Humane treatment of domesticated cats

By Katarina B.R. Marek, Guest Writer

Based on statistics observed in a recent Applied Animal Behavioral Sciences medical journal’s findings, a declawed cat has a greater chance of ending up in a shelter, being euthanized, having premature medical and behavioral issues. A purely elective procedure which has been outlawed in majority of the world besides the United States of America is still being debated here in America. A barbaric practice done by a 55% percentage of cat owners in America stemming from what I consider, a mixture of laziness and ignorance. While ignorance alone is not necessarily a bad thing, refusing to educate yourself on the topic and continually cause unneeded issues for a pet in your care is concerning.

Up to 50% of cats that are declawed develop acute physical complications within their lifespan associated with the elective surgery. 33% of those cats show symptoms within the first year. Phantom pain felt by humans with amputations is also a possibility felt by declawed felines. Not every cat shows negative side effects from the surgery. However, considering that it is completely avoidable and purely elective operation, this presents a morality issue. We do not declaw our dogs fully, we trim their claws. We train our dogs to do a large range of tricks but when it comes to our cats who train themselves to use the litter box, we can’t even be bothered to train them where to appropriately scratch.

The opposing side’s argument is often heard as, “Well my cat is declawed, and they are fine. They wouldn’t stop scratching on my furniture.” Given the right motivation it is extremely easy to train a cat like a dog. Give them a scratcher and make it desirable with catnip once or twice a week and your cat will learn the routine and appropriate scratching methods. Much like clicker training a dog you can also clicker train a cat.

Most clinics try to prevent owners from declawing their cats. There are several options that people use to declaw because they think it is more humane. When in reality, they aren’t. The claw cannot be separated from the bone structure of the feline. Declawing causes the entire first segment of their claws and knuckle to be removed whether is it by laser surgery or classical declaw. Improper care taken with their litterbox after surgery can lead to the cat developing a fear of the litterbox due to pain and discomfort. This also leads to premature arthritis and joint issues. Another method is to cut the tendons within the cat’s toes. This leads to them not being able to properly flex the ends of their toes to shed old claw coverings which can cause discomfort and infections. All of these issues are caused by something that is completely avoidable.

There are many ways to counter cats scratching, such as claw covers, or telling owners to play often with the cat’s toes while they are young to get them use to the sensation, so you can easily clip them. While many countries, and certain states are outlawing the act of declawing a cat, we still have a long way to go in the matter of domesticated feline rights. People make the choice to adopt these animals. We do not expect our children to act well from birth, we realize they are children who need time and discipline to behave well. So why do we expect our cats to behave perfectly when they are still maturing into adults? We take the time to teach dogs to roll over, sit, heel, and walk on a leash but we can’t seem to be bothered to teach our cats one simple thing. We adopt animals with the promise to take care of them during their extremely short lives to the best of our ability and some turn around and break that promise for convenience. It is time to stop declawing our cats and take responsibility as owners to train them.

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