As anyone who has ever shared a home with a cuddly kitten can tell you, personal preference on declawing can spark controversy.  It is estimated that approximately one quarter of the house cat population in America has been declawed, so while unpopular, it is also a very common practice.  Ultimately the choice is yours, but this week Wisconsin Pet Care wants to shed some light on a very dark concern facing the cat population.


First, let’s identify what happens when your cat’s claws are removed.  Some believe that declawing a cat is much like a nail being removed from a human (or more incorrect, that it is like receiving a manicure).  On the contrary, it is a major operation that results in amputation of the last bone on each of your cat’s toes (the human equivalent would be to cut off the fingers at the last knuckle).   There are a couple of different methods, but they both end in the same result – a missing toe to preserve a piece of expensive furniture, prevent your child from being scratched or “save”someone with a compromised immune system from scratch-induced harm.  However, the alternatives to amputation are so effective that it seems inhumane to even consider this intensive surgery.


In countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, declawing is illegal.  Therefore, these kitty parents have learned to employ alternative methods to tame potential cat chaos!  No one wants their favorite chair to become a scratching post…so the first step in keeping your cat’s claws in check is to provide your feline friend a scratching post!  Scratching is a muscle toning activity that gives cats their amazing grace, balance and finesse!  Even cats who have been declawed tend to mimic scratching motions because it is a behavior that is intrinsically ingrained in their DNA.  Some kitties prefer sisal rope while some prefer berber.  Find the material that is most appealing to your cat, sprinkle the surface with a bit of catnip (bribes work for a lot of cute critters) and let the cat scratch fever begin!


Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed will also prevent the damage that is done to surfaces that have been scratched by your four-legged buddy.  If you begin trimming your cat’s nails as a baby, this procedure will become routine (even for the fussier adult kitties).  As we have previously covered, you will want to be careful not to cut too deep into the nail.  If you are concerned about injuring your kitty, you can always have this service performed during your routine vet visit for a nominal fee.


Speaking of veterinarian recommendations, you may wish to ask him about a product like Soft Paws.  These vinyl nail coverings “soften” the damage a claw can do to both inanimate and human surfaces.  This is especially beneficial for parents with curious newborns, older adults on blood-thinning medications or anyone that would experience medical complications from a cat scratch.  Essentially these claw caps cover the nail and adhere with surgical glue.  One word of caution: If you will be applying these covers to your cat’s claws yourself, be very cautious with the glue – once it sticks, it is stuck!


Besides the cruelty of amputation, what are other possible “side effects” of declawing?  For starters, the recovery time for traditional surgery is between 2 and 3 weeks (though delicate nerve endings could require much longer to fully mend).  During this time your purrfect companion will climb stairs, use the litter box and walk to and fro – all while dealing with immense pain.  Years of walking with a modified gait can cause future joint problems, including arthritis in the paws and hips.  More immediate concerns could be aggression, personality changes and refusal to use the litter box.


The essential message is: Claws make the cat.  It may seem like their entire mission in life is to seek and destroy all of the objects you hold most dear, but their motives are far more base (after all, what good is life without an indulgent full body stretch after a long catnap?).  In short, Wisconsin Pet Care urges you to just say NO to cat declawing.