People who surf the Internet specifically ask whether claw caps are humane. My gut feeling is that there will be about a 50/50 split in the discussion on this topic. Personally, based on the definition of the word “humane” and based upon the reason why declawing takes place, I can unequivocally state that claw caps are not humane. However, it depends on how pragmatic you want to be and there are counter arguments.
The word “humane” means “having or showing compassion or benevolence”. It means being kindhearted and considerate. It means being understanding and sympathetic.
In the United States, 99% of the time or more, cat declawing is unnecessary in terms of whether it is beneficial to the cat. Declawing is carried out for the convenience of the cat’s owner to avoid their possessions being damaged by a cat’s claws. Sometimes declawing is carried out because the cat’s owner and/or other family members are frightened of being scratched. Being scratched by a cat is one of the hazards of having a domestic cat. It can be avoided through proper handling.
Claw caps are plastic coverings for the claws of a cat. They are glued in place. They need to be replaced from time to time. In fact they need to be replaced every 4 to 6 weeks. They fall off with the growth of the cat’s nails. Some cats need adjustment to wearing them. Some cats try to get rid of them which makes them fall off. They are described as an excellent alternative to declawing.
The point I would like to make is this: declawing is unnecessary 99% of the time or more when the decision to declaw is based upon the cat’s health and welfare. As declawing is carried out by veterinarians and as their oath obliges them to only act in the interests of the cat’s health and welfare then declawing should almost never take place. The argument that delcawing saves lives is false in my view (see last para).
As declawing is unnecessary and as it should never take place the only alternative to it is not to do it. What I’m saying in a roundabout way is that there are no alternatives. It should not be done. I am taking a purist stance.
It follows that as claw caps are an alternative they cannot be a good idea. Claw caps are a compromise to ameliorate a situation brought about by the laziness and lack of commitment of humans to care for domestic cats to the highest of standards.
In addition, cats need to use their claws for a variety of reasons and claw caps prevent a cat using their claws. I will admit that they can still partially use them but they can’t scratch with them which is a necessary part of cat behaviour. They will be less able to climb. Can a cat defend himself with claw caps? Can he safely go outside? And of course, we don’t know how they feel on a cat. I have mentioned above that a cat might try to get them off. This indicates to me that they feel uncomfortable to the majority of domestic cat.
If we return to the definition of the word “humane”, I think it is difficult, bearing in mind what I’ve said, to describe gluing claw caps onto a cat as being kind, kindly or considerate towards a cat. It is not being benevolent towards a cat. If there was a good medical reason for doing it which benefited the cat concerned then you would have to argue that it would be humane. However, if the reason for using them is prevent the cat scratching furniture then I cannot see how you can call the process humane. It is not behaving in a generous, considerate or beneficial manner towards the cat. The process is about benefiting the human at the expense and discomfort of the cat.
Therefore, I conclude that the answer to the question: are claw caps humane? – has to be No. However, I know for a fact that there will be millions of people who disagree with me. I’m taking a black-and-white stance which I believe you have to do when you’re talking about philosophical issues as to whether you are acting humanely or not. Many other people will find claw caps a good compromise. A compromise which allows them to look after a cat; the alternative being that the cat might be unwanted, and end up in a rescue centre and then at the end of the day be euthanised. This is the argument that veterinarians use when confronted with a declawing ban. Personally, I do not agree with that argument.
However, if claw caps save lives, you can argue they are humane. But what undermines this argument is that claw caps should not be saving lives. Cats’ lives are being jeopardised by people who want to declaw for their benefit. The response is that these people should change their attitude and not want to declaw. They should accept a cat’s claws and the ‘whole’ cat. That’s what domestication is about.