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We recently acquired a kitten, and we've found that in playing with her we tend to get a lot of scratches, often severe enough to draw a bit of blood. These scratches are not hostile in nature, but more of a side effect in playing with her.

We intend to keep her until the end of her days, and she is going to be a 100% indoor cat (she seems to prefer it that way as well). We've considered having her front paws declawed so we can safely play with her without any injuries to my family, including our 2-year old toddler. I've also heard many opinions that declawing is considered an inhumane practice.

I currently live in the United States, where it is legal to have this surgical procedure done. When, if at all, would declawing be considered a viable option for a cat?

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Declawing is considered a last option before having to hand the cat over to a shelter. It is often only recommended in situations where there is a medical condition that would result in bleeding out at even the most minor scratch.

Some other options to use that I have found work very well are

  1. Trimming the nails. At first the cat will fight this, but after regular trimmings the cat will just accept that getting their claws trimmed is part of life.
  2. Soft Paws work well in preventing damage, but have to be reapplied.

Declawing the cat results in permanent damage and can alter cat's behavior and ability to walk without pain. Learning to manage cat's claws becomes second nature after a while. Also, playing with the kitten with toys only and not with hands should help to prevent claw marks.

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    Also, making a permanent decision for a temporary problem (kittens aren't over-energized forever) seems extreme. – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '13 at 21:12
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Declawing (Onychectomy) is amputating the end of the digits (fingers) of the cat. As already mentioned here, it can result in continued pain and can affect the cat's gait. It also renders the cat almost defenceless, and disabled in the cat's inability to climb trees and the like.

From the ASPCA:

Cats' claws are a vital part of their arsenal for both offense and defense. They use them to capture prey and to settle disputes among themselves as well as with other animals and people who are hurting, threatening or annoying them. In addition, a cat who is attempting to climb to safety uses her claws to grip a surface and hold on.

When making a decision about whether a procedure should be done on a pet, one must ask this:

Is this for the pet's benefit or to convenience the owner?

ASPCA Position
The ASPCA is strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their guardians. The only circumstance in which the procedure could be condoned would be if the health and safety of the guardian would be put at risk, as in the case of individuals with compromised immune systems or illnesses that cause them to be unusually susceptible to serious infections.

Declawing cats is illegal in many countries, including the UK, Australia, Israel, Brazil, and parts of Continental Europe.

12

Here are some things for you to do to train your kitten not to use her claws. After all, right now she's only a kitten.

Step 1. Don't play with your hands. If your kitten associates you with being a toy, that just leads to trouble later on. You want to be associated with being the person who gives her food and pets, not as a scratching post. Toss her a jingly toy, play with a feather on a string - Toys that will let her associate playing with you, but not in the bad way. It's important to note that she's only playing how she would with other kittens. It's just that you're not a kitten, so you have to teach her how to play differently.

Step 2. The second she claws at you toss her down and ignore her. Don't resume playing for quite some time. It will take some time, but she will start to understand that when she uses her claws she doesn't get to play anymore. If you feel it's necessary to take it up a level, you can put her in a room by herself for a few minutes.

Step 3. Make sure you set up a good relationship between your toddler and your kitten. Kids stress cats out because of how rough they are. Rough people encourage rough cats.

Most importantly, be patient. She's just a kitten, and doesn't know any better yet. since you can't communicate with words, she'll be watching you actions to learn.

9

The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing except for the rare cases when it is necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.

Whether or not the practice is inhumane is not the only the only reason to avoid declawing, there may be undesirable behavior changes as a result:

People often mistakenly believe that declawing their cats is a harmless "quick fix" for unwanted scratching. They don't realize that declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite.

People who are worried about being scratched, especially those with immunodeficiencies or bleeding disorders, may be told incorrectly that their health will be protected by declawing their cats. However, declawing is not recommended by infectious disease specialists. The risk from scratches for these people is less than those from bites, cat litter, or fleas carried by their cats.

Source

I can't vouch for litter box troubles, but I've certainly seen an increase in biting from declawed cats (a friend of the family had theirs declawed).

  • I am curious why it makes them less likely to use the litterbox... – Ash Nov 13 '13 at 20:50
  • If you read the full article, they indicate that digging after surgery is painful, which discourages them from using the litter box in the future (similar to their unwillingness to use the litter box when they have urinary problems). They don't indicate whether or not this is permanent. – cimmanon Nov 13 '13 at 20:58
  • ah, that makes sense. – Ash Nov 13 '13 at 20:59
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If I were to ask you to cut off the tips of your fingers because you some times scratch me when we shake hands would you think it was reasonable or unconscionable? That is exactly what you are talking about doing to your cat.

Please read this exerpt from http://www.declawing.com/:

Before you make the decision to declaw your cat, there are some important facts you should know. Declawing is not like a manicure. It is serious surgery. Your cat's claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat's claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat's "toes". When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing. Wheelchairs and bedpans are not an option for a cat.

This is not the ASPCA, or HSUS who are political businesses with an agenda. This is a vet stating the truth about the feline anatomy.

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    I downvoted for the ASPCA comment, because - regardless of its veracity - it is a pointless and irrelevant sentence. – Steve D Oct 11 '13 at 21:31
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    @SteveD It is also very provocative and inflammatory. Taking that tone of voice won't convince people, it'll just send them somewhere else where people will tell them that it's not really a problem. We don't want that. – ThomasH Oct 11 '13 at 22:04
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    The ASPCA and the HSUS often take a stand on what is humane treatment of animals but many of those stands are political stands and have no reguard for the well being of the animals. For that reason many of us ignore what they say entirely. I just wanted to qualify that for those who might be of similar thought. Even a stopped clock in right twice a day... – user9 Jan 23 '14 at 18:43
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Adding a point I haven't spotted in the preceding answers:. Declawing can cause long-term discomfort.

My current cats were (sigh) declawed long before I adopted them. Even though this was apparently done properly using the currently preferred surgical technique, one of them has been left with an essentially incurable case of tendonitis, since some of the tendons that were supposed to operate the claws no longer have anything to pull against. I have her on several dietary supplements to manage this (additional glucosamine and the like) and they do reduce the symptoms... But she is still indicating that one paw aches.

Don't. Seriously.

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