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WebMD Expert Discussion: Where Do You Stand on Declawing Cats?

If you have an indoor cat, declawing is the only way to protect your furniture and draperies from being shredded, right?

Wrong, says WebMD guest veterinarian Will Draper, DVM, in the WebMD online discussion Caring for Your Pet. He notes that declawing has become considerably more controversial over the last decade. Countries such as China and Japan have banned elective declawing as animal cruelty, and some veterinarians refuse to declaw cats altogether. Many U.S. veterinary practices are performing only 10 to 15 declaw operations a year, compared with that many per month in the 1990s, Draper says.

Why is declawing such a bad thing? Draper explains it like this: You're removing the part of the cat's paw joint that lies just below the nail. How would you feel if someone removed the part of your finger that lies just below your fingernail? It would be pretty uncomfortable, right?

So how can you prevent damage to your furniture, carpets, and other fabrics from a fully clawed cat's scratch? Keep plenty of scratching posts around and consider plastic claw covers rather than removing the claw completely, Draper says.

One pet lover who is highly opposed to declawing still isn't sure she'd want to see it banned outright, however. She worries that could lead to a rise in "back alley" procedures that might be even more detrimental to a cat's health.

Another cat owner has two declawed cats, now ages 6 and 10. She confesses that at the time she had the procedure done, she didn't realize it was so controversial. Today, she's not sure she'd do it again, but she says that her cats weathered the operation (done at the same time they were spayed) with no ill effects and have adjusted well to being declawed.

Draper replied that in his practice, declawing is only done on young cats, usually during the spay/neuter procedure, for minimal discomfort.

What's your opinion on de-clawing cats? Is it worth doing if you would otherwise have to give away your cat?

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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