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The Cat’s Meow : My Thoughts on Declawing

Before we moved into Lagoon, there was a lot of paperwork to fill out.  Most apartments in Burlington are privately owned by individual landlords rather than groups or companies, and they are generally incredibly lax about renting standards when it comes to filling out paperwork and all of those formalities.  When Sawyer and I moved to Philadelphia, we rented an apartment owned by a group, and thus we were saddled with pages and pages of agreements, rules, and regulations that came with living here.

When looking for an apartment, we needed a place that is pet-friendly, as we weren’t going to leaving Gatsby and Penelope in Burlington.  Lagoon is pet-friendly, but when Sawyer and I were looking over the lease agreement they did have a pet addendum.  Apart from the expected one-time pet fee, the addendum noted that they want all cats on their properties to be declawed.  Now, before you click away from this post, I will reassure you that both kittens were unharmed and have all claws intact.  We were able to contact our wonderful property manager and inquire as to whether or not declawing was a be-all and end-all in the agreement.  She completely understood our view on declawing and has even mentioned it to the higher ups how archaic their addendum is to cat owners.

Declawing is a chiefly American thing, like Philly cheesesteaks (and portion sizing in general), football Sunday (or college sports, when it comes to that), and inexplicit price tags (tax is almost always unaccounted for, which is unlike how other countries provide information to their customers).  In fact, Australia, Brazil, and many countries in Europe have banned the act of declawing a cat because it is a harmful, grotesque procedure that is a cosmetic choice by the owner that destroys one of the cats’ most inherent behaviors, scent marking its territory.

Cats are digitigrades, which means that they walk on their toes.  Understanding the anatomy of a cat is important before making a consequential decision about declawing.  A cats’ claws are not like a human fingernail.  The claw is actually a part of the last bone in the cats’ toe.  With that knowledge, declawing a cat is actually an amputation, cutting off a bone at the last knuckle – removing not just the claw but the bone, nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be amputated.  It is not a simple procedure, and is conducted as 10 separate amputations.  Here is a graphic drawing of what a cat declawing would look like if done to a human hand.Main_Graphic_Claws.jpg

With so many different pieces needing to be removed during the declawing process, there are sure to be complications.  Pain, damage to nerve systems, hemorrhages, bone chips, a deformed claw regrowth if not removed properly (this is, most of the time, not visible), and chronic back and joint pain as the muscles that cats use most regularly – shoulder, leg, and back muscles – weaken with disuse.

After the declawing process, cats no longer have those toes that label them as digitigrades, which means that they have to relearn one of their most basic skills – mobility.  Some people would argue that my cats – being indoor kitties – don’t need their claws because they aren’t climbing trees, protecting themselves against other animals, or hunting prey.  My response to that argument is, scent marking.  Cats scent mark their territory to let other cats and animals know what’s what; in our apartment, that basically breaks down to which cat owns which pieces of furniture.  They also scratch at furniture, curtains, etc. because their claws are more like onions than human fingernails – cats constantly have to manicure (scratch) to peel away dead layers to reveal the strong and healthy claw underneath.  Sawyer and I have provided many different scratching options for our cats and, thankfully, we don’t have too many issues with claws meeting furniture.  Solving the unruly kitty conundrum is wrapped up in finding the right outlet for the cat – Sawyer and I have found that our Vesper cat condo (yes, they are so spoiled…) is a great outlet for scratching, as well as our SmartCat scratching post with sisal fiber rather than carpet, and two specifically placed Cosmic Pet cardboard scratchers.  With these options, we have hardly had a problem with furniture.

There are also psychological/behavioral effects to consider when decided on whether or not to declaw Fluffy.  Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist and enthusiast, explains some of the drawbacks for your kitty here (he’s possibly one of my favorite humans on the face of the planet and he has a ton of informational videos for your convenience!).  But the moral and ethical reasoning behind our choice to keep our kittens fully intact as nature made them is simply because no curtains, furniture, or underside of our boxspring is more important than the well-being of our fur babies.  Scratching is as natural for cats as breathing, eating, and sleeping.  It’s important to Sawyer and I that every member of our family experiences the fullest life available to them – celebrating a fulfilling, simple, holistic approach to life – and mutilating a cat certainly isn’t on our to-do list, nor do we see the benefit of it for Gatsby and Penelope (and they most certainly agree with us, there).  For further information on the declawing process, you can read this incredibly insightful article, here.

Sawyer and I were very lucky that our apartment lease agreement was flexible enough to allow us to keep our cats the way nature intended them to be.  While declawing may be an archaic and inhumane means to an end, we do understand that when it comes to apartment ownership and rentals, having cats without claws would definitely aid in keeping a space intact.  We try to keep everything in perspective when it comes to snags and confrontations, and Sawyer, the kittens, and I benefited from this one – happy claws mean happy cats means happy family!IMG_6665

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