's understanding, declawing consists of amputating not just the claws, but the whole phalanx (up to the joint), including bones, ligaments, and tendons! To remove the claw, the bone, nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be amputated. Thus declawing is not a “simple”, single surgery but 10 separate, painful amputations of the third phalanx up to the last joint of each toe. A graphic comparison in human terms would be the cutting off of a person's finger at the last joint of each finger.
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.
But don't listen to me, why not read the facts about declawing on a veterinary site. See the horrible amputation that is done, and the far more horrible long-term side-effects that can be caused. Be prepared to feel sick, and ask yourself, 'what sort of sick vet would do this?', and more important: 'what sort of sick owner would want to do this to their pet?'
"Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat's "toes". 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."
Christianne Schelling, DVM
"General anaesthesia is used for this surgery, which always has a certain degree of risk of disability or death associated with it. Because declawing provides no medical benefits to cats, even slight risk can be considered unacceptable. In addition, the recovery from declawing can be painful and lengthy and may involve postoperative complications such as infections, haemorrhage, and nail regrowth. The latter may subject the cat to additional surgery." The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)
Many declawed cats become so traumatised 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 defence.
A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defence. Removing the claws makes a cat feel defenceless. The constant state of stress caused by a feeling of defencelessness 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 behaviour 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 Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) position on declawing cats:
"A major concern that the AVAR has about declawing is the attitude that is evident in this situation. 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."
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Behavioural Pharmacology and Director of the Behaviour Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and internationally known specialist in domestic animal behavioural research, explains declawing:
"The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats' recovery from anaesthesia 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." (Excerpted from The Cat Who Cried For Help, Dodman N, Bantam Books, New York).
Some cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change. Cats who were lively and friendly become withdrawn and introverted after being declawed. Others, deprived of their primary means of defence, become nervous, fearful, and/or aggressive, often resorting to their only remaining means of defence, their teeth. 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 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 behavioural problems which developed after the cats were declawed.
Or listen to the words of a veterinary nurse who works in a practice that does this:
So you're thinking of getting your cat declawed?
words from a veterinary technician
Maybe you think this will make Fluffy a more agreeable cat. Maybe you have decided that you have no other viable alternative left. Maybe you have convinced yourself that really the operation is no big deal; sure it's tough, but Fluffy will be back to his old self in a few days. Or maybe you are picking out a new kitten and have already resigned yourself to the idea that soon you will have to make that fateful trip with Fluffy Jr. to the vet. Before you make an irreversible decision, let me talk to you a little first. "Who is this person?" you are probably asking yourself. I'm the person who will greet you and Fluffy when you step in the door on the day of Fluffy's surgery. I'm the veterinary technician. If you really want to know how things truly are back in the OR, I'm the one who's got the skinny. I'll be taking care of Fluffy before, during, and after his mutilation (or surgery as we like to call it). Let me tell you my story....
I get to work around 8:00 and check on all our patients. I have to get the clinic in working order so we can begin checking in the surgery patients at 8:30. You are the first client here. We fill out the paperwork and you hand me Fluffy and say "I'll be back tomorrow Fluf. Don't worry!" Then you head out the door, get in your car and go wherever it is you are going. I weigh Fluffy and make him comfortable in his cage. Around 2:00 or so, Fluffy's time has come. He gets some anesthesia and some pain medicine and he's out like a light. I shave between all of his toes and scrub them clean. I have everything ready: the nail clippers, hemostats, glue, tape, bandage.
It's show time. I hold up one of Fluffy's feet and the doc begins: The procedure is sort of a half pull, half cut kinda thing. The nail clippers are doing their best to saw through the joint while the hemostats are ripping it away. And please make no mistake here, this isn't a nail trim. A cat's first joint, just like on your finger, is being ripped out. Fluffy utters a half growl/meow of pain as the joint tears away, even after all this medicine. The pain must be excruciating; it is certainly a gruesome spectacle to watch. Doc fills the gaping socket where Fluffy's toe used to be with some special glue and squeezes it together for a few seconds. We move on to the next toe until we're done. Now we bandage and when we're done Fluffy looks as though he's wearing little mittens...aww.
I come in the next morning and reach for the doorknob to the recovery room. "Crap!" I think, because the smell hits my brain before I even open the door to see. Blood has a very specific odor, you see, and after a while you have the ability to recognize many things: parvo, cancer, bloody declaw cats that don't seem to like their mittens- all by their respective smells.
Sure enough, Fluffy got a head start on removing his bandages so I begin my day scrubbing his blood off the walls, the door, the floor, and his cage. I clean the blood off Fluffy's fur the best I can and begin to take off his bandages. I try so hard to be gentle but I know I still hurt. I have to cut down the bandage until I'm right beside Fluffy's purple swollen toes and he cries. I examine each hole where Fluffy used to have claws and make sure they are all still sealed. They never are, of course. There is invariably at least one or two that must be reglued, so I sigh and get my glue. Then I drop some goo into Fluffy's socket and squeeze his tender and bruised deformed little toes together for several seconds. This hurts. A lot. And I feel like the scum of the earth. I clean the last bit of blood from Fluffy's feet as best I can without hurting too bad and hope that Fluffy will finish the job himself before you come.
You rush in on your lunch hour and I bring out Fluffy and remind you that Fluffy's feet are going to be very sore for a while. You already knew that.....bye Fluffy.
Three months later you bring Fluffy in to update his shots. You ask me why Fluffy doesn't seem like the cat he used to be anymore. He never wants to play or do much of anything. And he has turned into a biter! You don't understand, you tell me. Why isn't Fluffy the same? I don't know why.
But I do know that when I watch my cats play (who all have their claws) they love to scratch on trees, climb up trees, hunt moths... (you know, cat stuff). And I know that cats who don't have claws would find it very difficult to climb a tree, and scratching is definitely out. Scratching is something domestic cats really enjoy- I know this because my cats used to have contests around the scratching post. They would fling themselves around it and see who could scratch the fastest and the hardest. I had 8 cats all with claws intact in my house. I also had a brand new couch; the two co-existed peacefully.
It wasn't easy, I admit. Training a cat requires patience, much like children. I used waterguns and scratching posts. Please remember if you have a kitten that some materials may be too rough on your kitten's claws. It takes a while to break these things in- give it a little time! Try a carpeted scratching post that also has the heavy duty stuff. I kept my cats' nails trimmed regularly, starting as kittens. Try SoftPaws. Provide fun distractions: my cats had a 6 foot tall cat tree and they loved it!
As far as biting goes, this is a common "side effect". Cats with no claws have no other means of expressing dissatisfaction with their lot in life and resort to biting. Or maybe they are just mad at the world now. I don't know.
And finally, for those have attempted to rationalize a declaw by comparing it to a spay/neuter- you aren't even in the same ballpark. A spay/neuter cat comes in just like Fluffy, but he doesn't cry during his surgery. He gets to go home that very day while Fluffy must wait behind. He bounces and runs around the house that very night because he is so glad to be home. He doesn't even seem to notice that he will never be a dad. Meanwhile Fluffy is getting a pain injection.
Our doc stopped doing ear crops. I hope declaws are the next to go. Mutilation in the name of aesthetics or convenience is still mutilation.