Chris Kouwenhoven

What are we doing to our cats?!

Declawing is a very common practice in the U.S. We have discussed in Detail what constitutes a suitable scratching post and how to train your cat to use it. This solution to destructive scratching problems is simple, inexpensive, and satisfies the cat's natural instincts-and it works!

Some recently published books on cat behavior shed more light on the declawing procedure. Dr. Nicholas Dodman is a veterinarian and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is the author of the best-seller "The Dog Who Loved too Much: Tales, Treatment, and the Psychology of Dogs". He is a nationally recognized leader and innovator in the field of domestic animal behavior. His new book "The Cat Who Cried for Help: Attitudes, Emotions, and the Psychology of Cats" treats the subject of declawing with startling honesty:

"The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of the cats' recovery from anesthesia 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 the 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.... in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure servers as a model 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."

Ingrid Newkirk's book--new on the bookshelves--describes another, more lasting pain that may plague declawed cats long after the operation. In her book, "250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You", she states, "declawed cats can suffer chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg, and back muscles weaken. No wonder cats suffering in this way may bite when scratched or stroked too hard."

The stated policy of the American Veterinary Medical Association implies that onychectomy should be a last resort and only performed "when the cat cannot be trained not to use its claws destructively". Unfortunately, little is done in most (but thankfully, not all) clinics to inform cat owners about effective and proven alternatives.

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