Letters to dvm360: Readers share thoughts on declawing

March 29, 2018

Three veterinarians make a case for onychectomy in certain circumstances.

Dr. Robert Neunzig presented a very thoughtful and logical argument on why he declaws cats. I really appreciated his article. Believe it or not, declawing saves many cats' lives!

I recall a happy day when a proud grandfather brought in his two granddaughters with two kittens they had adopted at a local shelter. Upon the first visit everything checked out well for both kittens, and I will never forget the smiling faces of those two little girls and the joy their grandfather had given them through those kittens.

One month later, the same grandfather returned for the kittens' second visit with his granddaughters. This time both granddaughters had major scratches on both hands, arms and faces from the kittens. We discussed scratching posts, which the grandfather had responsibly invested in to no avail, and then our conversation led to declawing. That's when the grandfather cried, “You don't understand-the shelter made me sign a document stating I would never declaw the cats!”

When I heard that, I said I knew the head of that shelter, so please come with me-we are going call him and ask him what we should do.

The grandfather, granddaughters and kittens joined me in my office, where I proceeded to get the head of the shelter on the speakerphone. I explained to him what these new kitten owners were going through and asked for his advice since he had left the grandfather guilt-ridden about declawing the kittens.

I told the shelter owner that the grandfather was prepared to return these two kittens to his shelter, and you'd never guess what the shelter owner told the grandfather: Go ahead and declaw the kittens and never, ever return the kittens to his shelter!

I rest my case.

-Rick Campbell, DVM

Salt Lake City, Utah

Yes, I declaw. But only with my surgical CO2 laser. Obviously, complicated issues are not cut-and-dried; therefore I don't understand why the use of CO2 lasers hasn't been included in this debate. I performed declaws for several years prior to the development of surgical lasers. However, I began using a CO2 laser soon after they came onto the veterinary market. There is no comparison!

Personally I believe we would be doing the feline species, as domesticated animals, and their “family members” an injustice not to offer declawing. But I also believe that all declawing procedures should be performed with laser. I realize not all veterinarians have a surgical laser, but they could refer to a practice that does.

-Jeff Castle, DVM

Winchester, Kentucky

In the debate over declawing cats, many are asking the question, “Would the cat rather be declawed or keep its toes?”

Even if we are foolish enough to take this road, we are asking the wrong questions. In cases where the owner's health or the cat's behavior makes declawing a near necessity, the real question to ask the cat is, “Would you rather be declawed, euthanized or given to a shelter?”

The answers given would likely not be as strongly anti-declaw as the animal rights fringe wants us to believe.

-Drew L. Allen, DVM

Salt Lake City, Utah