I’m not sure there’s anything more contentious and emotionally charged in vet- erinary medicine than the declaw issue. Catfights are breaking out all over the country, which has caused even more rancor. But new data might also be a game changer.
The War Over
Mind & Body
By steve dale
Cats are hardwired to scratch. They
scratch to communicate. it’s what cats
do — from tigers to tabbies.
They leave both visual and aromatic
messages (a cat’s paws have scent glands
that leave smell-o-grams, which we
can’t read but cats can). They scratch
to remove worn nail sheaths from their
claws. And they scratch because it feels
good — it’s an emotional outlet.
it doesn’t matter which tools are
used — a declaw (onychectomy) is an
amputation, no matter how you cut it.
The veterinarian amputates the end section of the last bone, which contains the
growth plate along the nail. declaw is an
According to dr. Ron Gaskin of
Shakopee, Minnesota, the idea of
declaw surgery was first presented in a
letter to the editor in the Journal of the
American Veterinary Medical Association
in 1952 by a Chicago veterinarian without
first studying short-term or long-term
effects. it was just an idea.
in the U.S., over time, declawing
soared in popularity as more cats were
kept indoors only. declaw was (and is
still thought by many) a way to prevent
scratching cats from damaging the home,
and therefore preventing relinquishment.
At first, many veterinarians were
called butchers for the techniques used
and for the lack of pain medication.
Today, proponents profess techniques
to be more precise and pain meds are,
in fact, routinely administered.
Historically, declaw was once so
routine in the U.S. that it was offered as
a “twofer” with spay or neuter surgery.
you might even receive a coupon for a
Several years ago, the American
Association of Feline Practitioners took
a stand against this practice. However,
according to dr. Jennifer Conrad, who
has a special interest in exotic animals
(especially large cats), at least some veterinarians do continue to offer “specials”
to spay/neuter kitty — and conveniently
declaw while they’re still under.
Meanwhile, today many countries
around the world have banned the
surgery, including Australia, Belgium,
England, Germany, France, ireland, italy,
new Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Spain
and Wales. it’s important to note that in
at least some of these nations, cats are
indoor-outdoor, and declawing them
would leave them defenseless outside.
Also, if they’re scratching more outside
the house, they’re often not as destruc-
The American Veterinary Medical
Association declaw position statement
suggests client education (on behavior
modification) should happen before
declaw. obviously, these veterinari-
ans are not following the profession’s
dr. Bill Folger of Houston, a feline
practitioner and president of the Society
for Veterinary Medical Ethics worked on
the original AVMA declaw position state-
ment. He does not do declaw surgeries
himself but believes many veterinarians
that do truly believe they’re doing the
right thing. “of course, veterinarians don’t
want to damage cats and want to pre-
vent possible relinquishment when cats
or kittens are doing damage,” he said.
The elephant in the declaw surgical
suite? dollars. dr. Conrad said that some
veterinarians and veterinary practices are
paying attention to their pocketbook
ahead of cat welfare. others argue that MRT