The Ethical Differences between Declawing a Cat and Sterilising a Cat

I often read comments by people who don’t like cats (or cat lovers) which confidently state that there is no difference from an ethical standpoint between declawing a cat and sterilising a cat. They boldly question why we don’t criticise the sterilisation of cats when we criticise declawing. We are hypocrites they argue. In their eyes they are the same sort of operation but in my eyes they are not.

The ethical dimension behind these two quite different operations distinguishes them, one from the other.

The ethics of spaying and declawing

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Declawing is almost always done for non-therapeutic purposes. There is no benefit whatsoever to the cat. In fact, quite obviously, there is a huge detriment to the cat for all kinds of reasons which have been discussed many times on this website. Many of the operations are botched leaving the cat in permanent discomfort (until repair surgery is carried out). There are often medical issues arising out of the operation such as arthritis and there are often behavioural problems (biting) despite what the veterinarians who support declawing say. A cat’s claws are a vital part of their anatomy serving many purposes. In short, declawing is done for the benefit of the person who owns the cat. Declawing is an operation of convenience at the behest and for the benefit of the human. But in an ironic twist declawing can also negatively affect the health of the cat’s owner!

By contrast, sterilisation, both neutering and spaying, is done both for the benefit of humans and for the benefit of cats. Yes, there is a benefit for humans arising out of the sterilisation of cats. It prevents cats procreating. There are too many unwanted cats. We are unable to deal with the unwanted cats adequately which is why several millions are killed annually at shelters.

But, and here’s the big difference between these two operations, preventing cats procreating also benefits the cat because the life of an unwanted cat is not a very pleasant life and, as mentioned, it frequently ends up in an early death. In addition, with respect to feral cats sterilisation, it is a humane way of controlling population numbers (through TNR) which both benefits the cat and the person. The life of a feral cat is often very difficult and harsh and therefore it is humane and civilised to prevent unnecessary births. Humans do not want cats brought into the world to live miserable lives and die early deaths and therefore sterilisation of feral cats is a civilised thing to do and it benefits the cats ultimately – this is the important difference between the operations.

In addition to preventing procreation the spaying operation of female cats also improves the health of the cat. There appears to be no detrimental effects upon male and female cats after these operations which is in complete contrast to the declawing operation which sometimes leaves the cat in a bad way often for a very long time and sometimes permanently.

One of the reasons why the declawing operation leaves cats in a bad way is because the operation is often done so quickly that it is botched leaving shards of bone in the paw causing great discomfort. Also there is sometimes regrowth of the claw within the mutilated paw causing more discomfort. The gait of the cat can be altered which can cause arthritis. I have a page on the complications of the declaw operation which covers many more points than I cover here.

I don’t want to go on. I think I’ve made my point. There is a huge difference ethically between sterilisation of cats and declawing of cats which is what people who support declawing fail to recognise.

For example the troll Ralph Karmick recently wrote in a comment:

But you have no problems at all with cutting-off their gonads or opening them up with knives to scoop-out their reproductive organs, some even slicing-off their ears. And this contradiction of yours doesn’t bother you? I guess it’s okay to cut-up cats in the socially-acceptable manner that you’ve decided on but no others. Oh, the unending hypocracy [sic] of cat-fanatic never ceases to amaze the thinking person.

Such blatant ignorance, I’m afraid to say but typical of many people who wish to criticise people like me who fight against declawing. They blur the boundaries between the two operations and totally cut out of their argument the huge differences behind the operations in respect of morality and ethics. They miss the ethical and moral dimensions which I think is quite telling because it informs us that these people lack a sufficient level of morality and ethics in their lives. They are unable to factor in these very important elements of decision-making.

Note: a lot of people also are unaware of the seriousness of the declaw operation but that is another issue.

Associated: Ruth’s comparison.

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11 thoughts on “The Ethical Differences between Declawing a Cat and Sterilising a Cat”

  1. Thank you for your help michael…the link that you sent me brought me right to the post about about puffy and tiger that i have been searching for….

