Q: We don’t consider a declaw an amputation, as you insist it is. Our cats survive longer because we keep them indoors. We love our cats; they even sleep in our bed. Don’t you believe under those conditions it’s OK to declaw? — H.T., Tampa, FL
A: It is likely your cats will live longer because you keep them indoors, but just because you offer them this benefit is no justification for amputating parts of their toes.
Whether or not a declaw is an amputation is not a matter of opinion, as Vancouver, Canada-based feline veterinarian Dr. Margie Scherk explains: “Declawing (onychectomy) is removal of each ‘finger/toe’ at the last knuckle. By definition, this is amputation. An amputation is the removal of a part of the body from the rest of the body. In humans, amputations are done only for medical reasons to save a person’s life or for torture.”
Scherk, also editor of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, points out that:
— Declawing is an unnecessary procedure that may involve a painful recovery for the animal. Also, as with any surgical procedure, there are potential inherent risks, such as anesthetic complications, hemorrhaging and pain.
— Scratching is a normal feline behavior. Cat owners are therefore responsible for providing suitable items for scratching, such as scratching posts, cardboard boxes, etc., and rewarding good scratching behavior with positive reinforcement.
— Too often, cats are declawed before owners educate themselves and research humane alternatives.
“If we love the creature that is a cat, then scratching is part of who they are,” stresses Scherk. “Who gives us the right to amputate someone’s fingers or toes, let alone someone we love and are responsible for?”
No matter how you feel about declaw surgery, even in rare instances where it may be deemed necessary, it is an amputation.
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