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  • Writer's pictureBecky Faulks

‘Please Don’t Declaw Your Cat!’

Veterinary professionals are taking a stand against the controversial procedure

 

Scratching has always been a worry among cat owners – in fact, it is one of the reasons some cats don’t get adopted. Historically, declawing has been seen as the answer as it protects the owner’s home and gives them peace of mind while helping them keep their companion. So, what’s the downside?




As it turns out, there’s a big one – the cat’s welfare. Veterinarian Susan Kebsbach with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association explains: ‘Scratching is a vital part of cat behaviour. It’s a sign of a happy cat.’ The behaviour helps cats stretch, remove the dead husks from their claws and mark their territory, which is particularly important for an insecure cat. Declawing has already been banned in the UK and many countries in Europe and has been outlawed by numerous veterinarians in the USA and Canada, where the practice is still legal. Why? Because it’s not just about removing claws, it’s amputation.



On a human, declawing is equivalent to cutting off each finger at the last knuckle, and this can cause everything from nerve damage and phantom pain to arthritis and pain-related behaviour like biting and avoiding the litter box. Dr Christianne Schelling founder of educational website, declawing.com told the Humane Society of an experience she’d had as a veterinary student, where she had seen a cat hurling himself against the sides of his cage because of the pain after his declawing. ‘I swore I would never do a declaw surgery,’ she recalls. Another major concern is that, should a cat find itself in the great outdoors, it will be at a huge disadvantage. Claws help cats escape from danger as well as hunt for food, and a cat without claws is a target.



Photo credit: Sametraw/Pexels

 

So, what’s the solution? Many pet owners are understandably worried about being scratched themselves, but the Humane Society says that the risks that come with this are less than those that come with fleas, cat litter or being bitten. To mitigate the risk of scratching, owners should keep their cats in a low-stress environment (find some tips here) and keep their claws trimmed. If your cat is a scratcher, you can even ask your veterinarian about soft plastic nail caps to keep yourself and your furniture safe. As for beneficial scratching, it is possible to train your cat to use a scratching post instead of household items. To reduce marking behaviours, gently rub a piece of soft fabric across your cat’s cheek and then across the preferred piece of furniture, so the cat’s scent will already be there. After this, provide the cat with two types of scratching posts – one that is tall and sturdy, and one that is horizontal on the floor, for the best results.



Photo credit: Alexas Fotos / Pexels

 

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