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"Some cats do fine," he says. "But who has the right to decide it's okay for some but not others? We don't know which cats will have complications. To me, one is too much."

When Conrad began looking into the scientific literature on the impacts of declawing, she found it to be surprisingly thin. There was hardly anything in the way of a long-range study tracking the welfare of declawed cats. "On a procedure that's done on 25 percent or more of American cats, there are fewer than thirty articles about the surgery," she says. "I later came to think that people don't want to know the truth about it."

Proponents of declawing claim that what research has been done supports the practice — and they cite the supposed absence of studies reporting negative effects as another point in their favor. For example, the AVMA policy on declawing states, rather cagily, that "there is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups."

Veterinarian Jean Hofve is leading the campaign to ban declawing across Colorado.
Philip Poston
Veterinarian Jean Hofve is leading the campaign to ban declawing across Colorado.
Veterinarian Aubrey Lavizzo is leading the campaign to ban declawing across Colorado.
Philip Poston
Veterinarian Aubrey Lavizzo is leading the campaign to ban declawing across Colorado.

Hofve, the holistic vet who's working with Lavizzo on a state ban, views that statement as misleading on several levels. A short-term comparison with a control group is a lot less useful, she argues, than a detailed, long-range analysis of an individual cat's behavior before and after surgery. And one 2001 peer-reviewed study, the only one involving a five-year follow-up period, found that 33 percent of the cats in the study group developed serious behavior problems after being declawed. Another study found that "inappropriate elimination" is twice as likely in declawed cats as in those that hadn't had the surgery; apparently, using the litter box can further irritate sore paws. (Biting, a separate but often related behavior problem, tends to increase in declawed cats because of the loss of their primary means of defense.)

"There's plenty of data," Hofve insists. "But the vet associations don't want anyone telling them what to do. Who's going to fund a long-term study of something they don't want to find out?"

Hofve points to other studies and surveys that challenge the American veterinary establishment's position on declawing. The AVMA policy indicates that the surgery should only be considered as a kind of last resort, but the available research suggests that 70 percent or more of declawings are done before the cat is a year old — hardly a sign that the owners have exhausted all other approaches to the scratching problem. (Promotional videos used in Conrad's documentary capture vets urging clients to have the procedure done on kittens.) And surveys reveal that the vast majority of pet owners who are considering declawing will change their minds when given facts about the nature of the surgery, the potential complications and non-surgical alternatives.

Those results, Hofve says, indicate her colleagues are doing a piss-poor job of educating their clients about basic expectations and obligations involved in having a cat as a pet. "Veterinarians aren't telling people that when you get a cat, you're supposed to get a scratching post," she says. "As of 2012, 48 percent of cat owners still didn't know that. We've also failed to educate people about what declawing really is."

During her first five years in practice, Hofve did her share of declaws. Then, like Lavizzo, she stopped. "I was never any good at it because I hated it so much," she says.

Even after she gave up performing the procedure, she continued to see cats that had been declawed elsewhere and were suffering complications — in some cases, many years after the surgery. She saw a ten-year-old cat that had been declawed as a kitten and was experiencing painful nail regrowth from bone fragments that had been left behind, similar to the nuggets removed from under Drifter's skin in Conrad's surgery. If one in three cats that are declawed are manifesting obvious behavior problems, such as biting and shitting outside the box, Hofve believes the percentage of those experiencing complications of one kind or another is much, much higher; we just don't know about them because of the highly stoic nature of the species. No one knows, for example, to what extent cats may experience the kind of "phantom limb" pain associated with human amputations.

There's a good reason, Lavizzo adds, that nobody is declawing dogs: "When we see pain in dogs, we react to it. Cats are different; they don't show pain like dogs do. They go off and hide, and we just think they're being independent. We don't have the same kind of reaction to a cat's pain because we don't really know what's going on with the cat."

Colorado Springs veterinarian James Gaynor, a specialist in pain management, has done extensive research on the chronic pain symptoms exhibited by some declawed cats. He says that veterinarians need to make sure owners understand that declawing isn't simply nail trimming, but a "ten-toe amputation."

"It's a simple but major orthopedic procedure," he says. "I am not against declawing whatsoever. I believe that if the anesthesia and pain management are handled correctly, it's no different from any other surgery that we perform."

