(ANIMAL WELFARE/PETS) Declawing a cat is the equivalent to amputating a human finger at the third knuckle, and yet twenty-two million domestic cats per year are declawed in the United States—a third of which reap serious behavioral and physical consequences from the procedure.

Due to a general ignorance and perpetuation by greedy vets, the procedure remains one of the most common in the United States for family pets.

The detrimental results of this procedure has led to its ban in over twenty countries but it’s a trend not followed by the U.S. due to the backlash from national veterinary associations who reap tremendous financial gain from the practice.

cat, kitten, kitty, pictures of animals, pictures of cats, pictures of kittens
Approximately 22 million domestic cats are declawed in the U.S. every year. Photo Credit: Nick Ridley via Getty Images

Dr. Jennifer Conrad, a veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets, is at the forefront of a recent campaign to ban declawing nationwide. Conrad is featured in a documentary called The Paw Project, which follows her non-profit movement to ban declawing and help cats already subjected to the procedure.

Her documentary explores specific cases of domestic and wild cats who suffer from the side effects of declawing. One particularly appalling story describes a mountain lion whose pain forced him to walk on his elbows and prevented him from attaining water. Sadly, he eventually died from renal failure.

“With so many thousands of big cats who need their paws repaired, I realized, there must be millions of domestic cats, the ones who live in our homes, who need their paws repaired,” Conrad said.

The feline nail, unlike the human nail, is embedded within the bone and in order to remove it, veterinarians will axe the entire third phalange from the feline’s paw. The most common way of declawing is to place the nail and the last bone through the guillotine of a nail clipper, which is, according to Conrad, “the equivalent of taking cigar cutters and slipping (her) finger through and cutting (the) whole last bone off.”

Cat claws are embedded within their bones. Photo Credit: pawprojectmovie.com
Cat claws are embedded within their bones. Photo Credit: pawprojectmovie.com

“Imagine somebody takes your feet that you walk on everyday and cuts your toes and then says: oh yeah, have a nice life, ” said Erika Willhite, a cat guardian who, at age 19, decided to have her cat declawed for lack of better knowledge. “Seriously, the worst decision I’ve made in my entire life,” she said.

The removal of the bone and claw also has unhealthy, harmful side effects for your feline, including infection, abnormal claw growth within the toe, inflammation, arthritis, behavioral changes such as increased aggression and biting, as well as emotional trauma and an inability to walk comfortably.

Unfortunately, although the evidence against the inhumane amputation should be enough to outlaw the practice, overarching veterinary associations—including the American Veterinary Association and California Veterinary Association—are leading the defense of the procedure.

An anonymous veterinarian shared with Conrad that he makes upwards of $75,000 dollars per year from declawing alone and refuses to give up the cruel practice, recommending it for every cat.

“(There is) such an injustice in the fact that it’s their doctors doing it to them and it’s even worse because their doctors aren’t telling what they’re doing,” Conrad said.

Before you consider declawing your cat, it’s important to know all the facts and be aware your veterinarian may not be transparent about the harms of the procedure.

Declawing has many side effects including infection, emotional trauma, behavioral changes, pain, arthritis. Photo credit: change.org
Declawing has many side effects including infection, emotional trauma, behavioral changes, pain, and arthritis. Photo credit: change.org

Here are five main reasons to forgo declawing your feline companion:

1. Unlike humans whose nails grow from the skin, felines’ nails are embedded within the bone of the third phalange. In order to completely extract the nail, veterinarians remove both the nail and the bone in which it is contained. This is equivalent to cutting the human finger at the third knuckle. Declawing a cat is not simply removing the nail, but is an amputation of their extremities.

2. Removing the nail results in infection and an abnormal growth of the nail. A cat’s entire claw can grow back inside its toes and the infection that forms around it causes puss to enter their bloodstream and affect their liver and heart. The removal can also cause inflammation.

3. Most cat guardians choose to declaw their cats in order to prevent the decimation of their furniture, however, removing a cat’s primary defense mechanism results in other forms of erratic behavior. Since the cats do not have claws, they will often resort to biting and become more aggressive. The pain may also discourage the use of the litterbox, resulting in untrained defecation and excretions. Cats can also suffer emotional trauma from the amputation.

4. The cat’s pained feet can cause them to bear their body weight on their wrists and result in an early onset of arthritis.

5. Declawing leads to an increased population of shelter cats since more cats are admitted for behavioral issues caused by declawing, such as biting, aggressiveness and inappropriate urination, than they are for the use of their claws.

Declawing your cat leads to higher rates of felines in the shelter. photo credit: animalfair.com
Declawing your cat leads to higher rates of felines in shelters. Photo credit: animalfair.com

While over twenty countries worldwide have outlawed declawing including Australia, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, few counties and states have taken the leap in the United States. Some animal friendly cities, such as Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, San Francisco and Berkeley, have prohibited the practice, but it’s time for the movement to spread nationwide.

You can also sign the petitions below to ask the government to ban the abusive procedure.

1. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/Ban-Cat-Declawing-In-The-United-States/

2. http://www.change.org/petitions/ban-declawing-of-cats

If claws are still a concern for cat guardians, there are several other methods that can be used instead of declawing. Nail caps can be purchased to cover the nails and prevent accidental scratches or the tearing of furniture. For instance, Soft Paws were invented by a veterinarian and are a much safer alternative to declawing.

Other alternatives include maintaining your feline’s nails by trimming them regularly and training cats to scratch on a scratching post.

Watch the trailer for The Paw Project here for a better understanding of the harms of declawing as well as alternatives to the inhumane surgery.

To donate to The Paw Project’s cause of educating the public on the damaging effects of declawing, visit their donation page.

— Dori Edwards, exclusive to Global Animal