All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Declawing Cats is Inhumane!

Dear Marie:
My cat is constantly scratching her claws on my living room couch. I have a beautiful (and expensive) scratching post for her in the den; but she never seems to use it. My husband wants me to have her declawed before she destroys the couch. However, I've heard that declawing is inhumane. What do you think? Are there other alternatives?.
Theresa

Dear Theresa:
I am adamantly opposed to the declawing of cats. The procedure is equivalent to amputating the ends of a human being’s fingers. (I apologize for the graphic image...but it's the best way to demonstrate how inhumane this procedure is!)


Veterinarians in Great Britain refuse to perform such a “surgery of convenience” for this and other valid reasons. For example, complications including circulatory problems, infection, abnormal re-growth of nail tissue, and behavior shifts may occur.

The declaw surgery involves placing the patient under general anesthesia. A veterinarian will detach the first joint of each toe using sterile surgical cutting equipment. Ligaments, tendons, and nerves are severed. The wounds are stitched and wrapped in gauze and bandaging tape. Sometimes, it takes weeks to heal, leaving the cat in constant pain. When the bandages are finally removed, the kitty does not realize it is missing its claws. It may try to climb as it did prior to the surgery. Often, cats will slip, slide, fall, and injure themselves as they try to engage in activities that used to be easy. Without their claws, they are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to doing normal “cat things.” They cannot even defend themselves.

The Cat Fanciers Association will not allow owners to show declawed cats in competitions. Furthermore, many American humane societies have proclaimed that declawing is damaging to the physical and psychological well being of cats, and is simply cruel and inhumane. Some serious psychological side effects of the procedure are depression, listlessness, and hostility. Frequently, cats who have been declawed use their teeth to compensate for their lack of claws. This leads to constant biting in response to irritation or perceived threats.

I understand the motivation to declaw cats. However, there are other alternatives. First, place your cat’s scratching post in the living room. This is obviously the location where she feels the urge to scratch. When she uses her post, praise her. If she uses the couch, spray her with a squirt bottle (set to "mist" to prevent accidental injuries from hard spray to the eyes) and tell her “NO.” Carry her over to her scratching post and gently pull her paws over the surface to give her the idea of what you want her to do.  Praise her when she does.  Invest in a second scratching post (it doesn’t need to be fancy and expensive) and place it in the room where she sleeps most often. Cats love to stretch and scratch when they first wake up.

Play with your cat on and around the scratching posts. If your cat associates praise and fun with her posts, she is going to want to use them.

Another alternative, which can be found online or in many pet supply stores, is the vinyl claw cover. This product fits snugly over each claw to prevent damage to furniture and draperies. You can also use nail clippers to take the sharp edge off each claw. (Use caution not to cut too short. Just snip off the tips.)

Cats are intelligent animals...but they depend on us to teach them what we expect from them. It does take time. It does take patience. But, as pet owners, these things just come with the territory. Animals should not be made to suffer because we want a quick and lazy shortcut to problem solving.

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