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    Declawing Cats: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives

    A closer look at the controversial procedure.
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    Q: Can I allow a declawed cat to go outside?

    A: No, it’s not appropriate for obvious reasons. Letting your cats outside after they’ve been declawed would be cruel because they can’t defend themselves properly. Therefore, owners have to be committed to keep the cat indoors for the rest of its life or to find a family that can do so.

    Q: So it's better to declaw a cat rather than get rid of it?

    A: If that’s the only option, absolutely. If the cat is going to be given up, the lesser of two evils is declawing the cat. There’s no two ways about it. And, if you’re going to start letting your cat outside because it’s a destructive cat, you’re probably better off declawing it and keeping it inside because it will live considerably longer being an inside declawed cat than an outside cat with claws.

    Q: Are there other solutions to scratching problems? What are they?

    A: One is training, which is primarily for kittens. When somebody brings us a kitten, that’s one of the things we talk about - how to train them to use a scratching post. It’s very effective. But it’s much less successful with adult cats.

    There are also those vinyl nail caps for cats (aka soft claws). They can be used successfully. The caps are put on with surgical adhesive and the cats usually get used to them within a day or two. But the glue has to be applied properly. I’ve had people glue a few toes together. And the hardest part is that you have to trim your cat’s claws before you put them on, and most people can’t trim their cat’s claws. They last about a month. They’re especially good for cats that need to be kept indoors for a short period of time. But it can be done long-term if done properly.

    Trimming nails, if you do it weekly, can help if the problem is scratching people, but it won’t stop a cat from damaging furniture. Think about the reasons cats scratch: to stretch and to sharpen their claws. So if you cut their claws, they just want to sharpen them more.

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