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The Pros and Cons of Declawing Your Maine Coon

If your Maine Coon has started scratching furniture, or even people which is unlikely, the question of declawing them may cross your mind. However, what are the pros and cons of that decision. Are you doing irreparable damage or helping them? Let’s find out

Are you considering declawing Your Maine Coon? In short, the practice is officially known as an “onychectomy”, involves the surgical removal of a cats claws. While there are simpler methods of solving the problems associated with the need to declaw a cat, and with typical costs between $250 to $400 depending upon which method, it is an option that is fraught with ethical concerns. Most notably PETA, the largest institution known for the ethical treatment in animals has come out against the practice. Whilst an individual choice, one should certainly know the pros and cons of the decision first.

What Is Declawing?

Cat owners typically use declawing as a method for preventing their felines from destructive scratching. This could involve the Maine Coon sharpening its claws or marking its territory on soft furniture like sofas and couches, as well as recliners, carpets, or woodwork. Other times this procedure is done because the cats scratch their owners while playing, or owners are concerned about the safety of their children or babies.

The procedure involves major surgery and doesn’t just involve trimming the nails. The entire procedure involves surgical removal of the bones where the claw grows. It is not just claw removal. The last bone in the paw is removed to prevent the claw from growing back.

Here’s how it works.

First, the veterinarian puts the cat under anesthesia as the procedure involves removing the claw and bone, as well as cutting other parts of the paws.

Your Maine Coon then has a tourniquet applied to its legs to prevent excessive bleeding and the bones are removed at the end of its paws.

Essentially the bone is severed, with the paws being resewn where the claw extracts from.

Your Maine Coon now has no claws and they will not regrow.

A veterinarian will normally keep a Maine Coon, or any cat for two or three days afterwards as they recover. The bandages are then removed and your Maine Coon will be ready to return home, albeit missing its claws.

Apparently, after this is done it is recommended you use paper litter to prevent actual cat litter causing complications as they recover.

Is Declawing Illegal?

With all that sounding pretty horrific, and a small trauma for your cat, you might be wondering if this procedure is illegal?

Well the world does seem to be moving in that direction. Most experts seem to suggest that clawing is a healthy activity for a cat, and leaving it without the ability to protect itself could be somewhat counter intuitive.

The UK, quite a bit of the European Union and Australia have outright bans on the procedure.

From the USA point of view, the American Veterinary Medical Association is not opposed to the procedure, but does suggest that the surgeons involved educate the cat owners to alternatives and the risks associated.

To date, no US state has outright banned the procedure, but several states (California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island) have introduced legislation but non have passed.

How Is Declawing Done?

The technical name for declawing is “onychectomy.” It’s major surgery that involves removing the claw as well as the bone that it’s embedded in. The medical procedure has been compared to one that would remove the last knuckle on all of a person’s ten fingers.

The animal surgeon first puts the cat under anesthesia. There are two main types of procedures. The first one involves using a “guillotine” clipper or scalpel to remove the claw and bone it’s attached to. During this procedure tendons and nerves in the paw also get cut.

Then after the procedure is done, the surgeon closes the wounds. This is done with surgical glue or stitches. They then bandage the feet.  

Laser surgery is another method that can be performed. A small and powerful beam of light heats/vaporizes tissue to cut through it. This is a different method, but it produces the same result since it involves removing the animal’s last toe bone.

A third procedure known as a “tendonectomy”, is declawing in function but not form. This involves severing the tendon that controls each toe’s claw. This procedure is different because the nails aren’t removed. However, the feline is unable to extend or control them.

Tendonectomies are often done when the cat’s claws grow thicker than normal. This condition causes more frequent nail trimming to prevent the claws from getting caught on furniture, carpet, drapes, or people. It also keeps them from growing into the paw pads.

Maine Coon on bed with another cat

So Why Do People Do It?

There are various reasons why people decide to have their pet cats declawed. Here are some of the main ones that I have found:

1. Safety of humans in the household

In some situations cats scratch household owners when playing with them. This is usually done by accident since cats are natural predators and might use their claws during playtime. Owners can still try to train their pets not to scratch when playing.

