First statewide ban on declawing cats marks important legislative moment and a chance to revisit the gruesome truths about cat declaw surgery.
Five Reasons Why Cats Need to Keep Their Claws
1. They need to scratch for healthy paws, limbs and psyches. Scratching exercises and stretches their muscles. Even declawed cats still make scratching motions, so this need is inherent. Certified cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger states that cats scratch to mark territory, when playing and when stressed. After taking a nap, cats stretch and scratch. “All cats need to scratch,” Krieger says.
2. Their claws help them climb and maintain their balance. Cats are more prone to falling and getting hurt without their claws.
3. Removing cats’ claws requires that part of their toes be removed. It would be like removing the tips of our fingers up to the first knuckle. It’s just not right to do that to anyone, human or animal, unless it’s medically necessary.
4. Declawing causes pain. Cats’ paws bear their weight and they use them for everything: running, jumping, climbing, and burying their waste. These motions are painful after a declaw surgery and even beyond.
“Cats who are declawed develop arthritis because they have to walk differently on their paws and there’s pain associated with that,” Krieger says. Many of her clients’ declawed cats have behavioral problems involving the litterbox because it’s painful for these cats to use the litterbox.
5. Claws are a major part of self-defense for a cat. I hope you keep your cats indoors, unless they have safe outdoor time in an enclosure, a “catio,” or you’ve trained them to walk on a leash. But things happen and they do get out and get lost. Cats can protect themselves much more effectively with their claws intact.
Another behavioral issue that Krieger’s clients face is aggression with declawed cats. If cats can’t scratch, they resort to biting, she says.
When Medically Necessary
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes that in most cases declawing is not medically necessary. In cases where immune-compromised people are getting scratched, the AVMA deems it appropriate to consider declawing as a last resort after you’ve tried everything else. The ASPCA also strongly opposes declawing unless cat scratches are causing harm to the health of the cat’s guardian.
Krieger, who is against declawing, says it’s important for laws to have provisions that take into account those rare occasions when the surgery is medically necessary. She cited one example of a client’s cat whose paws and nail beds were so terribly infected that the cat needed to be declawed. Another client’s cat had a deformed claw that had to be removed. Still, she stresses that cats in most cases need to keep their claws and that she is against the surgery except for in these rare cases.
Three Alternatives to Declawing
1. Provide scratching posts. If you find one that your cats love to scratch, they will prefer that over scratching your furniture. Feline favorites include sisal or corrugated cardboard. Provide one that allows your cat to stretch horizontally and one that allows your cat to stretch vertically.
2. Make furniture unappealing to cats as scratching surfaces by covering it with double-sided sticky tape sheets. Cats do not like the feel of this and will learn quickly that your furniture is not a desirable surface to scratch.
3. Keep your cat’s claws clipped. This prevents them from getting caught on carpeting and furniture and prevents them from causing your cat discomfort. Unclipped claws can actually grow into their paw pads.