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Should You Declaw Your Cat?

A destructive or hostile cat can be difficult to cope with. Nobody wants to come home after a long day at work to find their curtains shredded, their sofa vandalized, or their carpet pulled up by an unruly animal. Similarly, few pet owners relish the idea of being scratched or clawed at whenever their cat is having a bad day. It can be especially difficult if children or other pets are affected by an aggressive cat. Some owners turn to declawing as a solution to these problems. In this article, we'll look at why that's a bad idea.

First of all, we need to define "declawing." Some people confuse declawing with trimming the animal's claws. Others erroneously believe that it's a simple and painless operation with little harm to the cat, similar to getting a tooth pulled. In fact, declawing is nothing more nor less than the amputation of the tips of your cat's toes. The first joint of every toe is cut off and discarded, leaving the cat with nothing but stumps to walk on.

As well as being painful for the cat, the damage is severe, and the stumps may never stop hurting, declawing has a plethora of serious effects on your cat's well-being. The animal may never recover her full mobility and may limp and stagger for the rest of her life. Jumping and climbing may become almost impossible, curtailing your cat's ability to function. Cats actively need to claw for the good of their muscles and tendons, only by stretching out to their full length and pulling against some suitable surface can they really exercise their bodies as they need to. Declawing makes this impossible.

From the perspective of the pet owner, declawing may compound the problem it's intended to solve. A declawed cat is exponentially more likely to have behavioral issues than one who hasn't been declawed. Since much destructive scratching is territorial in nature, the cat may simply trade scratching for spraying the areas she wants to mark with foul-smelling urine, equally destructive, far more unpleasant and potentially a risk to the health of anyone living in the home. In cases where aggression was the issue, the cat may actually become more hostile after declawing; losing her claws puts her in a permanent state of physical and emotional distress, so she naturally lashes out more. A declawed cat may no longer be able to scratch, but she can still inflict bites, which are often more painful and dangerous than simple clawing.

Thankfully, declawing is becoming illegal in more and more places. Even in areas where it's still allowed under the law, an increasing number of vets absolutely refuse to perform the operation even when asked to. In some cases, unrepentant fans of declawing have inadvertently sped the process along by taking veterinary professionals to court to force the vets to declaw their cats; this has resulted in the law being changed to prohibit declawing altogether. Cat experts and veterinarians alike are almost unanimous in denouncing declawing as barbaric and unnecessary.

If you're dealing with a destructive or irritable cat, a far better solution is to resolve the underlying problem. Address issues that are making your cat anxious, bored or territorially insecure. Give your cat additional attention and make sure you spend some time each day engaging her in physically active play. Provide additional scratching posts and surfaces near the objects she tends to attack and put easily destroyed items out of reach. If you're struggling, ask your veterinarian for advice or look for a chat group online where other owners will be happy to help you. There are plenty of simple, easy-to-implement solutions to problem behavior that don't involve harming your cat.

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