My parents have a 7-year-old male shorthair cat. He has been an indoor/outdoor cat his whole life but spends most of his time indoors. My mom wants to get him declawed and keep him indoors permanently because he has a bad habit of scratching up her furniture. My dad is concerned that he's too old and this will hurt him. I'm concerned that never going outside again will hurt his emotional well-being. Should we declaw him? Are these legitimate concerns?
V.P., Washington, DC Aug 22, 2010
Regardless of whether the cat goes outdoors or not, he's going to need some scratching areas in the house to mark his territory and give his claws a workout ("cat yoga"). Your concerns are legitimate, as are your father's. Declawing will be traumatic and could have serious lifelong complications and bring much suffering. This unethical surgical mutilation of cats removes more than their nails -- it includes removal of their first digits, like the entire ends of your fingers from the last joint. Many cats become permanently crippled. It's a game of roulette. You never know how much the procedure will harm a cat or how much permanent psychological trauma it will inflict. Set up scratch posts and scratchboards with a sprinkling of catnip and a little spray of the cat pheromone Feliway. Check my website for details about the hazards of the hazards of declawing. Your cat may take to a harness and leash and enjoy regular outdoor strolls. Alternatively, give him a screened-in cat house that can be simply constructed as an A-frame covered in chicken wire, and set it out in the yard where he can enjoy the outdoors (in good weather only).
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