The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Stopping Declawing of Cats

DEAR DR. FOX: I was so glad to read your article about the cat group that wants to end elective declawing! I have never declawed any of my cats, ever. Even though the cat is put under anesthesia, it is still painful to your precious animal after the procedure is done. So it’s OK if the sides of my expensive couches are a little ripped; at least I know my little fur babies were there! I’ll admit it brings back wonderful memories of my precious 19-year-old tuxedo cat, Lucy P., who was probably the most special and loved cat I ever had.

I also want to thank the AAFP regarding the group’s policy on elective declawing procedures! You have come so far in letting humans know how barbaric this procedure is. -- R.H., West Palm Beach, Florida

DEAR R.H.: Other readers will appreciate your letter applauding the initiative being taken by the American Association of Feline Practitioners to encourage the phasing out of this cruel and unwarranted mutilation. Many will be touched by your perspective that the damage your beloved cats did with their claws to some of your upholstered furniture brings back fond memories. A friend of mine calls this “cat art.”

I should add that in many countries the routine declawing of cats is prohibited.

The Cat Support Network (catsupport.net) lists the following countries as already having banned this cruel procedure: England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.

Organizations in several U.S. cities are making headway in outlawing the routine declawing of cats. In 2019, New York became the first state in the country to outlaw the practice, along with some Canadian provinces and U.S. cities including Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Surely there is a connection between the continued civil unrest in the U.S. and the uncivil treatment of animals, as I documented in my book “Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals.”

DECLAWING, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND OBESTITY

Obesity is a widespread cat health problem today -- a crisis that causes much suffering and chronic deterioration. Exercise is part of the treatment (and prevention) all experts advise, so I must add an additional observation to the many downsides of declawing cats: Our rescued cat Fanny digs her claws into our carpeted floor and stairs for traction as she jets off like a rocket when chasing our dog, and during her upstairs-downstairs “evening crazies.” Cats’ “crazies” are associated with the innate hunting cycle of being hyper-alert and physically active, seeking, stalking, rushing and pouncing on prey.

Ethologically, a function of having claws -- in addition to dexterity, agility and self-care (grooming/scratching) -- is to be able to take off at higher speed. The claws act like a sprinter’s cleats by providing greater traction and momentum as the body is propelled forward.

Without her claws, Fanny would have less traction and likely be less active, eventually developing weaker muscle tone and becoming lethargic, depressed and more susceptible to obesity if her weight and food intake were not closely monitored. So I am suggesting that declawing is a significant contributing factor in the current feline obesity epidemic. Obesity is not simply due to biologically inappropriate kibble diets and overfeeding, because it is impossible for anatomically compromised declawed cats to be as active, and reach the same physical intensity, as those who have all their claws.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)