There are usually two main reasons why people decide to declaw their cat: fear of furniture damage and fear of human injury. I will go through the two issues and explain why declawing is actually not the answer. Then I will explain why declawing is an overall bad idea.
If you are concerned about your cat scratching furniture, please see my earlier entry about working with your cat’s nails and teaching them to stop scratching. A cat can be trained! The key is to provide an appropriate object for scratching, typically a scratching post, so your cat can act out the instinctive need to stretch, scratch and mark with his scent.
If you are worried about your children’s safety, please keep in mind that a cat gives off very distinct body language that you and your family should learn. If your cat does not want to be picked up or petted any more, you can tell! The more the tail is moving, the more agitated the cat and therefore the cat should be left alone. Also, if a cat’s ears are back and/or eyes are dilated (but you are in a well lit area), the cat is on high alert and likely easily startled. And this point is rather obvious, but your children may not realize it: if the cat is hiding leave him alone! He wants to be alone and will not be happy if disturbed. So teach your children to look for these signs before the approach your cat. That way, no scratching will occur!
Another topic to discuss with visitors and children is that most cats do not like to be held or picked up. They do not like to feel confined and therefore will struggle if handled. So make sure everyone understands not to pick up or hold down your cat!
Just Say No to Declawing
The option of declawing was very popular up until about five years ago when people began to realize the true extent of the damage done with this surgery. Most people think that declawing the cat is simply removing their nails when in fact you are removing their finger from the first joint. Even if your cat makes it through the surgery without complications, there are long term issues that have been proven to occur. A cat’s claws are their first line of defense. When a cat is tired of a child pestering them, they give a few swats of their paw as a warning. However, if a cat figures out their paws no longer work effectively to ward off unwanted attention they will resort to their second line of defense-their teeth. So it comes down to deciding if you would rather be scratched when your cat is grumpy or bitten.
Another behavior issue that can arise from declawing is peeing outside the litter box. When a cat loses his fingers through the declawing surgery his feet do not feel the same anymore. Some cats will respond to this discomfort (or, if the healing did not occur properly, pain) by avoiding strange surfaces. Like cat litter.
Declawing is a very hard thing for a cat to adjust to and therefore you should NEVER declaw a cat over the age of one. Take humans for example. If you take me, a 25 year old, and cut my fingers off it will take me a long time to adjust to this disability since I have lived with fingers for 25 years. However, if you take a newborn baby and cut her fingers off, that is all she knows while growing up and will therefore have less of an issue adjusting to the disability.
You should always discuss with your veterinarian about this surgery if you are considering it, but keep in mind your vet may recommend it because it means more money for them.
(image taken from http://www.declawing.com)