By Rich Sirio, Photo Editor
Cat declawing has been common practice since the 1970s, while dating further back to the 1950s where it originated in the underground before being adopted by the veterinary community.
The declawing of cats, or its commercial name, “onychectomy”, is a technique that veterinarians adopted in the early 1950s from a very unexpected source, the underground dog-fighting community.
Despite its name, the procedure is not as straightforward as a manicure. Instead of a filing or trimming of the claws, the equivalent of up to a human’s first knuckle is removed from the cat’s paw. Essentially, the root of the root of the nail is removed.
It’s theorized that cats get declawed by the handlers of dogs that participated in the underground sport. The cats would be used as live bait for the dogs in order for them to prepare for the impending fight, but even with the disadvantage of strength and size in comparison to the dogs the cats would scratch and sometimes injure the handlers’ fighters.
As a result, handlers would declaw cats before tossing them into the dog pit so they would be left defenseless for the dog to “warm up for its fight” without risk of injury.
In the 1950s (theorized to be 1952) declawing was commercialized by Dr. Grant Misener, a veterinarian in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). He made the procedure known as “a humane procedure to declaw cats” according to the AVMA in the doctor’s obituary.
Today, it is largely seen as cruel and on the cusp of veterinary malpractice in modern legislation.
“I think it’s unethical, I don’t think it’s really necessary because it really only benefits the human so let the cat live,” sophomore liberal arts major at Suffolk County community college Ethan Epstein said.
In fact, the AVMA now strongly discourages the procedure entirely, declaring it as “a major surgery involving amputation and is not medically necessary for the cat in most cases.”
The symptoms that follow the declawing procedure range from pain and infection, to lameness, back pain and tissue death in the inflicted paw. If tissue death occurs, further amputation may need to be considered for the cat’s well-being.
“Because they might rip up your furniture or something or, like you said, scratch one of your friends, and at that point most people would be like ‘the claws gotta go,’” cat owner Anthony Wachter said.
The most common reasons for owners to get their cats declawed are, the cats ripping up the furniture or, they’re scratching other members of the household, such as younger children or elderly people with thin skin.
“No, because normally if my cat scratches you, she doesn’t do it often, so if she does it means you’re a bad person and shouldn’t be in my house to begin with,” Wachter said.
Despite the recent growing exposure on this topic and states attempting to ban declawing altogether, an anonymous survey of 3,441 veterinarians was performed in 2014. The results of the survey found that 72 percent declawed cats when requested while 24 percent stated they did not.
The leading reasons for today’s declawing procedures among the veterinary practicioners are for behavioral purposes or an alternative to abandonment or euthanasia. While the majority of those who don’t declaw believe that behavior is not a good enough reason.
For those who look into declawing for behavioral reasons, they will be pointed in the direction of behavior modification before committing to a major operation in these cases. Especially if it is regarding scratching furniture within the household as opposed to family members.
“I’ll just reupholster everything myself, don’t get an animal if you don’t want your stuff to get ruined,” Epstein said.
Other safe and affordable alternative solutions to declawing are trimming, nail caps, training and feliway. With all being relatively simple, they are substantially viable alternatives.
Cat declawing is an out-dated, archaic practice that is as stubborn as its underground origin. With more awareness being spread on the topic and more veterinarians denying the procedure, the hope for kittens and their murder mittens is as strong as your cat when you try to pick them up.