The New York Times asks the question in the title in a short post in which they refer to the bill going through New York state’s legislature which intends to ban declawing in that state. It is being debated. The vets are against it as they would be. They say that the decision to declawing should be left to cat owners and medical professionals. In other words the owner should have a choice.
There is a link on the NY Times website to a further article entitled “Declawing Must Be an Option to Save Cats’ Lives”. It is written by Alan M Beck the director of the Centre of the Human-Animal Bond at Perdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Mr Beck gives his reasons why declawing should not be banned and it is essentially same reason why the veterinarians do not want declawing to become illegal either in New York or in any other state of the USA. The reason they give is that cat owners would surrender cats if they could not have them declawed. Alternatively, people would not adopt cats if they were not able to declaw them. Mr Beck concludes that therefore there would be many more unwanted cats and therefore many more cats killed at shelters as a result.
In short, he’s saying that declawing saves the lives of cats. This is a perverse argument. It is a narrow-minded point of view born out of an entrenched and unenlightened approach to the relationship between the human and cat.
Mr Beck fails to recognise the fact that it is only in America and in Canada that declawing takes place. It is never discussed or mentioned or even thought about in all of Europe. It is banned in many countries including the UK and other European countries. It is banned in Israel. The fact of the matter is it does not need not be banned in these countries because it is never even discussed. It would not cross the minds of people in the UK to declaw their cat.
And yet, there are no more unwanted cats in Europe than there are in America. It is almost certainly the case that there are less unwanted cats and less cat killings (“euthanized cats”) at shelters in Europe than there are in America. Therefore, it is not a foregone conclusion that declawing saves lives. It is a fallacious argument.
In addition, the idea that you can declaw cats to save lives is very strange to people living in Europe. What Mr Beck is arguing is that a poor attitude by a person towards cats is covered up and smooth over by the unnatural and immoral act of amputating the tips of 10 toes of the domestic cat. If declawing saves the lives of cats in America then it can only be because the attitude of cat owners in America who want to have their cat declawed is incorrect.
The solution, therefore, is not to add a bad act (declawing) to a bad attitude (“I don’t like the claws of a cat”) to come up with a result which satisfies veterinarians and short-sighted cat owners. The solution is to change the attitude of cat owners such that they accept the cat as she or he is fully, wholly and intact without any modification or customisation.
The declawing of cats is akin to the customisation of a car and indicates a mentality that regards the cat is an object and not as a sentient, living, feeling, vulnerable being dependent upon humans for their welfare. Declawing is a betrayal of the human/cat relationship.
Mr Beck should look outwardly towards Europe and other countries where declawing does not take place and he will see a perfectly balanced relationship between human and cat in these countries where the cat has been allowed to retain his claws. People in Europe don’t bleat and moan about the furniture being scratched. They don’t find excuses as to why they might have been scratched by their cat thereby justifying declawing. Europeans simply accept the cat as he/she is and that is the only way it can be.
The poor attitude of some cat owners in America who insist upon their cat being declawed is supported by a similar and equally poor attitude by the vast majority of veterinarians in America who do not declaw cats as a last resort as required by the AVMA but as a routine operation carried out at speed and often botched leaving the cat in pain and sometimes disabled resulting in behavioural problems of a new sort which then leads to the surrender of the cat. This is highly ironic because Mr Beck suggest that declawing avoids the surrender of domestic cats. Well, I’m not sure that he is correct on that.
Because there is little or no chance of a change in attitude by cat owners and vets in the USA in the long term, a staged ban on declawing is the only way to prevent what is a legalised criminal act. A ban would eventually alter opinions, attitudes and behavior and lead to a more healthy relationship between cat and human.
Declawing is ultimately about making money for veterinarians (it is a fantastic money-maker and a bread-and-butter routine for the vets) and about convenience for the cat owner, who does not want to bother about trimming their cat’s claws or finding any other alternative means of dealing with the claws of their cat. The best way to deal with the claws of a cat is simply to accept them and for the human to modify his/her behaviour to avoid being scratched and to avoid their furniture being scratched. There are ways and there are means. Declawing is a blunt, brutal and unthinking way for the human to avoid their responsibilities towards their cat companion in providing a safe, secure environment where the welfare of the cat comes first and not the convenience of the cat’s owner.
Note: the images on this page were created by Ruth aka Kattaddorra.