The Many Dangers of Declawing Your Cat


Have you heard about the man and woman who have been charged with felony animal cruelty because of what they did to a kitten name Toby? To quote the Miami Herald:

When Carmenza Piedrahita wanted to declaw her kitten Toby, Miami-Dade prosecutors say, she didn’t go to a licensed veterinarian.

Instead, she turned to an elderly Miami man [Geronimo Gonzalez] who along with another man performed an illegal do-it-yourself declawing of the cat, police said. Toby fell ill. For two weeks, he lingered in pain and dehydration, vomiting a green substance, the exposed bones on his front paws infected and swollen.

Piedrahita finally took Toby to a Miami animal clinic, where he died.

Disgusting! I hope Piedrahita, Gonzalez, and the unnamed man all receive the maximum sentences possible under the law.

This story reaffirms my belief that declaws performed by compassionate and well-trained veterinarians must always remain available as an option of last resort for owners.

Don’t get me wrong, declaws are potentially inhumane. The surgery essentially involves the amputation of every one of a cat’s fingers at the first knuckle (the one just under your nail if you’re looking at your own hands). Therefore, cats should not be declawed until all other reasonable options, like the following, have been pursued.

  • Prevent access to the areas where your cat has been inappropriately scratching. Close doors or consider placing a ScatMat (a pad that delivers a small electric zap when stepped on) in front of your couch corner, molding, etc. If you can’t keep your cat away, cover the specific areas with double sided tape or aluminum foil to make them less attractive.
  • Provide multiple scratching posts made from different materials (carpet, corrugated cardboard, wood, rope-covered, etc.) to determine which type your cat likes best. Try different orientations since some cats like to scratch on horizontal surfaces and others prefer vertical.
  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly. A nail trimmer with sharp blades is essential. Praise and reward your cat when he or she is cooperative.
  • Rubbery nail covers work for some cats but have to be replaced on a regular basis.

But what’s an owner to do if none of this works? Is it reasonable to ask someone to simply put up with a cat’s destructive behavior? I don’t think so, since the chances of that individual cat remaining a welcome and cherished household member are negligible at best. It is in these cases that declaws are a viable option.

I have declawed cats. Because I perform nerve blocks, provide aggressive oral or injectable pain relief, prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection, and insist on several days of post-operative hospitalization, I have seen how comfortable cats can be after a “good” declaw. (One memorable patient started batting around toys as soon as she woke up from anesthesia). I am afraid that if we make obtaining a quality declaw surgery harder or even impossible by banning the procedure, cases like Toby’s could become more frequent.

Dr. Jennifer Coates writing for PetMD

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Posted by on January 29, 2016. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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2 Responses to The Many Dangers of Declawing Your Cat

  1. Marsha Woerner Reply

    January 29, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Thank you, Dr. Jennifer Coates! I agree that declawing a cat is rarely advisable, but it’s often better than the alternative: that a cat go unadopted unsaved (physically, of course – I’m not getting into religion 🙂 ) or left on the streets! I have cat who has all of her claws, but I have a friend who used to have two cats that were totally declawed, front and rear! I don’t approve, but he provided them a good home and they lived past 21 years each! The thought of a botched “home declawing” is so far worse than the idea of a safe, sterile procedure, that is done under watchful veterinarian eyes, even though said procedure would end up “disfiguring the cat”! Not everyone in the world agrees on treatment of animals. I believe that it’s best to do what we can! If that means that some cats are declawed, so be it. In some sense, they’re disfigured, but they’re not tortured and/or killed!

  2. Neil Bamforth Reply

    January 30, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Declawing a cat is wrong. End of.

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