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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wild Card: DeClaw or Not Declaw

Well, I'm not doing as good at staying off of the internet on Tuesdays as I had planned. In my defense, there's a break-up happening in my Facebook news feed as I type this - very hard to stay away. (General tip: if you and your significant other decide to call it quits someday, might I recommend a crowded restaurant where there are fewer witnesses?)
Anyway, Adelaide really wanted me to write about an important topic today, and she's supervising me right now. (Not kidding, she's sitting on the back of the couch right now with her front paws on my shoulder.) Here's an earlier picture of Adelaide for those of you who haven't seen her.
She heard David Tennant was trending and wanted to see for herself.
In order to better understand my feline roommate, I have been reading a really great book by Margaret H. Bonham called The Cat Owner's Problem Solver. I was particularly surprised by the section in the book on declawing. I have always known that declawing is a rather barbaric procedure. You see, it's not just the claws that are removed, it's the whole tip of the digit. Bonham compares it to having one's finger chopped off at the first knuckle. Ouch.
What I did not know is that this procedure can have adverse physical affects later in life. It is a surgical procedure, after all. More profoundly, the psychological effects on the cat can be significant. A cat's claws are a source of protection and security for her. Not having them any longer can make kitty feel very unsafe, which can result in behavioral problems far worse than scratching your love seat.
Besides, there are many alternatives to declawing. Cats can be trained to understand what is okay to scratch and what isn't, and Bonham's book details some great techniques for doing this. Failing that, there is a nail capping procedure that is far less physically scarring. (I don't know as much about the psychological scarring, though, so I would try training first.)
I know that there are a lot of apartment complexes that require cats to be de-clawed, and I think we need to pass some laws to make that requirement illegal. It's painful and cruel. Very, very, very cruel. (Adelaide insisted on more "verys.") By the way, declawing is a largely American (aka "give me the easiest solution") concept. Most other places in the world don't do it. Many have outlawed it.
Now, if the owner has an immunodeficiency or is on blood thinners, Bonham (who is definitely an opponent of declawing) feels that an exception could be made.
I don't. I truly believe that it would be better to let your cat live with someone else than to have this procedure performed on him. Adelaide concurs. Or she's hungry. I haven't figured out all of her "meows" yet.
Here are a couple more resources about de-clawing that you might find interesting:

Declawing Cats Q&A (from WebMD) has information about de-clawing, scratching behavior, and more.

And, of course, I highly recommend Bonham's book.

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