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61 comments
ThomasF
ThomasF

I liked having a cat, but I don't think I'll ever get another one.  I don't think removing their claws is fair to the beast, but I also don't want my furniture destroyed and the cute little animal will decimate the wildlife around where I live.  Too bad, I like that they are more self reliant than dogs. 

drcodyhorton
drcodyhorton

The word declawing is a misnomer.  Declawing a cat involves a toe amputation.  It is not simply taking out a claw.  The bone is severed and the pain is excruitiating.  Remember when you stubbed your toe, how painful it was???  You probably jumped around because it really hurts!  Well when you decapitate a toe how do you think it feels.  As far as thinking declawed cats don't show up in shelters, this is completely false.  They develop biting problems and they also develop behavior problems such as not using the litter box because it is too painful.  You are taking away a cats first line of defense.  There are more humane ways to deal with scratching which is a natural behavior for cats.  Do you really think that it is ok to alter an animal to suit your needs???Cats do not show pain like a dog does and before you submit a comment here endorsing declawing please  . . . please . . .  do your homework.  This is an unconscionable practice which causes years of pain and suffering for these beautiful creatures.  I have three cats and have had 9 cats in my life and all of them were and are easily trained to use their scratching posts.  Society in general seems to feel that we must alter nature to conform to our needs.  This is akin to having you conform to meet societies rules even if they are harmful, painful and for monetary gain.  How would you like this?  How would you like to be submitted to an operation that was unnecessary?  How would you like your toes cut off?  I think you really must ponder this before you condone this sadistic and hedonistic procedure.  Just because people thought the world was flat didn't make it so.  So don't defend a procedure because someone had an idea.  Ideas can be bad for us as well as good for us.  Don't be a puppet and follow along like a numb non-thinking person, going along with the status quo and minutia!  Stand up for what is right and kind!

BuffaloBirdie
BuffaloBirdie

So what's worse - happy de-clawed cats living a long life with their owners, or dead cats with claws who end up euthanized because they couldn't remain as pets in a home??   You'll be looking at higher numbers of euthanized animals, I guarantee it.  We had our two sweet cats professionally de-clawed and they are now 10 years old.  They are as happy as can be.  I think there are tragic anecdotes, yes, but that is what they are; anecdotes. 

BlondyVanWeirden
BlondyVanWeirden

I qualified in every way to be a resident at Sakura Square.  Sadly, this senior community, owned and operated by the Buddhist Temple it is attached to, believes in torturing pets.  Unless I agreed to submit my five-year-old feline companion to this despicable cruelty, I was told that I was not welcome there.  The board of directors at Sakura Square feels that a cat with claws will damage the apartment (although I would have my own furniture and drapes).Actually, declawed cats cause more damage because it hurts their feet to use a litter box.(These presumed Buddhists are not of the “enlightened” variety.)

martin48484
martin48484

My cat has barbs on his claws that are almost like fish hooks so they can really rip and tear.  Ask me, I know.  But I take my kitty to the vet periodically and they trim his claws so neatly I hardly know they're there and he has no discomfort whatsoever.

Amelia Ebert
Amelia Ebert

They should not be outside with out claws. So I don't know how this surgery is going to benefit your vehicle. I don't ke cats and if people are worried about getting scratched, don't get one. They don't just remove the claws, but the entire last bone in the paw. It ruins their feet.

FakeAssName
FakeAssName

we had to get one of our cats declawed and it was an agonizing decision.

after rescuing my wife's childhood cat back from her mother, who had decided that he was too old to take care of anymore and refused to get him medical treatment despite knowing that he was suffering kidney failure; the stray cat we had adopted together reacted badly to having another cat brought into her territory and went semi-feral.

think of how a cat's claws can puncture the bark of a tree and suspend a cat as it climbs, now thinl of how that feels when it is your leg and 7lbs of rage is trying to get at your face.

she tore us up a couple of times but there was no way we were going to give up our little girl to die at a shelter, especially when most of her problems are due to the shit bags who we got her from used to kick her and lock her outside in a cage with a yard full of dogs.

but when she tore the hell out of my 61yo mom we had to get her declawed, though in context it was more off a disarmament.

I wish we hadn't taken her too the assholes that we did, bastards actively tried to up sale us to do all 4 paws and did her left paw wrong so that she limps on it at times, but it was a new town so we didn't know who was / wasn't a good vet.

... I wish we could give them back to her, but she is still a highly agressive cat even though we have rehabilitated her quite a bit.

(for whatever that story is worth, I just felt the comulsion to share)

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

Great article. Those who don't realize the negative effects of declawing on taxpayers & shelters as well as consumers should read the municipal legislation posted on the Paw Project site, and definitely see "The Paw Project Movie" documentary.


Veterinary professionals are aware that declawing causes physical changes to cats' paws. They will tell you they can tell if a cat is declawed by the way the cat walks. 

They should be willing to x-ray the paws to observe the changes over time if they think declawing is okay. 

The truth is that the paws become more and more deformed!  (See http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/)

Declawed cats end up walking on toes that are at the wrong angle, resulting in arthritis and trying to shift their weight so it doesn't hurt. This changes their conformation and affects the rest of their body. This can be seen when you compare normal, healthy paws to declawed ones. Even the toe pads on declawed cats are shrunken; smaller toe pads mean more weight being borne on less area, and painful calluses often develop due to this abnormal pressure. The amputated ends of the bone press down and they have to walk on them for the rest of their lives. This pain and the complications goes largely unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated, which is cruel.

