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Should I get my cat declawed?

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Many new cat owners wonder about whether or not they should get their cat declawed. Declawing a cat sounds like it would be a harmless procedure, however it is really quite cruel and can be very hard on your cat. There are alternatives to declawing which are much kinder to your cat and can allow both of you to live happily. Here are some reasons not to declaw your cat as well as alternatives to declawing.
Many people think that when a cat is declawed just its claws are removed. In fact, though, when a cat is declawed they actually cut off the cat's toes. To give you a frame of reference, it would be the equivalent of getting your fingers cut off at the first knuckle. Not only does the process of declawing a cat mutilate their feet, but it also takes away many of their inborn instincts, not to mention their ability to defend themselves if necessary.

Cats use their claws for a wide variety of purposes including defending themselves from predators or other cats and climbing trees to escape from danger. Taking away a cat's claws removes any protection that they would have and leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of dangers if they were to ever get out of your house.

Besides protection, cats use their claws to help maintain their balance and for walking, running, climbing, jumping and stretching. Their claws are also used for scratching in their litter box. During the time that your cat is recovering from the major surgery of having their toes removed they still have to do all of these things which can be extremely painful or uncomfortable to your cat. Imagine having your own toes cut off and then being forced to use them without the aid of a wheelchair.

Besides the physical pain and discomfort of being declawed, many cats suffer personality changes as a result. Some cats overcompensate for losing their ability to defend themselves and begin to lash out by biting. Other cats become depressed and lethargic and lose the luster that they had before the declawing.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to declawing your cat. The first and most obvious option is to train your cat not to scratch the things you don't want him to scratch. Purchase a high quality rope covered scratching post for your cat and train him to use it. If you see him scratching furniture carry him to the scratching post instead. Before long he will get the idea that the scratching post is for him to scratch and that the other furniture and items in the home are off limits.

You can also trim a cat's claws. Your vet can instruct you on how to do this and how to keep them trimmed down to a safe level. If a cat's claws are trimmed they still should not be allowed outdoors since this also limits their ability to defend themselves.

Probably the best alternative to declawing a cat is a relatively new product called Soft Paws (http://www.softpaws.com.) These are small vinyl covers that are glued over a cat's front claws. Soft Paws are a great solution if you are worried about your cat scratching your children or if you have been unsuccessful at training them to use their scratching post. The nail caps are lightweight and most cats can wear them comfortably without realizing they are wearing them.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to declaw your cat comes down to your decision. However, hopefully you will consider your cat's needs and choose a more humane solution of dealing with scratching problems instead.

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