A Life Without Nails

Can you imagine what it would be like to have no fingernails?  Not only would your hands look funny, removing your nails would also take away a barrier of protection put there to safeguard the ends of your fingers.  Plus, how could you remove a stubborn label from a package if you had no fingernails to scrape it with?  Think of the dilemma you’d face when you tried to scratch your back when no one else was around and the bare tips of your fingers alone, did not even come close to making the itching stop.  Life would definitely be different if fingernails were not a part of your anatomy.

Now ask yourself, what could a cat no longer do if they had no claws, which for them, are the equivalent of our fingernails?  Climb a tree.  Defend themselves.  Stay fit.  Grab tightly onto a toy.  Maintain good balance. 

Removing a cat’s claws changes their lives and not in positive ways.  If you asked a cat if they wanted to be declawed, undoubtedly the answer would always be, “NO!”  Not only would it limit what the cat could do, it is also a painful surgery that requires weeks for nerve endings to recover.  There is also phantom pain that can continue for months.  This is because a cat not only loses their claws, they also lose the first joint of their toes.

The only reason cats are declawed is to makes people happy.  The furniture is no longer being used as a scratching post, there are no more accidental scratches when playing with their cat, clothes don’t get snagged and climbing the drapes ceases to be a form of exercise for an indoor cat.  There are ways however to prevent these types of behaviors without taking such a drastic action as having the cat declawed.  Keeping a cat’s nails trimmed regularly will help and there are dull tipped, plastic caps that can be purchased at any pet store that are glued onto a cat’s claws, making them a less effective tool for getting into trouble.  If a cat has a favorite corner of the couch they like to scratch, then put a towel over it or place something in front of it.  Purchasing a scratching post that is combined with a cat’s equivalent of a jungle gym, gives them a place to stretch, which is what a cat is doing when they latch onto a piece of furniture, while extending their body.  The carpeted tunnels and boxes of the jungle gym also give them places to hide, which a cat loves to do.  Climbing up and down the scratching post/cat jungle gym provides important exercise too.

The happiness that people feel after making the decision to get their cat declawed can be short lived.  Many cats develop new problems such as biting and not using the litter box.  Cats use their claws to protect themselves, and after the claws are gone, their next line of defense is biting.  A cat bite can be a serious injury, causing a lot more pain and requiring a longer healing period than a scratch.  Bites can happen more frequently after a cat is declawed, because the cat feels more threatened after losing the weapon they most commonly used to tell a person or another animal to “back off.” 

A declawed cat has a hard time digging in the litter box after surgery, which can often lead to them not “doing their business” in the box long after their paws have healed.  Once a cat gets out of the habit of using a litterbox, it’s a hard habit to correct and a couch that has been peed on is a bigger annoyance than one that has some frayed fabric.

Over time, a declawed cat can develop physical problems too.  A cat’s claws actually help them to maintain muscle tone and agility.  A cat stays in shape when they grab the carpet or a piece of furniture with their claws, using the resistance to pull and stretch their muscles.  Acat is digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes.  Losing the first joint of their toes can affect all the joints in a cat’s legs, leading to arthritis in the hips and other joints, as well as alter their balance.  A cat that could expertly walk along the narrow top of a fence loses that ability.

Of course a parent would never make the decision to remove their children’s hands to keep them from being destructive – and what child has not wreaked havoc in their lifetime?  Instead, discipline and showing a child the correct behavior, in time corrects destructive habits.   The same will work for cats.  So don’t take away their claws.  Keep them whole.


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