Declawing Is Amputation

There’s been quite a bit of publicity over the proposed legislation to ban the declawing of cats.

Growing up, many people I knew declawed their house cats. It seemed to be the norm. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned what declawing entailed. Simply put, it’s amputation. It’s not some simple procedure whereby the claws are easily removed. It’s as if, instead of trimming your own nails when they got long, you cut off your fingers at the first joint.

Anyone wanting to declaw needs to have the operation explained, and what some consequences of the surgery may be. Cats who are declawed are more apt to bite. Their first line of defense, their claws, has been removed. They may also bite because they are in pain. While a cat’s paws may totally heal, many declawed cats are in pain almost constantly. They may stop using a litter box because it hurts to dig in the litter and to use their paws to cover up where they’ve gone.

I’m against declawing. I appreciate the argument that says that declawing could prevent euthanasia of a cat but here are alternatives between the extremes of declawing and euthanasia.

Cats instinctively claw, so you can train your cat to use a scratching post. It’s easier to start with a kitten, but even adults can be trained. Some cats prefer horizontal scratching posts, and some like vertical posts so offer both. If you plan to use vertical posts, make sure they are sturdy and un-tippable. If your cat uses a vertical post and it tips over, this could frighten your cat and make him unwilling to ever approach such a post again. It could also injure your cat if it falls on him. So, get a sturdy post, preferably one covered in sisal. If the post if covered in carpeting, your cat may not make the distinction between his post and your wall-to-wall. Horizontal scratching areas are frequently made of corrugated cardboard, cut so the corrugations show. They don’t need to be as sturdy as upright posts and are easy to move to different locations.

If your cat has already shown a preference for a particular arm of your sofa, use some double-sided tape to discourage continued scratching there. Sticky Paws is a wonderful product that can help prevent unwanted scratching. Next, place the scratching post next to that part of the sofa. Rub the post in catnip to encourage your cat to use it. Don’t ever force your cat, but you can place his paws gently on the post to help him get the idea. Friends tell me that you can also pretend to use the post yourself to give the cat the idea. It can’t hurt and it will entertain other family members.

As the cat gets used to the post and begins using it, you can gradually move it to a location you prefer. Gradually means just that. It might take as long as a month to get the post to the desired location. Don’t rush it or your cat may return to that sofa arm.

Cat trees are a wonderful variation on a simple post. Cats like being up high and will use their claws to climb to the desired perch. That in turn will encourage them to use the trunk part of the “tree” to sharpen their claws.

Even cats who regularly use scratching posts may need their nails trimmed occasionally. Gently push on a toe pad to extend the nail, then snip off the curved end. Don’t try to go too short or you might hit the quick, causing pain and bleeding.

Nail trimming works best if you start when your cat is a kitten, handling each foot gently, so that your cat is used to having his feet touched. The website also suggests getting your cat used to the sound of the clippers before you ever touch a nail. Their recommendation is to extend a claw, then clip a piece of uncooked spaghetti while the claw is extended. Immediately give the cat a treat.

When your cat is comfortable with both the sound and with you holding a paw and extending a nail, then clip the nail and treat. Never use force. You may only be able to do one nail a day but at least it will get done.

Clipping your cat’s nails and early introduction to scratching posts may save both your furniture and your cat’s toes and possibly his life.