Monday, September 7, 2009


This is an interesting article about declawing in the San Francisco papers. San Francisco, is known to be one of the more progressive cities in the US in terms of animal welfare, and their SPCA is world famous.

Interestingly, the SF SPCA and some of the vets do not want to ban declawing. One of the reasons given is that they do not believe city council should legislate on the matter. Another is that there is a worry that owners might give their cats up if they are not given the option of declawing.

A couple of issues - again, I'm not a huge fan of unnecessary legislation as you guys know. Often, without enforcement, how effective is it just to HAVE a law? However, a few years ago when we considered this topic, we talked to the vets in Singapore. Instead of having a strict law against it, the vets, as a body, could decide amongst themselves NOT to practice declawing. That way, if there were also very specific reasons why they might want to practice declawing in certain cases, they can still make that decision. For example, if someone comes to them and says that their cat has scratched them and the cat will be tossed out on the street otherwise.

On the other hand, some of the vets told us they thought that cats might be thrown out on the streets otherwise. First of all, even in Singapore, where declawing is not very common, we have found declawed cats abandoned. So I don't think that argument holds much water. Secondly, most people declaw cats when they first adopt/buy a cat, so it would not really affect that many people who already HAVE cats. If it stops someone from adopting a cat, then so be it. Also, as I mentioned, if it is a practice direction that the veterinary association agrees to adopt, then they CAN make exceptions where they think it is necessary.

Another point I think to consider is that declawing has been illegal in the United Kingdom and I believe much of Europe for many years as has tail docking. If it has worked there, then I think it's high time to consider doing away with the practice - whether by law, or by internal regulation.


Brad Farless said...

Most people view declawing as a normal procedure you have done to your cats, right along with spaying or neutering. It's commonly done in the US, from what I know. The reason for that is that most people who want cats also don't want their furniture shredded, and as we all know you can't teach a cat to do or not do something. They just do whatever they want and hopefully you and the cat get along.

I think passing actual legislation banning this will reduce the number of people who adopt cats significantly, especially in the area of new adopters. People want pets but they also don't want to lose investments.

Personally, my cats have clawed me more times than I can remember, but I won't declaw them unless it becomes absolutely necessary.

wei ling said...

I do think that declawing is quite a cruel practice no matter what. Cats have claws to protect themselves and in a sense it could make them more secure.

If a cat is lost or anything, at least it can use its claws to hunt for prey. It is the protective mechanism that is essential for the cats survival.

Dawn said...

Brad - for some reason, it's pretty common in the US, but not so much in other parts of the world. Now there are good alternatives like 'soft claws' which work pretty well.

wei libng - yes abandoning a declawed cat is the worst because they have no protection whatsoever.

Brad Farless said...

I don't know about in Singapore, but in the US an owned cat is typically an indoor cat, so claws aren't exactly necessary.

So it's really an issue of owner responsibility. If you take the step to declaw your cat you should consider that cat yours for life. Though, like Dawn mentioned in the article, some people don't take that seriously. Then again, people who abandon their cats shouldn't have been cat owners in the first place.

Brad Farless said...

Ah, and as for 'soft claws' or other things that you place over the cats claws, there's always the possibility of them coming off early and the cats causing damage.

Declawing is a more painful solution, but no more invasive or painful than cutting out your cats internal organs and screwing up their hormone balances to prevent breeding.

wei ling said...

It really depends, it pros and cons, if your cat is a scratching maniac who claws all your furniture and you have run out of all alternative, declawing might be a better option than abandonment or putting it down.

But if some owners declaw just for that 'easy way' out, than it really is for the worse.

yskat said...

Declawing should not be allowed in Singapore because of big, big problems with abandonment. For the same reason, sterilisation should be enforced. An abandoned cat with claws is more able to defend himself/herself than one who hasn't any, and a sterilised one is less likely to attract complaints that would lead to his or her own death as well as the deaths of other cats in the area. As far as I know, most cats get abandoned in Singapore not because they scratch furniture, but because they outgrow their cuteness. Human families who refuse to spay or neuter their cats also tend to abandon them when their numbers grow.

Brad Farless said...

Like I said, it's about owner responsibility and understanding that when you adopt a cat you're adopting it for the duration of its natural life. Not just for the length of time it amuses you. It's sad really if people can't properly maintain a cat. If you can't raise a cat, how can you properly raise a child?

charlie said...

