Onychectomy, popularly known as declawing, is an operation to surgically remove an animal’s claws by means of amputating all or part of the distal phalanx, or end bones, of the animal’s toes. (definition per wikipedia).

“Lilly” shows off her claws before her monthly pedicure.

But, let’s be honest about declawing … it is the mutilation of the animal’s paw so that the claws can no longer grow. The claw is removed along with the bone it is attached to (imagine your fingernail and finger up to the first joint). The traditional way of doing this is with an instrument that looks like a really big pair of nail trimmers – guillotine-style. Chop! Off with the claw and bone … and wait, half of the paw pad. Yup, that part of the animal that is used for walking, running, and balance – sliced in half.

Go on, imagine it … don’t make me post the pictures.

Guess that’s why several countries have banned declawing – it is illegal in Australia, Brazil, Israel, Finland, Estonia, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and United Kingdom.

And despite the clear ethical guidelines given by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (meaning: declawing should only be done in very extreme cases), surveys suggest that 95 percent of declaw surgeries are done to protect furniture.

Argh, so it is legal to mutilate a animal’s paws so that the furniture is not potentially damaged.

I’ve thought about this procedure a lot lately and it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time watching and caring for cats. I’ve seen how they use their claws – primarily for stability and play.

A cat without claws is almost equivalent to a human without thumbs or big toes.

Think about how much you use your thumbs … and if they were amputated, how much you would have to alter the things you do on a daily basis? Good luck trying to pick up that coffee travel mug … or quickly maneuver the car steering wheel … or turn a round door knob. And those big toes … the majority of your balance when walking comes from the big toes.

As for those arguments about why cats should be declawed:

1. “I don’t want my furniture ruined.” ~Well, you probably shouldn’t have cats … or kids … or any parties that involve food or beverages. The pet supply stores have a large selection of scratching posts – give your cats their own furniture! 🙂 Stores like PetSmart offer all kinds of options. Don’t have a lot of space? Something as simple as this cardboard scratcher works for many cats:

Cardboard Scratcher2. “My kids will get hurt.” ~No, no, no … the majority of cats are not out to harm your kid. Unless, of course, your kid is completely rambunctious and attacking the cat. Teach your children how to properly play with a cat using a wand toy that will keep the hands safely away from the cats claws.

3. “All my other cats are declawed.” ~So? Again, the new cat with claws is not on a mission to seek out and hurt the cats with no claws. A well-socialized cat has no agenda for blood. Watch a pair of cats that have their claws play-fight: no blood, no injuries. For more information about how to successfully introduce and socialize a new cat, check out our blog post on Cat Introductions.

4. “I don’t know how to trim the cat’s nails.” ~You are a very smart person – you can learn. And if that fails, there are plenty of ‘cat people’ out there that can do this for you. Here’s a video of how to trim a cat’s nails:

Recently, The Paw Project movie was released. Screenings are listed on their website … if it shows up near you, please go see it! http://pawprojectmovie.com/ 

For more information: http://www.pawproject.org/ 

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