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Should I Have My Cat Declawed

by: Nancy M. Gerhardt, DVM

There are some people who believe all indoor cats should be declawed and other people who believe that declawing is, under any circumstances, cruel and inhumane. Opponents of declawing point out that, properly performed, declawing still results in some discomfort and benefits only the owner, not the pet. Both points of view are likely to be regarded as extreme with the truth lying in a middle ground.

Indoor cats can often be trained to use a scratching post and even without one, not all cats will claw furniture. While cats are safer when kept indoors, indoor-outdoor cats generally exercise their natural instincts when outside and not on the furniture. Only strictly indoor cats who are causing damage despite the presence of a scratching post should be considered for declawing. If this must be done, it is better done when the cat is young, generally between three and six months of age.

In general, removal of the front claws will resolve the problems most owners experience. Request for removal of the rear claws usually occurs if a pet is scratching children or damaging delicate skin of the elderly. People who have cats, especially older ones, should think twice about getting leather furniture or a waterbed lest they feel compelled to remove the rear claws or find another home for the pet. The danger of removing all the claws has often become unfortunately evident when the pet escapes from the home and is attacked by a dog. Homes where there is a lot of human traffic or numerous small children pose the greatest risk of indoor cats getting out where they may meet the ill fate of being maimed or killed by dogs or struck by motor vehicles.

In our opinion, where regarded by the owner as necessary, the temporary discomfort of declawing is less of an issue than the overpopulation of homeless cats many of whom find loving owners who are willing to take them in because declawing is available.