People who consciously and sincerely adopt cats will usually keep them for life. But in Singapore, there are many who just pick up a cat or two off the streets, DO NOT sterilise them (because of some "imagined" pain and/or self-imposed religious connotations) declaw them to "save" their rugs and intricately-carved furniture. At the same time, they leave their doors and windows open to "air" their flat, hence leaving much room for mis-understanding with neighbors, cats getting lost, etc. etc. I have personally come across situations. Funny thing is, when my old neighbor lost her white cross-Persian cat due to the above scenario, I eventually found the cat at a nearby market, happily told them about it, but they declined to take him back saying he was "dirty". I have nothing else to say about these people

Brad Farless said...

I guess they didn't believe in taking baths then? Cuz soap and water fixes that problem easily. Some people are just stupid and taken on pets without realizing the full responsibility of them. I know now why my dad was always so picky about having pets. They're fun, but they're also a lot of work.

charlie said...

Yes, they all add up to extra time, effort and money. I have slightly over 10 felines myself, a labrador also. My animals gets lots of bath, even though they are kept strictly indoors. I take one or two cats with me into the bathroom, and bathe/scrub them and towel them, then I will bathe while they are on the toilet-counter, flicking and licking themselves. I open the door and let them out when I am done with myself, then I will wipe down the toilet. I do this for 3 or 4 days and all my cats would have had their baths. Sometimes, I will do all in one go and it doesnt even take an hour, especailly if you use those super-absorbent cloths that you use for washing your cars with, that will usually dry them out very quickly. The lab gets bathed almost every other day, and goes swimming when we send our daughter out for a 2-hour tuition, thus we dont waste time waiting at the centre.

On the subject of declawing, personally I think it is unwise as it goes against their natural instinct to scratch. Having said that, my friend left Singapore to live in Texas for about 15 years and who flew her two stray cats there. As her house was wholly carpeted, she declawed her cats. Initially we were aghast at the idea, but then Sam (cat) lived up to 15, while John (cat) tagged along with her when she left Texas for Virginia where she built a hill-top home amid 60some acres of wooded land. I have some pix of John (cat) looking out the window at the whitened frost-covered trees, with a postcard-picture contented look. All of us friends always got emails and pix of John and Sam. Bottomline is, although we think of declawing as cruel, then again my friend cared and loved her declawed cats more than many would have done. It all comes down to commitment and tolerance threshold.

PS My $1K huanghuali Chinese cabinet has intricate carvings of some chinese folk-tale on the doors, but then my clawed cats think the legs and sides needed some work too, and so they wasted no time and added their touch!!

Dawn said...

I was travelling and obviously missed some interesting comments here.

Brad - the soft claws do come off, but they apparently do last a good long while. I would argue the difference is that sterilisation is for the good of the cat, but declawing is for the convenience of the owner.

wei ling - that's one of the things we discussed with at least one vet, that if the owner threatens to kill the cat instead, then perhaps declawing might be an option in that case. Often though, I wonder if people have also considered all the options - ie getting more and better scratching posts. Also, the sticky tape you can use on the side of your furniture (or double sided tape).

yskat - yes I agree. The problem I think is less behavioural - and more to do with the owners.

Charlie - nice to know someone else uses the cloth in the same way :) I am sure that there are very nice people who declaw their cats - but sometimes it also boils down to the fact that people don't really know what it involves. It is not, as the common misconception is, that the nails are somehow permanently filed down. The finger is actually severed at the first digit. If more people knew what it would entailed and they generally loved their animals, I would be surprised if they continued to insist on doing it.

Brad Farless said...

Well, it is for the convenience of the owner, but if you think about it, that equates to convenience for the cat, because otherwise the cat might not be an indoor cat.

(Just to ward off potential hate, my cats have their claws because I can still win in a wrestling match)

Dawn said...

I see where you're coming from Brad - it's just that from what I usually see, if the owner puts their convenience ahead of the cat's well-being, then they usually aren't fantastic owners. Or they're misinformed about what their cat goes through. It's like the person who asked to adopt a cat to match their colour scheme of their apartment (this was an actual request).

Brad Farless said...

That's just wrong... to match the color scheme? Cats aren't house decorations...

Part of that can be blamed on parents for not teaching kids to respect animals.

Still though, in the US declawing is a common practice. It doesn't really depend on whether an owner is good or bad.

Dawn said...

Yes - and I think that a lot of is has to do more with the fact that everyone else does it. So no one really stops to think if it is cruel. A few people I spoke with didn't even realise what it entailed - they thought that when you get a cat, you get it vaccinated, you sterilise it and declaw it.

yskat said...

I'm in the process of changing the colour scheme of my flat to match my cat's coat. I guess that makes me a "good" owner :)

Brad Farless said...

