Imagine that you go in for an operation and you unexpectedly come out missing all of your first knuckles? To make matters worse, you actually used those knuckles to walk on your tippy-toes all of the time.
This is exactly what happens to declawed cats. Some guardians and, sadly, veterinarians might see declawing as a little more than a manicure, but the consequences are much more than cosmetic.
The recent documentary “The Paw Project” exposes the cruelty of declawing cats. As we learn in the film, many declawed cats don’t get a happy ending after the surgery; one shelter volunteer admitted on About Cats that shelters “see a disproportionate number of declawed cats surrendered.” This is an issue that we can’t ignore, especially when over 20 countries, like Israel, have already banned declawing.
What Does Declawing Cats Mean?
Declawing, or onychectomy, is a bone amputation, but declawing sounds less painful. Our nails grow from our skin, but cats are different. Their claws grow from their bone, so the last bone has to be amputated to prevent the nails from regrowing. The cats’ tendons, nerves, ligaments, functionality and movements are also compromised during the procedure.
Declawing isn’t a manicure. It’s an invasive surgery that the The Paw Project describes as “so predictably painful that it is used by pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of pain medications in clinical trials.” Comparatively, The Paw Project cites that declawing is “severely painful” while other surgeries like spay and neuter procedures are described as causing “moderate pain” and “mild pain” respectively. Despite the excessive pain that can eventually become crippling, many cats have gone home without any form of pain medication.
How Common is Declawing?
You’d think that something so painful couldn’t be so popular. Pets WebMD notes that in rare instances, like when a cat has tumor growths, declawing could help. Yet, the usually unnecessary procedure is far too common. While declawing is banned in 22 countries, The Paw Project estimates that between 25 percent and 43 percent of all domestic cats in the U.S. are declawed.
Yes, some guardians request it because they want to protect their furniture from getting scratched up or they themselves don’t want to get scratched. But a gut-wrenching reason that so many cats are declawed is because of veterinarians. Many cat guardians indicate that their trusted veterinarians recommended the procedure to them without explaining the risks.
The Paw Project cites a survey of 20 Los Angeles vet clinics that found that 75 percent of the clinics “agreed to perform declawing without question and without any attempt to establish a medical, behavioral, or any other indication to justify the procedure.”
Why would a veterinarian who is supposed to care about the welfare of an animal advocate for (usually) unnecessary pain? Sadly, it has a lot to do with dollar and cents. Some veterinarians can earn up to $1000 per hour just from a declawing procedure. Many cats come in for routine spay and neuter procedures, and a vet can make a declawing offer as a type of add-on procedure.
The Consequences of Declawing Cats
Vets might treat a declawing surgery as an add-on, but they really are taking away from the cat’s true essence. Here are a few of the ways that a cat is robbed after it has been mutilated:
Health: Like any surgery, there’s always a chance of infection. Unsuccessful surgeries can make the claw regrow with abscesses. Surgery complications aside, declawed cats can’t support their body weight the same way, and their gait completely changes. The Paw Project describes it as “a painful ‘pebble-in-the-shoe’ sensation when they stand or try to walk.” While some cats won’t show their pain (because they are instinctually good at hiding it), many cats will try to compensate for their pain by walking on their wrists (and the wrists will develop arthritis from the constant pressure and eventually cripple a cat), or, in extreme cases of pain, by walking on their elbows.
Behavioral: Many declawed cats will find that the pebbles in their litter box too unbearable to walk in. The cat’s solution: not use the litter box anymore. Coincidentally, many cats are surrendered to shelters due to soiling and spraying issues. Another common reason that cats end up in shelters is aggression, or biting, and aggression has been linked to declawing since the 1960s.
Emotional: Cats have their own priorities. (Play) hunting, climbing, fighting, scent marking and comfort kneading are important in a cat’s universe; their claws play important roles in all of these activities. While we don’t know much about the emotional lives of cats, some feel that declawed cats can become depressed, anxious, insecure, nervous, agitated and antisocial. You can read more declawed cat horror stories from the guardians themselves here.
Outside of those rare life-and-death situations where declawing is the best option, is any of this worth doing to your cat?
The Humane Society doesn’t think so. A much easier and cheaper solution might be to routinely trim their claws. Introducing scratching posts and a little bit of training could also work. There are also safer alternatives like Soft Paws (soft plastic caps that will look like your cat just got a manicure) or Sticky Paws (a tape that you put on furniture that many cats will avoid). If this was about my cat, then I’d just get furniture that I didn’t care about so much.
I wouldn’t cripple my cat to save my couch. Canadians agree, and they are sitting on the possibility of banning cat declawing in the country. Please sign and share this petition to let Canada’s prime minister know declawing needs to be banned now.
Photo Credit: Red Rose Exile