Force plate studies on declawed cats shows pain management for cats having this surgery is STILL not adequate, despite the evidence being published.   (See Declawing and Science - http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/declawing-and-science/)

For the veterinary profession to ignore the evidence as well as the evidence provided by the many shelters and rescues is unethical. Declaw bans are needed to protect not only cats, but taxpayers, clients, veterinary and shelter workers, and consumers.

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

It's possible to see the physical changes in cats' paws after they've been declawed. This webpage would be good to show to vets since photos of x-rays don't print very well. Also shows comparative photos and descriptions.


Over time, the toes of declawed cats can retract (100% of the declawed cats I've seen), so they end up walking on toes that are at the wrong angle. This changes how their weight is distributed and changes their conformation. If the same damage was done to dogs or horses, clients would be outraged. Other articles in this category include dealing with chronic pain of declawing. "Physical Consequences of Declawing", by Dr. Jean Hofve - (click on first picture for slide show) - 
http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ .

Jamie Kinsley
Jamie Kinsley

So you would be fine having your fingers amputated at the knuckles??

Carlie Lindgren
Carlie Lindgren

Its illegal in the UK... As well as docking dogs ears and tails... I had a rescue that was already declawed and his feet were super sensitive and he couldn't scratch to relieve frustration.... I would never declaw a cat... Teach them to use a scratching post and clip their nails :-)

Chad Kuntz
Chad Kuntz

I have two cats. Both are declawed. They suffer no ill effects from their surgeries. They are very happy pets. With that said, 'I've evolved' on this issue. My next cats will not be declawed. Cats are trainable, as I have found out. Do I feel guilty? A little, of course. Am I a cruel pet owner as some people are saying? Not in the least. My cats are treated like a king and queen, are loved, worshipped, and could not have had a better life. If I could, I'd do it differently. But they don't hold grudges against me. The joy and happiness they give me outweighs furniture scratching. I didn't realize this until after the fact, but I can't change it now.

Leticia Stewart
Leticia Stewart

its better to do it when their young..IF your gonna do it..i seen many cats declawed working in a vet clinic..and they all do just fine its a personal choice..some cats are also declawed because their scratching younger children..not purposely..but i knew a lady who had a cat that was scratching her child simply trying to play..but couldnt bring herself to get rid of the cat..so she declawed..cats fine and the child isnt getting scratched up outta playfulness of the kitten.

Seth Petersen
Seth Petersen

This is stupid. I'd rather have a declawed cat than a bloody child from the cats claws. Or scratch paint on my vehicles from them jumping and climbing on them. Its a cat. Its not like its a dog or a human. Geeze. Next thing you'll say is that we shouldn't get them fixed.

Shawn Wilson
Shawn Wilson

When animals are more important than peoe we have a problem. Thos is a non issue isue

Chris Estus
Chris Estus

How else am I going to keep my immune system up to speed other than cat scratches getting invected?

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

I personally dont think its that bad. My Ex/Friend is a Vet Tech. And never said it was inhumane to me. I dont think its a bad idea to keep claws on them if they scratch the furniture just train them not to. If your cat is indoors/outdoors definitely keep claws on them for defense. Whats your thoughts Leticia Stewart

Chris Martinez
Chris Martinez

Its cruelty to declaw cats. Ban it. It's banned in the UK and people live just fine with their kitties intact.

Siobhan Keleher
Siobhan Keleher

Declawing cats is illegal in several countries and states, and it should be illegal in Colorado too. It's cruel and painful.

Amelia Ebert
Amelia Ebert

I guess we should ignore all other issues because of vaginas in Africa. Blayne, it's good you care about vaginas, but don't rag on other people's causes because you believe there are more important issues.

Diane Stinson
Diane Stinson

Common misconception is that you can just use litter in boxes after the procedure ... cut up newspaper is what to use for a week or so after

Hayley Richardson
Hayley Richardson

i would never do it, but declawed cats sure are fun to play with.

Amelia Ebert
Amelia Ebert

Some cats suffer long term affects from this surgery. rescue is full of declawed cats who stopped using the litter box. I have more respect for Veterinarians who refuse to do this to cats, as much as I dislike cats.

Amelia Ebert
Amelia Ebert

agree not to declaw. They remove more than the nails and many people to not know this. They amputate the last bone in the paws.

Mark Gray
Mark Gray

Mark Ewell I did the same thing and I feel the same way. I feel bad about doing and will never do it again.

