A&M Researcher: Declawing Your Feline Could Be Cat-Astrophic

Having your feline declawed could be cat-astrophic – both to your checkbook and to your pet’s health if a current California trend sweeps across the country, contends a Texas A&M University animal behavior authority who is a past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The city of San Francisco recently outlawed the veterinary procedure, and California cities Santa Monica, Berkeley and Beverly Hills have also banned the practice, with Los Angeles expected to outlaw cat declawing in the next few days. In those cities that have banned the practice, anyone caught having his or her cat declawed could face a $1,000 fine and a jail sentence of six months if convicted.

At least 20 countries have outlawed the practice, including Australia, Japan, Brazil, Israel, the United Kingdom and most of Europe. Since California often sets trends that eventually are accepted by the rest of the country, it’s a matter that Texas pet owners should pay close attention to, says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a nationally known animal behavior authority at Texas A&M whose specialty is animal behavior, but she says she understands the rationale for both sides of the issue.

“Declawing a cat has both positive and negative considerations,” says Beaver, a professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“In some cases where the cat is destroying the inside of a home and retraining it to use a scratching post has not worked, or when it lives with a severely immunocompromised person, the decision becomes one of either declawing the cat or having to euthanize it," she notes. "Declawing is a veterinary procedure and like other such procedures, the decision of whether to declaw should be made by a well-informed owner in consultation with his or her veterinarian.”

City leaders in San Francisco, in defending their decision, call cat declawing “a form of animal cruelty,” adding that “it’s a form of amputation and it renders the cat defenseless if attacked.”

Beaver says the negatives of declawing include the pain the animal endures after the procedure, noting it is the equivalent of removing the bone in the tip of each finger, and it might affect the animal’s walking ability.

Also, after declawing, some cats find it more painful to use a litter box appropriately, she says, and owners may fail to take the time and effort to train their cats to use the scratching pad. In addition, she says declawed cats are often defenseless in attacks by other animals.

Positives include a smaller chance of serious infections from cats that claw their owners, and it decreases the seriousness of aggression toward owners or animals in the household, the Texas A&M veterinarian notes. Also, it stops damage to furniture so the owner is less likely to abandon it on the street or euthanize the animal, and she says declawed cats can still climb trees and are also adept at finding hiding spots to avoid potential predators.

“It is true that declawed cats are defenseless in attacks and almost always are indoor cats or should be,” Beaver notes, “and they should not be fighting anyway or be attacked by dogs, raccoons or other animals.

“Again, there are positives and negatives to this issue, and it’s something that owners should discuss with their veterinarians before coming to a decision,” she concludes.

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