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Jett: Consider the options before declawing

The New York Legislature recently passed a bill that makes declawing cats, for aesthetic or cosmetic reasons, illegal. As an avid advocate of keeping a cat’s claws where they belong, no matter how pesky they can get, it makes me happy to know that we, as a country, are moving in the right direction.

My two cats, Xena and Grimm, both have their claws; however, I am not a stranger to declawing.

My 18-year-old cat, Smokey, was declawed in the early 2000s. There are still moments where she uses her scratching post, which is not abnormal behavior for declawed cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association stated that “59 and 78% of declawed cats will continue to exhibit scratching behavior with a normal appearance.”  It is bothersome to know this behavior is common among declawed cats.

Not only do some declawed cats exhibit scratching behavior in later years, but they can also experience “debilitating arthritis in their backs and shoulders,” according to PAWS, a non-profit that educates people on how to make a better world for animals.

I understand that declawing a cat may be required for medical reasons, such as an infection. The New York bill addresses situations where declawing is medically required -- it is labeled as “therapeutic purpose.”

A cat must have “an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury or abnormal condition in the  claw that compromises the cat's health” for declawing to be considered a therapeutic purpose, according to the bill. “Therapeutic  purpose does not include cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience in keeping or handling the cat.”

In such cases, a local veterinarian can help the pet owner decide on the best medical option.

Declawing should only be considered for medical reasons, not for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons.

I understand the struggle of dealing with a cat that loves scratching the couch. Grimm once enjoyed using my couch as a scratching post, but he has since been trained to use a proper scratching post for his clawing needs. I trained him by placing his scratching post near the area of the couch where he was scratching, and I would spray the post with catnip. I never once thought about declawing him, especially after seeing the effects declawing had on my older cat.

There are other alternatives if the cat cannot be trained to use a scratching post, such as kitty caps or regularly trimming the cat’s nails.

Declawing is a permanent procedure with long-lasting effects. I advise all cat owners to educate themselves about declawing before taking the procedure into consideration.

Caitlin Jett is the staff writer for The Covington News. Her email is Twitter: @caitie_jett