by Zachariah Atteberry
To Declaw or to Not Declaw
One particular hot topic question that stirs a lot of discussion is declawing. Many adults find declawing acceptable. They declaw their family cat in order to protect their furniture and their children from being scratched.
If so many people find it acceptable, am I telling you that you should declaw the family cat? No. Declawing should not even be considered if the safety of your children or furniture is an issue.
The cat should be considered as much a family member as anyone else in the family. This implies that the cat should not be treated like a toy that can be thrown around and tortured. Everyone should respect cats for what they are; claws and all. It is also advised that everyone is educated in handling a cat properly. For that reason, it is important too, for you to understand the severity of declawing and how declawing can endanger your child’s health, your cat’s welfare and your belongings.
I believe you when you say that your cat has claws like porcupine quills. But look at your feline’s mouth and you will soon realize that his teeth are also razor sharp. Without claws to warn children that they are being mishandled or are annoyed, they will resort to biting as their natural first instinct. If that happens, your child will surely receive more severe injuries than claws could possibly inflict. Scientific studies have also found that bites are more infectious than scratches.
Almost every well socialized cat that I have came in contact over the years was very good about using a very light warning scratch before resorting to full fledged claws. But your cat will not use the warning system if they do not have claws. It is also important that you supervise most if not all interaction sessions if your child is under the age of six years old.
Safety Is Not The Only Reason
Child safety aside, declawing is notoriously regarded as a mutilation. Declawing, anatomically speaking, is the removal of the first digit of every toe. The pain of declawing is constantly contrasted to the phantom pain that an amputee feels after a limb has been amputated. Unlike mammals that can walk on the soles of their paws, cats are digitigrade and require complete paws to walk properly. Without claws and without that extra warning system, cats can develop a variety of behavior problems. Some behavior problems can include:
- Aggressive biting and play
- Urinating outside the box
- Painful Foot Infections
- Self-confidence loss
- Fear of other cats and humans
If you want your children to learn the ideals of being a successful adult, I suggest that you begin by educating your child on how to handle animals respectfully. If handled correctly, an animal should almost never react with hostility. If you do not know the proper method for holding an animal, ask your veterinarian for an example – he should be happy to assist you with a demonstration.
Next, you may wish to teach handling and socialization skills. And don’t only teach your children, teach other people how to handle pets as well. The most important rule is to say “No” when the cat bites or scratches, and leave the cat alone for a while, it tells him that it is not acceptable behavior.
I realize that declawing might also be considered as a possibility due to furniture and upholstery damage. There are very simple and effective solutions to furniture scratching that you can learn in minutes. A few of the many useful items to help you steer your cat’s behavior are as follows:
- A study 30 by 30 scratching post made of sisal rope
- A variety of cat treats that your cats enjoy
- A bag of catnip for enticing your cat to use the post
- A favorite toy to help the cat familiarize himself with the post
- Double sided sticky tape
- Nail Trimmers
What you want to do is place the tape on locations you do not want him to scratch. Then you place the post near his most preferred sleeping spot, or his common eating location. Cats want an easy to access location to scratch at after a long sleep or after they have had their dinner. The cat might not take to the post right away.
There are a an abundance of easy techniques that you can use to entice the cat to the scratching post. You can help guide him by scratching the post yourself as a demonstration, sprinkling a little cat nip to entice him, or by playing with him around the post. Nail trimming is also important in cat care. By keeping your cat’s claws dull, his claws won’t be nearly as sharp and pain inflicting.
There are countless other resources online that you may use that can provide helpful tips for this type of training. If you are still having problems, it is advised that you consult a behavioral book such as this one – Twisted Whiskers (click on image to go to Amazon):
Or you can search the internet for additional help and modification methods.