Nowadays, whether or not to declaw a cat is a pretty polarizing topic among cat lovers, and it can get heated. Before I go through the reasoning behind my decision not to declaw, I want to say that I'm not trying to upset anyone. In fact, my parents had a declawed cat, and the procedure didn't seem to cause her pain afterwards. She was completely healthy and happy. What's more, today the surgery can be done with a laser, which minimizes how invasive it is.
It's my opinion that if you feel like your cat needs to be declawed, you should have it done in the most humane way possible. There are definitely situations where declawing a cat is a kinder choice for them and your family. Some people, for example, have family members who are susceptible to infection. In this case, it wouldn't be safe to have a cat with claws, in case they broke skin and gave a deadly infection to a loved one. No one wants that, and rehoming the cat as an alternative could be heartbreaking for the cat and the family.
That being said, let's go through the reasons why I didn't declaw Sokka, my two-year-old kitty, and why I'm glad I made the choice I did.
When my vet asked if I wanted Sokka declawed, he was still pretty young. Usually, he explained, the declawing surgery is performed at the same time as the neutering surgery, so that your cat doesn't have to come in twice for two different fairly major procedures. While I thought this was a smart idea, I still said no. Surgeries come with risks, and I didn't want my young kitty to have to recover from two at the same time. I figured I could manage any tendency he had to scratch in other ways.
Don't get me wrong, there are times that Sokka scratches my couch (he's figured out I'll give him some form of attention if he does it, the little stinker). I'm working with him now to stop this behavior. But for the most part, he uses his scratching posts really well! I've rubbed catnip all over them to make sure he's attracted to them. There are other ways to prevent scratching, like citrus-scented sprays (cats don't like the smell). Some people even cover the corners of their furniture with tinfoil (I tried this and it did work! I just thought it looked ugly.).
So, what's my point here? I felt that since there were so many other things I could do, Sokka didn't need to be declawed. And for the most part, he's a pretty good boy, and knows the couch isn't for claws!
Even if Sokka has scratched my couch a little, I've been able to fix the damage by cutting frayed threads off with scissors. For me, it's not that big of a deal. I value the relationship I have with my cat more than I value having a pristine-looking couch. I love him, after all. Bringing an animal into a home to live with you doesn't come without some mess, because they're designed to live outside. So you have scratches on your couch's corners, poop from the litter box on your floor, puke on your carpet. It happens. Besides, human kids can do some damage too, and parents still love them!
I think a cat's ability to hunt is an amazing thing, and it's beautiful. Their claws are an important part of how they catch food for themselves. If I can control the scratching, who am I to take that part of their body away from them?
While I don't think that declawing is wrong, I do think you shouldn't let a cat outside on their own if they don't have claws. There are plenty of larger animals who would pick a fight with a cat, and they'll need claws to defend themselves. I don't live in a place where I'd be comfortable letting Sokka out, but if he got out accidentally, I'd be worried about him. While cats aren't helpless without front claws, they still rely a lot on them for self-defense.
Someday, if I live in the country, I might want Sokka to come outside with me, since he has claws and all his shots. If he had been declawed, I would be a lot more uncomfortable with that.
It's true! Clipping your cat's claws regularly minimizes any damage they can cause, and it doesn't hurt them. Sokka really doesn't like his nails clipped, but it's mostly because he doesn't like sitting still for long periods of time, and he doesn't like his paws touched. You have to be careful not to cut them too short, though, because this can cause bleeding and pain. Rule of thumb: don't cut where the cat's nail is white and opaque. Stick to the sharp tips and you and your pet will be fine!
You heard me: Now, companies are making rubber caps that you can glue onto your cat's claws.
Sounds a little weird, right?
The good news is they're harmless, and fall off after a few weeks. I was a little skeptical about this myself, but have seen reviews around the internet and apparently most cats don't mind them at all! You do have to keep buying them, but I think it's a small price to pay for keeping an adult cat out of surgery. My vet told me that sometimes the declawing surgery is harder on older cats, and that's why they do it when they're still relatively young.
Because your cat doesn't have their primary defense method anymore, they might start biting if they feel threatened. That kind of behavior can be hard to unlearn for a cat, and it could be hard on you and your family too. Luckily for me, Sokka isn't really a nervous cat and very rarely tries to bite, unless he's playing.
Scratching is a natural behavior that helps cats stretch their bodies, mark their "territory", and keep their nails filed down. I wanted Sokka to be able to indulge his instinct, and feel satisfied, whole and happy.
Declawing means your cat loses the first digit of all 10 front toes, or all 20 if they get the back claws taken off too. This can be painful, and because cats walk on their toes, it throws off their skeletal balance. They're putting more weight on other leg joints, and can develop arthritis from this later in life.
When I weighed all of these reasons against damaged furniture and the occasional scratch, I really didn't see a reason to take Sokka's claws from him. Scratching may be a nuisance sometimes, but I think the long-term happiness of my cat is more important to me overall. And anyway, who says I can't prevent scratching even with a cat who has claws? Give it a try and you'll find it's usually easier than you think.