The procedure of declawing cats is one with impassioned views on both sides of the issue, as this article points out (which provides a fairly reasoned synopsis). For those of you unfamiliar with the procedure or the debate, and why it has relevance to all animal-lovers, not just the cat fanciers, here is the low down:
The Pro-Declaw Side:
So, why would someone want to do this to their cat? Several reasons are typically given:
1. To protect themselves and family members (especially children and elderly people with frail skin) from being scratched. Even nice cats with claws will use them in play, and are very likely to leave scratches on people.
3. To keep cats from climbing. Again, this is a protection issue. Some cats that are able will try to climb everything, including drapes, coat racks, even walls.
4. People do not like trimming cat claws. Cats can be difficult for nail trims, especially if you don't have someone around that can effectively hold the reluctant kitty.
The Anti-Declaw Side:
It is fairly obvious why there are people against this procedure. I'll outline them along with the basic reasons why the veterinary boards still allow the procedure:
1. It is disfiguring. There is no doubt...this procedure is an amputation, and any amputation is disfiguring. However, there are several other somewhat similar procedures such as ear cropping and tail docking that are also currently acceptable procedures.
3. It makes cats more aggressive. This argument is often made, citing the observation that - removed of their claws and the natural behaviors that accompany the using and maintenance of those claws - makes declawed cats more likely to bite. Subjectively, I would agree with that. I worry about clawed and declawed cats biting me, but declawed cats seem to be more eager to do so. However, objectively, studies have not supported this observation.
4. It is unnecessary. With providing proper scratching posts and keeping the claws trimmed, most of the issues that people are trying to avoid by declawing their cats can be minimized. Cat claws are much easier to trim than dog claws. Besides proper care, people can use a product called Soft Paws which are caps that can be glued onto cat claws.
The Bottom Line:
From my perspective, I am against animal disfigurement. I am an avid opponent of ear cropping and tail docking in dogs (topics that I will cover at another time). My position as a veterinarian means that I need to be an advocate for animals, and to recommend and perform procedures that are in the animal's best interests. So, it would follow that I would also be as vehemently anti-declawing.
However, I am not against declawing.
In a perfect world, we wouldn't need to declaw cats. In a perfect world, there would be no homeless dogs, cats or other domestic animals. In a perfect world, I would have won the family football pool.
When people ask me if they should get their kitten declawed, I always make sure they have all of the information. I am very straight-forward with people and make it clear that, yes, it is an amputation. Yes, it is painful. The way the procedure is done, and the medications that are used help reduce the discomfort. I've done enough of them to be confident in my technique and how I control that pain. I show people how they can trim their kitten's nails, and recommend scratching posts and Soft Paws where appropriate. Some people decide to have their cat declawed, some don't.
Though it is a procedure I don't necessarily like to do, it is one that I will happily do if it means that a cat has a home.