Friday, October 27, 2017

The Declawing Debate

I see that Denver is considering making it illegal to declaw cats. Some other American cities and regions (I remember West Hollywood being one) have already taken this step. The argument is that declawing is cruel, because the operation requires essentially removing the cat's fingertip -- not just the claw, but a small piece of bone as well.

I have a confession to make -- I had all three of my cats declawed. (Or, as Monty Python might say, my "ex-cats," since they're all "pushing up the daisies" at this point.) This was back in the '80s and early '90s, when I lived in Florida, and I don't recall there being much debate about the procedure. No one ever cautioned me against it, and I never felt any embarrassment at having had it done. It was fairly routine.

I remember the cats emerging from the operation with bandages on their front feet -- I only had their front claws, the sofa-shredders, removed -- and they had to use torn-up newspaper rather than cat litter for a few weeks. Then the bandages came off and they (and my furniture) were fine.

Would I have it done now? I don't know. I have to admit it was great not to have to worry about their destructive potential, and I honestly believe the cats didn't miss their claws at all. They lived exclusively indoors and would still make scratching and sharpening motions, as if their talons were still there.

My main concern about making it illegal is that some frustrated pet owners might feel unable to keep their cats. If they can't face the feline destructive impulse, they might get rid of the animal -- and frankly, I think having a cat declawed is more humane than sending it to the pound. I understand there are other methods of dealing with the scratching impulse -- posts and whatnot -- but let's face it: A cat is going to scratch where it wants to. Cats are known for their independent streak, and I would not have wanted to try to wrestle my cats into periodic claw-trimming sessions.

So, overall, while I think declawing should be discouraged, I'm not sure it should be prohibited outright. I'm afraid that might have even more serious consequences for cats.

Having said that, I just discovered this morning, while writing this, that declawing for non-medical reasons has been illegal in the UK since 2006. But the British feel differently about their cats -- many Brits also find it cruel to keep them indoors, for example, whereas in America (certainly in cities) that's the norm. I'm still shocked at how common it is to allow cats to wander in London, with all the cars and roads out there.

Dave is allergic to cats, so it's just as well that for the foreseeable future, we'll be sticking to dogs and avoiding these issues entirely.

(Photo: A leaf on a piece of shelf fungus on Hampstead Heath, last weekend.)


  1. The very idea of declawing shocks me. How could a cat possibly climb a tree without claws? Or catch a mouse? Or defend itself in a fight with another cat? Rather than opting for the declawing option, I would suggest that declawing supporters should forget the ownership of living, breathing felines and instead purchase cuddly toy animals. It is certain that they won't spoil the furniture.

  2. But indoor cats don't need to climb trees or hunt or defend themselves!

  3. No. Never. You should see my couches, all ripped to shreds, but still: NO.

    While we're at it, lobsters should not be boiled alive after being displayed in tanks of water at the grocery store where they are starved and forced to live in each other's poo.

  4. Tough call. I've had couches and chairs ruined by my cats, but then never considered de-clawing since ours were in/out cats. We lived at the end of a dead-end street with no traffic and our cats had a ball outside. (Where I wished they'd use tree trunks instead of my furniture.)

    I agree - with actual laws against de-clawing, people might be less inclined to own cats and we'd have even more in the rescue shelters.

  5. Rather odd that we're so concerned about declawing cats and yet, still allowing circumcisions to be done routinely.
    I know- those two things may seem to have nothing in common and they probably don't but there is probably more reason for declawing (which I don't think I would ever do because my furniture isn't worth saving) than there is for removing part of a baby's penis.

  6. I would never do it, think it's cruel (also cropping dogs ears and tails), and I've had cats all my life just about. don't remember ever having any furniture ruined either. but my cats have all been indoor/outdoor cats, basically coming and going as they please except for at night when I bring them in. I'm one of those people who think it's inhumane to keep a cat or dog too inside at all times. the outdoors is so wonderful. I'd hate to be locked up inside all my life only being able to look out windows.

  7. I could not ever do it but I get why it has been done in the past. There are things you can do to stop the scratching of certain areas. It's a lot of work but doable.

    On the inside/outside issue. Far better off inside than dead. Out of doors is a dangerous place for a cat. Having no control of where they go and what they eat is a real issue. I think making an effort to keep indoors a interesting and happy place for a cat is way better than hit by a car, killed by rat poisoning or coyotes.

  8. I don't have a thoughtful opinion (yet!) about de-clawing, although my instinct is to say "don't do it." I do have an opinion about cats being let outside. I just saw a headline and photo in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a picture of the "last quail in San Francisco" because cats had gotten the rest of them. Seriously.

  9. My wife says declawing a cat is like a human having his fingernails pulled off. That was enough for me to rule it out. Our two cats are both inside cats though they were adopted from the outside. Blackwell still tries to sneak out from time to time but Muggles has no interest whatsoever.

  10. Many years ago I had a cat that was declawed for the same reason you described and the cat stayed indoors and had little interest in going outside. Some years after that, I had another cat and it was after declawing had become less popular. I bought a scratching post but, as you say, they have a mind of their own. I was lucky though, I found the scratching on my sofa when I was moving. My cat had found a place that wasn't generally visible to do it's damage. That was one smart cat.

  11. wow, you opened my eyes to something i had never considered!

  12. Cats are extremely stoic so they do not exhibit pain unless it is intolerable. I would not want my fingernails/fingertips removed, even though I might be able to compensate in most activities! As you can tell, I don't agree with declawing now but there was a time that I didn't think twice about it, mostly because I didn't know enough about cats or declawing. There are lots of things that people accepted in the past that are no longer acceptable in the present. And it's not a crime to have a change of mind :)

  13. De-clawing also causes problems with walking, pain and discomfort and there are several ways to deal with the clawing of furniture only one of which involves trimming nails consistently.

  14. Vivian: I always feel so bad for those poor lobsters.

    Marty: Exactly. I'm not saying it's a preferable option, but I think it should remain an option.

    Ms M: That's a very good point! A foreskin never hurt anybody -- or anybody's sofa, for that matter!

    Ellen: I'm with you on the docking of dogs' tails and ears, but to me that's different, because it's purely ornamental. Declawing at least has a functional purpose. If my cats went outside I'd agree that they'd need their claws. But we urban dwellers just don't have that option. (At least not in my mind, though some of my London neighbors apparently disagree, and the mean streets of London kill a lot of cats.)

    Linda: I agree -- certainly in cities, cats are better off indoors.

    Robin: That's also an important consideration. Outdoor cats are devastating to wildlife! In fact Dave and I have noticed a huge decline in the number of birds on our feeders lately -- even non-migratory birds -- and I wonder if it's because the neighbors' cats (which occasionally stroll through our yard when Olga is indoors) are scaring them off (or worse).

    Catalyst: It's definitely a drastic step. I think I appreciate that much more now than I did when I had it done to my own cats.

    Sharon: Well, at least the cat hid its damage from you! :)

    37P: If you're not a cat-owner, or a former cat-owner, I can see how this issue would be pretty alien to you! It's an interesting debate.

    Jenny-O: Yes, absolutely -- our views on many issues change over time. As I said above, I don't think I'd have been as casual about declawing my cats as I was when I had it done, now that there's so much more awareness about the procedure. But I still think it should remain a legal option, for cases when people are at their wits' end and are on the verge of getting rid of their pets.

    E: My cats walked (and jumped, and climbed) with no problem after they'd healed. How do you keep your cats from scratching?

    John: Well, that IS usually a pretty good policy in life!

  15. Now that's a new one for me when a bar sets up a book display.