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Declawing: The Medical Facts

What you need to know about a controversial procedure

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Posted June 15, 2012 in Cat Surgery A-Z

Declawing cats is a very controversial issue! It’s a decision that each pet owner must make for themselves after talking with their cat's veterinarian. 

Our friends at the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have this to say: "The American Animal Hospital Association is opposed to the declawing of domestic cats unless all other attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when clawing presents a significant health risk for people within the household."

At Pet Health Network, we agree with AAHA. It should be a last resort. However, if a cat is posing a threat to people or other pets and declawing is the only way for a cat to stay a member of a household, we support a pet parent's right to chose this option. It's certainly better than a cat landing in a shelter and risking euthanasia. 

Most importantly, remember, a declawed cat can NEVER be let outside, ever. They are defenseless. 

Here are some facts to help you make the decision. 

Why do people declaw?

The most common reason to declaw a cat is to keep him from being destructive (scratching furniture, woodwork, doors, etc.), After finding a guilty cat sitting in front of shredded furniture, carpet, or drapes a few times, some pet owners might be tempted by this solution.

Similarly, if a cat is constantly getting in fights with other cats in the house or scratching people, declawing is seen as a fast solution, rather than correcting the behavior through training.

On some occasions, cat owners have medical reasons of their own that prompt de-clawing. For example, people with weak immune systems, such as the elderly or chronically ill, can’t be scratched. The bacteria on a cat scratch can be dangerous for them.

Do cats need their claws? 
Yes, and for several reasons. One big reason is for protection. Not only do cats use claws to swipe at predators (including dogs in the neighborhood that might chase them) in self-defense, they are also used to climb trees and escape danger.

Also, claws are an important part of cat’s anatomy. Most mammals walk on the soles of their feet, but cats are different. They are “digitigrade,” which is another way of saying that they walk on their toes. Their entire bodies are engineered for toe-walking: their backs, shoulders, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are designed

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