Axel Morlotte
Axel Morlotte

My cat has gatling guns for paws so it's all the same to me

Jessica Ross
Jessica Ross

But instead of declawing. I would cut their nails... They would still have their claws but not as long

Mark Ewell
Mark Ewell

I had a cat declawed about ten years ago. I had never heard about the effects and believed it was a simple way to resolve the scratching problems. Short version: I will never have a cat declawed (or have a declawed cat) ever again. RIP, Fog.

Heaven Northrop
Heaven Northrop

Declawing cats is a horribly cruel thing to do. How would you like it if someone ripped out your nails.

Blayne McMillan
Blayne McMillan

Oh no! Someone cares about people in Africa more than they care about cats, let's rag on him!!! Go fuck yourself.

Skid Jarrett Gilmore
Skid Jarrett Gilmore

It's called a Denver Westword online article that will likely be spammed 12 times over the next few weeks along w/lists of the top ten lamest local EDM shows, not Time magazine.

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

Just had someone I know gleefully take their cat in to get declawed because of their precious home furniture. So selfish. If you can't handle everything a cat comes with, then you shouldn't get one to begin with. I'd gladly go through a few couches and scratches to keep my cat clawed.

Blayne McMillan
Blayne McMillan

The point I'm making is that there are more pressing issues available for public forum.

Craig Hawkins
Craig Hawkins

Yah let's send veterinarians over to Africa to help out with that genitalia problem. Makes complete sense.

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

@Chad Kuntz I think it's nice that you have evolved but it seems a little presumptuous to say with certainly that cats that you rendered physically incapable of doing normal cat things "suffer no ill effects from their surgeries." No one can ever know. 

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

@Leticia StewartIt's possible to see the physical changes in cats' paws after they've been declawed. This webpage would be good to show to vets since photos of x-rays don't print very well. Also shows comparative photos and descriptions.


Over time, the toes of declawed cats can retract (100% of the declawed cats I've seen), so they end up walking on toes that are at the wrong angle. This changes how their weight is distributed and changes their conformation. If the same damage was done to dogs or horses, clients would be outraged. Other articles in this category include dealing with chronic pain of declawing. "Physical Consequences of Declawing", by Dr. Jean Hofve - (click on first picture for slide show) - 
http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ .

medea1919
medea1919

@Seth Petersen A cat is supposed to have claws... don't get a cat if you don't like that they have claws. How is a dog or human better? It's an animal... have some compassion, geez. 

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

@Shawn Wilson  Your position is a logical fallacy because not one suggested what you are saying. It's also possible to be against animal cruelty and care about several issues.  Declawing also affects more people than you'd think. It's a consumer protection issue because many vets still don't educate clients about the procedure, the complications, the humane alternatives or feline behavior, and it affects taxpayers when declawed cats with behavior issues are given up to your municipal pound. 

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

@Legen DairyMost veterinary professionals will tell you they can tell if a cat is declawed from across a room by the way the animal walks. Do you know why that is? It's possible to see the physical changes in cats' paws after they've been declawed. This webpage (link below) would be good to show to veterinary professionals since photos of x-rays don't print very well.  Also shows comparative photos and descriptions. 

Over time, the toes of declawed cats can retract (100% of the declawed cats I've seen), so they end up walking on toes that are at the wrong angle. This changes how their weight is distributed and changes their conformation. If the same damage was done to dogs or horses, clients would be outraged. Other articles in this category include dealing with chronic pain of declawing. "Physical Consequences of Declawing", by Dr. Jean Hofve - (click on first picture for slide show) - http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ .


ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

@Craig Hawkins You might want to share the article and the link below with them since there are changes to their paws and bodies that happen over time. 

Most veterinary professionals will tell you they can tell if a cat is declawed from across a room by the way the animal walks. Do you know why that is? 
It's possible to see the physical changes in cats' paws after they've been declawed. This webpage (link below) would be good to show to veterinary professionals since photos of x-rays don't print very well.  Also shows comparative photos and descriptions. 

Over time, the toes of declawed cats can retract (100% of the declawed cats I've seen), so they end up walking on toes that are at the wrong angle. This changes how their weight is distributed and changes their conformation. If the same damage was done to dogs or horses, clients would be outraged. Other articles in this category include dealing with chronic pain of declawing. "Physical Consequences of Declawing", by Dr. Jean Hofve - (click on first picture for slide show) - http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ .

ChrisHarris
ChrisHarris

@Blayne McMillan Then leave and go elsewhere.

peggy70a
peggy70a

@medea1919  So sad. The spirit of mankind seems to be to always want to change what is natural  to suit their wants and needs...  Cats have claws for a reason. To everyone that is fighting to ban this inhumane practice please keep the fight going.   I totally agree with you.  Don't get a cat if one does not want scratching.   Don't get   a dog if one does not  want barking.

 
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