Some cat-owners have their claws out… for declawing

Controversial practice has its detractors

Hilary Doan and Pumpkin…. Or is it Pumpkin and Hilary Doan? (Photo by Dena Shah)
It was around one year ago that Hilary Doan from East York became a new cat-owner. She can remember all of the scratch marks, damage and general wreckage that her cat Pumpkin had caused to the furniture. She remembered hearing about other cat owners who had faced similar issues. She had heard about an easy way out: declawing. But, one year later, after a lot of research and rethinking, Doan says it actually isn’t the easy way out.

Declawing is a procedure done on cats to surgically remove their claws to prevent scratching or damaged household items. It is considered to be inhumane in some European countries but in North America it has not been talked about much until recently.

Doan didn’t realize the consequences of declawing early on. She had just heard about her other friends who were cat-owners talking about the procedure and how a lot of people online were talking about it and saying it was a faster way to control a cat.

“Honestly, I was just speaking to some of my friends who also owned cats, and we were just talking about how a lot of people were considering this option online. My cat was very aggressive early on, and honestly I didn’t really talk to my vet about it in the beginning. I just thought the majority of cats do this, and this is one of the faster fixes to the issue,” Doan said.

But Doan says she became skeptical after doing a lot of research online and speaking to her vet. Just a few weeks ago the CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) announced that it is talking about taking a formal stance against declawing. Their reasoning is that they do not have enough evidence to prove that declawing is beneficial to cats in any way.

As for the health effects it has on cats, veterinarian Shervin Irannajad from the St. Clair East Animal Hospital thinks the practice is actually harmful for cats.

“I consider it animal abuse, as the surgical amputation of the third phalanx of the digit alters the expression of normal behaviours in cats, causes avoidable short-term acute pain, and has the potential to cause chronic pain and negative long-term orthopaedic consequences,” Irannajad explained.

During a surgical declawing, the cat is also prone to complications during the anesthesia, as well as hemorrhage and infection. Even after a successful procedure, the pain and side effects of the medication a cat would require could be very hard on the cat’s health, according to Dr. Irannajad.

Doan wants other cat-owners to do their research beforehand and really consider other alternatives, just as she did toward her final decision. Consulting a veterinarian should be the first step before making the choice.

“My vet was very informative and helpful, she let me know that there were other options, that didn’t include creating long-term pain for my cat. I was unaware of the consequences, but I’m glad I decided to talk to her about it. I would be lying, if I said that the idea of doing the procedure didn’t run through my mind in the beginning,” Doan explained.

Today Doan is ignoring any scratch marks on her furniture, as the health of her Pumpkin is more important to her than anything else. She hopes that no more owners declaw their cats. Personally, she wants to see this practice banned:

“Declawing isn’t worth it. You’re likely creating long-term pain for your cat and yourself. This isn’t the easy way out. This is clearly animal abuse, and if you decide to follow through with it after looking into it, then I don’t think you should be a cat-owner in the first place.”