By Arielle Bennett and Dr. Eric Dougherty, DVM
On July 22, New York made cat declawing officially a thing of the past when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that ended the procedure across the state. As owners of a proud declaw-free feline veterinary practice in Manhattan (www.thecatpractice.com), we have had to discuss this issue with some of our clients over the years. Believe it or not, our clients usually weren’t asking to have their cats declawed, but rather they had adopted a cat that was already declawed and were looking for help in dealing with side effects. There’s always a reason to love each cat that finds its way into your life, and the idea that a cat’s claws are somehow a burden on humanity is a major myth that needs to go out of fashion along with the handlebar moustache. Declawing is not only removing the nail, but also an amputation of the last portion of each digit. The word declawing is definitely misleading for a reason; saying you’re having amputations done on your cat obviously doesn’t sound as benign as “declawing” them. Fortunately, New Yorkers have made the right choice in ensuring that claws remain an integral part of any kitty’s life, and we have the exclusive on why you’ll agree.
Fingers and toes make life much sweeter for all of us
Quadrupeds need all four feet operating at full speed if they want to make the most of their biology. While many cats are being waited on “hand and foot” and enjoy the sweet life of basking in the sun on a plush bed, not all cats live in luxury and laziness at all times. Cats need their claws and toes to hunt, climb, balance, defend themselves, etc., especially if they’re ever outside the comfort of a safe home. People and cats want the same thing: to be loved for who they really are. How many of us complain about our parents not accepting us as we are, so why would it be acceptable to have a double standard with our furry loved ones? Having claws would be awesome – let’s face it! Rather than treating cats and their talons as a problem that needs to be remedied, let’s appreciate them for their beauty and uniqueness. If the idea of a cat’s claws is still unappealing for you the next time you’re thinking of expanding your fur family, consider adopting another kind of pet.
Cats enjoy scratching just as much as you enjoy a good manicure
Humans and cats both enjoy the art of grooming. Whether we are pampering ourselves or someone else, there is something quite satisfying about the process. Cats love scratching; we just have to find the right set of objects for them to scratch instead of complaining about their instinctual way to prime their nails. The extra-large cat scratchers with catnip sprinkled on are favorites for our kitties. They love to spread out on them and really go crazy getting their kitty manicures! Most cats will find just one or two things they like to scratch in their homes, so you have to find strategic fabrics when shopping if you want to take preventative measures. Love a nice tweed or burlap tufted Victorian chair? So will kitty! So much so that she will scratch it with glee, and we can’t blame her. Simply pick another fabric and you likely won’t have to worry. When fabric is thick and loose and their claws sink right into it, that is a scratch-inducing feeling for them! For our most tempting armchairs like this at home, we find matching faux fur throws to cover the seat cushions, and it works well. Otherwise we aim to buy fabrics like a sturdy microsuede and other stronger tight knits that don’t let their claws fall in and tempt them. Also buying a cheap “decoy” ottoman with a fabric our cats like to scratch has been wonderful for us. This way they can get their wild kitty claws out on a piece of furniture that is meant just for them. It’s also a good idea to keep their nails regularly trimmed, and if needed it’s worth it to try nail caps (such as Soft Paws) which look like glue on gel nails for cats. If your cat is still scratching numerous objects and being unusually compulsive or destructive with the habit, the problem might be behavioral and could be a stress reaction to a variety of issues, which means it’s time to seek help from a veterinarian.
A cat’s graceful agility is a thing of beauty
While we have known some declawed cats to still be able to perform incredible acrobatics, being declawed certainly makes the task more difficult. Imagine if being both a ballerina and rock climber were somehow built into your genetic code and that you couldn’t be fulfilled without practicing your artforms every week. If you suddenly lost much of your skills due to unnecessary surgery, you’d probably still try your best to dance and scale a mountain because your need would always be there. This connects to one of the major reasons why some cats that are declawed will begin to act out behaviorally. Since they can’t use their natural defenses properly, they might begin to overcompensate with excess biting, which is not likely to work out well for the other roommates in kitty’s life. Rather than trying to change one of their best features, we can adapt our homes in a way that can make everyone happy. Some of our favorite things about cats stems from their adorable feats of agility and playfulness. For those of us that are fortunate enough to be loved by a cat, we also need to respect their nature and physiology. It’s hard not to be jealous of their effortless abilities in pure comedy and unconditional love, coupled with the talent to climb straight up a tree as well as stalk their humans from the top of a bookcase. How else do we expect them to protect us from the occasional waterbug, if not for the beauty of their claws?
Arielle Bennett and Dr. Eric Dougherty, DVM are The Cat Practice, veterinarians just for cats. For more information, go to www.thecatpractice.com.