Behaviorist Steve Dale on declawing cats

Behaviorist Steve Dale on declawing cats
Cat declawing is controversial with good reason

Declawing cats is becoming quite controversial in the veterinary community. Some veterinarians will not do it, others believe that without a laser, and proper pre-operative and post operative pain control, it should not be done. The old days of any veterinarian doing any declaw at any time are disappearing.

Declawing involves the amputation of the last bone on the 'fingers' of a cat's (usually) front feet. This is not a simple surgery, and veterinarians must be skilled to ensure that they leave no piece of the last bone or regrowth can occur which can be exteremly painful to the cat.

Several states have considered banning declawing cats altogether. As a simply animal welfare solution, this seems like a reasonable way to go.

However, there are two pieces to the animal equation, one is the animal, the other is the human. One Tucson veterinarian summed up the situation when he said that he did not want a cat with all its claws euthanized when declawing it would have allowed the owners to keep the cat. In Southern Arizona, where so many elderly live with blood thinners, or with impaired immune systems, this would probably make cat ownership very difficult or impossible for these people.

The problem of cat declawing is complex, and requires a nuanced understanding of both the animal and human elements involved. What follows is animal behviorist, Steve Dale's view of the cat declaw controversy.

Q: Cat declawing is becoming more and more controversial, do you think it should be illegal as some have suggested? Why or Why not? Some people have postulated that declawing causes cats to bite, is there any evidence to support this?

Steve Dale: "I am glad declaw has become controversial. With veterinary behaviorist (Dr. Lore Haug), cat behavior consultant (Beth Adelman) and past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (Dr. Ilona Rodan), I wrote a handout about the downsides of declaw, and alternatives - how to train cats to scratch in all the right places. Its available free at my website.

Are there more behavior problems with declawed cats? Honestly, there's data on both sides of that issue. Maybe, yes.. and maybe, not really... depends on what you read. Do these cats suffer phantom pain as peple with amputations do? We don't know the answer, it's certainly conceivable. With cats, who are so good at masking pain, you always wonder are we effectively relieving pain? Probably we are... but there's another, we'll never know

So, at some point it just comes down to this: do we need to amputate our cats? I think the answer is absolutely not. And today, more cat owners understand declaw for what it is, an amputation. But should it be illegal? I don't thnk so. I think increasingly, the profession is not offering a twofer - a declaw and spay or neuter. I think veterinarians, overall, are attempting to discourage routine declaw. But are there special circumstances? I don't believe it should be up to the government to decide, but rather the veterinary/client relationship."

For more great information on cats, don't forget Steve Dale's ebook, Good Cat! . Steve Dale will be providing his answers to other cat-related questions, so don't miss a single article.

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