TO DECLAW OR NOT TO DECLAW?
by Julie & Eric Smith, Four On
The Floor™ Owners
We've heard all the arguments against
declawing and believe that some of
them are valid. There is certainly
no scarcity of literature, websites and personal stories about the perceived
inhumanity of declawing. However,
the reality with which we live is that the streets and shelters (and certainly
the landfills, post-euthanasia) are full
of cats who have been discarded because the destruction they caused to
furniture, clothing or skin was not tolerable to the owner. In these extreme—and all too common—instances, we
believe that declawing is a very acceptable alternative to euthanasia or
We began routinely declawing the cats we
rescued after Eric, the founder of Four On The Floor, was scratched by a kitten ,
Sophie (pictured to the right in one of the cutest pictures ever; click on it to
see a full-sized version) at age 4 weeks.
Eric subsequently developed a protracted mononucleosis-type illness which
after more than a year of extreme discomfort was diagnosed as Cat Scratch
Disease, known by many lay people as Cat Scratch Fever*.
Despite prolonged antibiotic therapy & tests to verify his lymph
system wasn't faulty with some other malady, Eric's symptoms persisted
intermittently for 8 years. We
had Sophie declawed shortly after Eric became sick and to the end of her life
she was a
happy, healthy, playful, indoor-only cat. (It should be noted
that for her entire life she and Eric were always good buddies; there was no "bad blood" between
them ..... pun intended. You can read more about Sophie and some of our
other deceased pets here.)
Please be aware that there are several
declawing techniques, some of which are much less invasive than others.
We have watched declaw surgery on more than one occasion and can honestly say
that with today's less invasive, highly precise techniques, there is often
minimal or no bleeding during declaw surgery, especially if laser is used (it
cauterizes the blood vessels).
It is important to have a highly skilled
veterinarian perform the surgery if you decide to have it done. Many of us have heard "botched declaw" horror
stories, but given our personal experiences we feel that "botched declaws"
can be attributed to poor or outdated technique; they are not, in our
experienced opinion, an indictment of the concept of declawing as a whole. Choosing an experienced
surgeon will greatly decrease your chances of having a negative experience.
Modern declaw techniques have been perfected over the past decade or so
and more and more graduating vets are better at declawing than they were in
years past. Positive word of mouth has spread, so as more clients request
the procedure, vets are becoming more skilled.
Regardless how good or updated your vet's technique, though, you should
insist that your cat receive
post-operative pain medication. If
your vet doesn't offer it or balks at your request, find another, more
We do not recommend declawing geriatric
cats or cats who are overweight. On the other hand, kittens tolerate
declawing exceedingly well and we have quite successfully had the procedure
performed on kittens as early as 4-6 weeks when they were spayed or neutered (if
you're unfamiliar with early-age spay/neuter, you can read more about it by
checking out a site or two on our
We have literally had two-pound kittens who had to be confined to a cage
for 48 hours because they wanted to jump off tables, run around, wrestle and
play on the very day that they had their surgeries. Try as we might to
keep post-op cats and kittens quiet, they never fail to be more active and spry
than we expect them to be.
In our experience of rescuing,
rehabilitating, re-homing and yes, declawing, hundreds of cats, we have not
observed any of the horrific outcomes that anti-declawing protestors report. We have never had a cat
exhibit aggression, depression, prolonged paw tenderness or any number of
other outcomes that others have "reported."
(We put "reported" in quote marks because most of the horror stories
seem to be anecdotal, not firsthand.) Out of hundreds of cats and
nearly 30 years, we have had three instances of moderate bleeding
which responded well to 24 hours of pressure bandaging and one instance of a
mild infection that responded well to antibiotics. (The moderate bleeding
and mild infection were due to a not-too-skilled-or-up-to-date vet's technique
we experienced while living for a short time on the Gulf coast of Florida; the
veterinarian was primarily a "farm vet" and we wish we hadn't have
used his services.) These both occurred nearly twenty five years ago, before techniques
were perfected and back in the days before recycled newspaper-type litter (which
is much less likely to become lodged in a cat's paw during the post-op
period). We will say, though, that we know people whose cats have recently
had less-than-optimal declaw surgeries, so it is important to express your
concerns to your veterinarian. For your sake and the sake of your pet, you
need to feel comfortable with your vet's declaw techniques. Laser or
scalpel doesn't matter: it's the technique that counts.
We believe that the decision whether or
not to declaw your cat is a personal one that only you, your family and your
veterinarian can make. Things to
take into consideration are your cat's age, size and temperament, but more
importantly, your patience and willingness to teach your cat non-destructive
scratching (if there is such a thing) and your ability to tolerate a certain
amount of damage to your furniture, clothing and skin (including that of your
children and guests). There are many
cat owners enjoy the companionship of non-declawed cats and either succeed in
teaching their cats about appropriate surfaces on which to scratch or they
simply tolerate indiscriminate scratching.
Advice abounds on how to try to prevent your cat from destructively
scratching. Do note, however, that a cat
scratch or puncture to one's eye can be catastrophic.
have had as many as 43 cats in our care at one time,
all of whom were declawed at the time of their spay or neuter surgery.
They and the hundreds of others live/lived (waiting for adoption) inside our
private rescue facility, but also have a large screened porch where they can get
fresh air and sunshine. All are
very nice, well-adjusted, happy and way more playful than many of the anti-declawing
folks think they would ever be. Incidentally, we found that
when we started declawing cats, this greatly improved their chances of being
It bears repeating that these declaw
surgeries (as well as all other veterinary care) is funded entirely by our
private funds. No dollars donated to
our charities have ever been used to declaw cats we've rescued.
When it comes to deciding whether or not
to declaw your cat, talk with your veterinarian.
Ask lots of questions and don't consent to the surgery until you
feel totally comfortable with your decision and have the utmost confidence in
your doctor's skills and technique. Remember
that with good care, a cat can live for up to 20+ years, so it's important to
make the right decision...for you and your feline friend.
We used to
we were instructed
inconvenience. We would have thought she'd want to help more pets and their guardians
by sharing her information here, with attribution, of course.