Today I saw a most distressing image on Facebook: a pathetic, devastated-looking kitten newly returned from de-clawing. It was such a pitiful sight that it’s prompted this heartfelt plea: if you, or anyone you know, is considering this operation for a cat, PLEASE DON’T DO IT!
I can understand the reasons why people want cats de-clawed – they can be horribly, expensively destructive little monsters. Twenty-odd years ago, mine certainly were. I’d just bought my first house, and was repeatedly reduced to tears by the damage they did. They couldn’t resist blown vinyl and textured wallpapers, so the living room, kitchen and bathroom décor rapidly fell victim to their claws – as did the pristine Art Deco moquette three-piece suite I’d just proudly acquired from an auction room.
So when I took them to be neutered, I innocently asked the vet if he could de-claw them while he was about it. He gave me a funny look and replied sniffily, “We don’t do that operation here.” I wondered why not – it’s only like cutting your nails or trimming a horse’s hooves, right? Then I shrugged it off, redecorated with flat wallpaper that offered no interest to their claws, and put up with their loop-work on my suite until I could eventually afford to replace it (by which time, alas, both cats were long gone).
And I only discovered quite recently that de-clawing a cat isn’t like cutting fingernails AT ALL. It’s a radical, invasive procedure more akin to having your fingernails pulled out. When the anaesthetic wears off, your cat will be in pain – for a long time. It may develop infections involving more pain and medical treatment. The function of its paws will be permanently impaired. Okay, so it won’t be able to scratch you or your precious furnishings, or get stuck up trees, and it’ll probably make a pretty useless hunter… but it’ll pay a heavy price for your convenience.
If you’re in any doubt about how cruel de-clawing is, have a dig about on the internet and find out what it involves. The pictures are not pretty. I firmly believe that this operation should be made illegal, and that any vet who carries it out should be prosecuted – as should the owner who caused it to be inflicted – because there are other, far kinder (and cheaper) ways to deal with the scratching problem. Cats may not be as amenable to training as dogs, but they CAN learn – apparently a quick squirt of cold water from a plant-spray is excellent for training kittens not to scratch. You can also provide scratching posts and encourage your cat to use them by incorporating them into play, and put sacrificial scratchy-mats in places they like to use. Deterrent sprays are helpful, too – our present cat, Henry, loathes the smell of Indorex flea-control spray, so putting that on the upholstery is a sure-fire way of keeping him off the soft furnishings. (He also knows full well that scratting the suite is BAD, and as an adult only resorts to it when he’s desperate for attention because he knows he’s absolutely guaranteed to get it then – even if only a yell of “Henry Wowler! Stop that!”).
Or you can accept that all pets do anti-social stuff and learn to live with it. Dogs roll in dead foxes and eat their own poo. Rabbits and small rodents gnaw stuff. Birds crap everywhere. Cats claw stuff. It’s just the nature of the beast. So we live with Henry’s scratch-zones in the bathroom and office and on the landing carpet, the fur that coats the whole house and the small creatures (or fragments thereof) with which we’re regularly presented. We may not exactly like it, but what the heck – we like the cat, and we like the fact that he’s happily doing his cat-thing.
So please, please, let your cat keep its claws… or if you really can’t stand the thought of letting a cat BE a cat, maybe you shouldn’t keep one at all.