Again, how much more cruel is it to declaw them than it is to cut out their reproductive organs? You can argue that it's for the benefit of the cat, and to some degree (by our standards) that's true. However, cats are just fine with their reproductive organs, as are all animals. We cut them out to stop them from making noise and to stop them from spraying in the house. That's for our convenience.

To say that it's completely for their benefit is wrong in itself. Who are we to dictate how often cats reproduce? If left to breed as they would in the wild they would breed and the strong would survive, just as they've always done and has always been done with all species. We're trying to force our perspective of what's "right" onto nature's design for the animal, just because it's a cat and we want to "protect" it, so we say it's for their benefit.

Dawn said...

Actually Brad - there are many benefits to sterilising a cat. A cat that is sterilised lives on average two years longer. They are less likely to develop several forms of cancers, they don't get pyometra. They're also much less likely to get FIV.

So it really IS for the benefit of the cat - I'm not talking about just the anti-spraying, anti-noise factor. A cat that is sprayed is healthier.

As for your point about whether it is 'natural', I would point to the fact that for cats, unlike people, they are completely in thrall to their hormones. It's not like they can choose whether to mate or not. They go on heat, and they mate - if you've seen a female cat being chased by male cats, you can tell it's not something she 'chooses' to do.

Dawn said...

yskat - yes it does :)

Anonymous said...

Sterilisation does make it convenient for the owners not to have to look for homes for kittens 2-3 times a year. After a few years, owners run out of good homes.
However, sterilisation do benefit cats. The sterilised male cats do not go out looking for female cats on heat and getting into fights with other male cats. Female sterilised cats do not have to produce yearly litters and would remain in relative good health. Both are not unnecessarily being exposed to FIV/FeLv/herpes viruses & other infectious diseases. Besides sterilisation means no cancer in the uterus in older female cats.
Most of all, neighbours (esp those who do not like cats) benefit from not having tens of kittens/cats running around in the neighbourhood.

Declawing? The only benefit is to the furniture. Generally cats do not scratch on hard-wood furniture. I have rosewood (not fashionable to mention the word nowadays) for 40 yrs. There are a few water-marks, some sun bleached spots but no pet marks despite generations of pets; no pets are declawed either.

I will not put my pets thru the pain of declawing for a few sticks of furniture. Leather sofa? Despite air-conditioning, leather is not comfortable in the tropics unless you get cold air piped thru seats like in some fancy cars ;)

Singapore Community Cats said...

Sometimes we project our feelings on cats and lament the loss of their "genitalia" as we would lament the loss of ours.
However their mental capacity is not as complex as ours. They do not have our "worrying to death" capacity, that perhaps serve them well, in that they suffer the moment and not suffer for imaginary "future" pain.
We as human, have the capacity to see beyond just mere present existence. We have the ability to see that the constant KILLING of cats is related to the number of cats. Do we want to allow natural reproduction to continue an endless supply of cats for "culling"?
The domestic helper of my friend's mother has two cats in her urban house in Indonesia. She said she was not aware and was not told by her vet that she could have her two female cats sterilised. However she was fully aware that she wouldn't be able to cope if they gave birth. So at every oestrial cycles, she would bind the cats' "genitalia" with diapers, resulting in tremendous sufferings,not only for the cats but for the human occupants of the house as well. Now in Singapore she learnt about the tipped ears of our community cats and was convinced of the benefits of sterilisation, she called her relatives at her home in Indonesia to fix a date for her cats to be neutered.
Unlike us, the cats would not get depressed over our premature menopause but if they could speak, they would last no more diapers suffering!!

If I do not subscribe to sterilisation, I wouldn't be able to rescue 4 cats, two males and two females. My flat will be filled to brim by now or I would be evicted from complaints of caterwauling.

However I live with their nails intact and with a scratch pole, I have no scratching problem but then again, I would never treasure any non-breathing object, no matter how much $$ it cost, over a breathing feelnng cat.

Dawn said...

I actually think from seeing cats that you can quite easily tell a sterilised community cat from an unsterilised one without the tipped ear. The latter usually looks more run down. If it's a male, it's more likely battle scarred.

calsifer said...

So true, Dawn. Sterilised cats look and are better in health.

And you know about our encounters: getting asked if we leave our home cats at the MRT station as we leave for work and collect them after; and passers-by remarking their own pet cats did not look as well, nor grew as big as the MRT cats. =)

Every single time - with the cats we rescue and put into the shelter for adoption as testimony - the before and after sterilisation effect is stark.

I always say it: STERILISE DAMMIT!

Dawn said...

I love the MRT cat story - it always makes me laugh.