  2. I’m glad you are still on poc .org…i haven’t posted anything in a couple of years but i still enjoy reading all the nice things that people have to say about cats…i would also like figure out how to look up some of my old comments ( posts) that i made back in 2013

  3. I totally agree, Michael. I like to argue with the trolls sometimes. They’re so much fun to play with. If trolls post that cats are so nasty and they worship birds, naturally I’ll post links that show all the diseases wild birds can cause. I know they don’t like that. And I realize that I will never change their minds. They’re too far gone.

    But if we don’t say anything the trolls will think that they have won and that their insane arguments are okay. You’re right, trolls are a part of real life. They pop up in the most unexpected places. I think you’ve done a fine job managing this site.

  4. Well, Ralph (or Woody) is an idiot. He proves that conclusively each and every time he opens his mouth. And seeing as how he gleefully advocates killing cats I find his so-called concern for cat welfare to be hollow and totally fake. Sorry buddy, that guilt trip isn’t working. Maybe his feeble brain can come up with something else. And any cat lover who is stupid enough to listen to his tirades and follow his advice doesn’t need a cat. Do us all a favor and go out and get a stuffed animal instead.
    “Cat lovers” (and I use the term loosely) who declaw cats are lazy. They don’t want to take the time to train the cat or clip its claws, don’t want the expense of going our and getting the scratching post the cat prefers. They also don’t release that declawing is a money maker for vets. Declaw the cat and the cat has constant pain from it, they run back to the vet. They don’t realize that if a bit of the nail is left in there, chances are pretty good the nail will grow back. How do they react to that? Yep, they run back to the vet. Or they dump the cat at the nearest animal shelter because suddenly the feline is too much trouble. Declawing causes more problems than it solves.

    Samirah accidentally pulled out one of her claws last year. All the vet could do was give her painkillers and antibiotics. Some misguided idiots at work suggested that I get the other nine claws pulled. I laughed in their faces. If Samirah went berserk because of the one claw, can you imagine how she would have reacted with all ten pulled? And guess what? Later on that claw grew back. She has three scratching posts. And I still clip her claws down every 10 days.

    Spaying and neutering is entirely different. I know some men have problems with it. Well, get over it, fellas. That’s not your private parts anyway. There are a lot of myths associated with that procedure. No, the cat will not become fat and lazy unless you’re overfeeding. One myth that I wish were true is that a female cat will never have to deal with cancer after she’s fixed. That’s definitely not true. Angel was fixed before she was 6 months old and 9 years later she still developed and died from breast cancer. That happens more than people think. Samirah’s vet mentioned that they had two female cats who developed cancer even tho they were fixed. Sterilization is not a cure all, but it’s still a good idea for the reasons you mentioned in the article, Michael.

    • Serbella, Woody (aka Ralph) has commented a lot on this article and others but you’ll be pleased to know I trashed them all. I think he is riled. I think we have outdone this stupid troll.

      • I am VERY pleased, Michael! I go over to One Green Planet (where he used to heavily troll all the cat articles) and there hasn’t been a peep out of him in months. He’ll go onto the next cat-centric website and wear out his welcome. He’s done here.

        • Sometimes I feel we have to argue with them – engage them and tell them why they are wrong. One problem I have is that I sort of like an argument especially when I can win it (being an ex-solicitor) but a lot of people don’t like it. I also like reality and these trolls are a part of the real world. We can’t brush them under the carpet. But that said I am sensitive to the desires of regular visitors. I can be a little complicated.

  5. I’ll always will say those that declaw their cats should instead get a fish,they have no business getting a cat,just yesterday I had to delete and block someone for her ignorance,she said she has 2 adult cats whom she had declawed and then went on to say she had adopted 2 kittens and they too will be declawed because they are tearing up her furniture,hello,it’s wot kittens do if ye dont have a scratching post of carpet covered cat tree,with some people ye just cannot fix stupid.


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