Cats need claws, while declawing is the removal of the last joint of every toe on the front feet of the cat.
Cats Need Claws
In years past, many pet owners agreed to a surgery on their cat that permanently disfigured them. It was often done as part of routine healthcare and was never considered to have any long-term consequences for the animal. Many veterinarians recommended it when the cat was spayed or neutered and even gave a discount to do both at once!
This procedure was declawing, or the removal of the last joint of every toe on the front feet of the cat.
Luckily, now we know that cats who have been declawed do indeed suffer long-term problems related to the surgery, and as veterinarians we can stop performing the painful procedure.
A declaw is equivalent to the removal of the front half of a person’s foot. The surgery removes the entire joint on which the cat balances, forcing them to put their weight on their heels. Given this, it’s no surprise that declawed cats have problems.
A declawed cat commonly suffers from arthritis, a loss of natural defenses and long-term foot and spinal pain related to the surgery. As a veterinarian who works in an animal shelter, I am in the unfortunate position of seeing many of these issues first-hand.
Cats are often brought to the shelter because they are biting their family members. When a cat’s claws are taken away, they have no defense other than their teeth and so they stop using their paws to tell people to stop. Instead, they use their mouths.
Owners also surrender their cats because they seem to be “sad” or “getting old.” These declawed cats often feel pain from the surgery or the arthritis that follows, causing them to stop playing with their families. Some cats even have pain in their backs because of the new way they have to walk. These cats don’t even enjoy allowing their owners to pet them.
Most often, many declawed cats come to IndyHumane for litterbox problems. Paw pain following surgery is the most common behavioral issue among declawed cats, and it can cause them to stop using a box full of sharp clay litter as a bathroom. If they have a nice soft pile of laundry available to them, they may choose that instead.
I’m fortunate to work at IndyHumane, where we believe that cats deserve to be comfortable and happy. We evaluate every declawed cat who comes into our shelter and help hundreds every year by alleviating their incredible pain with medication, surgery and physical therapy.
Unfortunately, some people still believe that declawing cats keeps them in their homes and out of shelters. After almost five years as a shelter veterinarian, I assure you that this belief is not true. More and more cats come to shelters every year because of behavior issues related to declawing. Declawing simply does not keep cats out of shelters.
Cats need claws. They need them to walk, to jump, to move the way they are supposed to. They need them to play, to use the litterbox, to express themselves to people and other cats.
Cats need claws to stay in their homes.
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