This was on a post on the internet with facts about declawing from a senior veterinarian at a zoo.
My nephew is a veterinarian who specializes in cats both large and small – he’s the senior vet at a large municipal zoo. When I asked him his opinion on declawing, he wrote me a detailed answer on why it’s such a barbaric practice and gave me permission to publish it any time and anywhere I thought it might help. It’s a long answer, but I hope you will read it, it will help you understand the problems you may face with a declawed cat.
This is what he wrote:
“First, let us reflect on the fact that the US is one of the few remaining modern countries that still allows this practice. It has actually been outlawed in most other countries, because of the physical and psychological effects it has on the animal. In most European countries, and Australia, you would actually lose your license to practice vet medicine if you were to perform this surgery, where it is uniformly viewed as unethical and inhumane.
Where does this perception come from, you ask? Let us delve into that.
First, most vets do not take the time to go into detail about what is actually involved when people declaw their cats. Most people simply believe you remove only the claws, no big deal.
The reality is, you are performing an amputation of each digit, akin to amputating each finger and toe at the 3rd joint. this means, (as if simply pulling off the finger and toe nails would not be painful enough) is that this is a true bone amputation removing the bone that the claw is attached to.
Why this may not seem significant, we need to remember that cats claws are retractable, and they bear weight on the joint of the P2-P3 bones, where we are performing the amputation. This is important, because the retractable claws means you actually have digital flexor and extensor tendons that attach to the terminal bone which is amputated. The flexor tendon is of critical importance in all of this, as it is attached to the digital pad on the bottom of the toe.
This pad provides cushion when the animal places weight on the toe as it walks. when you amputate the terminal bone, known as P3, the severing on that tendon causes it to pull back, much like a rubber band that is stretched, and then cut. The tendon also shifts the position of that digital pad it is attached to, pulling it back as well.
This often means it is not in position to provide the cushioning it is intended to as the cat places its weight on that P2 bone. (imagine the difference between walking on sharp stones barefoot, as opposed to having sandals, or even flip flops to cushion).
In other words, there is now an increased level of pain in each step the cat takes. The only way the body knows to try to resolve this is to create more bone.
This leads to arthritis in the toes. So what happens when you have arthritis? You compensate in how you move, right? Which, guess what? Puts unnatural pressure on the joints you are compensating with, which means you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in those joints as well, which is exactly what we see happen with cats.
Declawed cats have an increased incidence of degenerative joint disease (DJD) in the elbows and hips. Why isn’t this noted more, you ask?
Because cats are (pardon my language here) f—-g studs when it comes to pain! The behavioral adaptations to the condition often has to be pointed out to people, because cats simply will not show they are in pain, until they are in so much pain they simply cannot avoid showing it.
This comes from their life as an apex predator in the wild, where showing pain means you lose your territory, or your place in the pride. The signs are usually very subtle, but once you know to look for them, they become obvious.
The cat that used to jump to the top of the counter in one bound, now jumps to the stool first, then to the counter top. The incidence of cats with DJD is way under diagnosed, due to the fact cats simply don’t show pain.
The level of pain they deal with would have a human wheelchair bound, I might add. (humans, for the most part, are sissies when it comes to pain tolerance).
There have also been cases of pieces of the amputated bone being left in the surgical site, or the end of the P2 bone being shattered or fractured during the process of the surgery, when done with a pair of nail trimmers, as is common. This again results in long term pain, and bone changes leading to arthritis.
Imagine living for years with that rock you can’t get out of your shoe, except now you also never get to take your shoe off. There have been cases where the end of the bone is not fully removed, and you have the nail try to grow back, often in horrific fashion. (you can do a google search and come up with some intense pictures of this process).
There have also been cases of cats, due to the malpositioning of the digital pad I mentioned earlier, literally walking through the skin on the end of their toes, resulting in them literally walking on the exposed bone of their toes.
So, if their are so many reasons not to declaw cats, why is the US one of the last countries where it is still accepted practice to do so? There are several reasons, none of them a good reason to continue the practice.
1) Declawing vets are simply too lazy to try to educate their clients on the effects of declawing, And it is an easy surgery, that they make fairly good profit on.
2) Declawing vets feel as though they will lose the client to another vet if they do not perform the surgery. “if I don’t do it, the other guy will.”
3) Declawing vets use the excuse that it may lead to the cat being turned out or worse, euthanized if they do not do the surgery, because the cat may damage furniture. There are several issues with this most useless of excuses. First, wouldn’t they be the one to have to euthanize the cat? Everyone I ever worked for knew very well I refused to ever do a “convenience euthanasia” in other words, the animal had to have a medical condition, or was uncontrollably aggressive, in order for me to euthanize it.
Follow your own ethics, and this excuse goes away. Secondly, you can “teach” the owners to control the cats behavior. Use cat trees, perform proper nail trimming, use soft paws…..”