This could be a bigger concern for parents if there are young children or babies in the household. In that case, there’s a greater risk of injury so parents might decide to take drastic measures so they can keep their pet while lowering the risk of injury.

Many new parents are also worried about the cats claws and their new  baby if their cat has a propensity to do this.

2. Prevent household damage

Destructive clawing can damage various parts of the home. This includes carpets, soft furniture, and woodwork. This can cause various problems, including the furniture being damaged and looking old. The costs can also add up quickly. Replacing furniture quite regularly if you like the house looking new can lead to some pretty hefty bills.

3. Allow the household to keep a cat

When cats are causing medical or structural damage due to scratching, it can cause a lot of problems for household members.

However, these animals are often considered family members, so people are sometimes willing to take drastic measures to avoid giving away the cat. In these situations, removing the animals’ nails might seem worth ending the behavioral issues and keeping the pet.

Many People Are Against It?

There’s a lot of online backlash against onychectomies, but the US public is actually split on the issue. An Associated Press/Petside.com poll discovered that almost 60% of pet owners think that it’s acceptable to declaw household pets.  Estimates also show that up to one-quarter of US domestic cats have undergone the procedure.

The main argument against removing a cat’s nails is the actual procedure. Opponents argue it’s cruel because it’s like removing the end of a person’s finger from the last bone to the nail. There are also related issues including the pain the animal experiences during the procedure and recovery.

Another issue is the complications the procedure can cause. There are the psychological issues the cat will have to experience when it doesn’t have claws to use. In addition, if a housecat gets outdoors, it will be unable to defend itself effectively without its nails.

Yet another argument people often make against declawing is that felines are born with nails so they shouldn’t be removed. ‘Mother Nature’ has given the animals claws mainly as a mode of defense. So, unless there are issues like severely damaged nails or tumors, there’s no reason to remove them.

People against removing cats’ nails also point out what professional organizations say. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that there are some situations when it’s justified like when the owner’s immune system is affected. However, it also points out that the procedure isn’t technically necessary for the animal.

What PETA Says

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a non-profit US animal rights organization founded nearly four decades ago in 1980. PETA has 6.5+ million members/supporters.

The Virginia-based organization has taken a stance against declawing cats. It notes that clawing is a natural and healthy part of feline behavior. For example, it scratches to maintain nails, stretch muscles, and just have fun.

The organization compares the medical procedure of removing claws to cutting a person’s 10 fingers at the first joint.  It notes that pain lasts a long time after the procedure. Besides that, pain can also result if new claws start to grow back.

PETA also notes that claws are the animal’s “first line of defense.” For example, if an indoor cat gets outdoors, it will be tougher for it to protect itself from predators without its nails.

Many households decide to have their kitties’ nails removed because they’re concerned about their babies’ safety. However, the organization also notes that declawing can ironically make felines more aggressive instead of less so. That’s because they feel more insecure and often bite more as a means of self-defense.

PETA also notes common behavioral issues after a cat is declawed. This includes learning how to walk again and relieving themselves outside the litter box,

Finally, the US organization reports that the procedure is already illegal in many countries. That includes the UK, Australia, and Japan. In the US, many veterinarians won’t do the procedure.

Is It OK to Declaw an Indoor Maine Coon?

If you own an indoor Maine Coon, it might seem reasonable to have it declawed since it doesn’t normally meet outdoor animals. So, in theory your household and baby or adult feline would be safer indoors.

The main problem is people often use this medical procedure as a “quick fix.” An issue with this concept is the long-term effects it can cause. The most obvious one is the cat won’t be able to use scratching for health or defense purposes. If your housecat runs outdoors, it would be more vulnerable to predators since it could only protect itself with its teeth.

In addition, declawing can also cause other issues like long-term behavioral issues. When Maine Coons’ nails are removed they’re more likely to bite people and less likely to use the litter box.

Various organizations like the Humane Society of the United States suggest only using declawing for severe medical conditions. An example is when the nail contains a cancerous tumor.

Many pet owners with weak immune systems also wrongly believe they’ll likely have health problems if their feline scratches them. However, it’s more likely they’d get infections from other sources like bites, fleas, or cat litter.

Kittens start scratching at around 8 weeks old. Experts recommend that’s the best time to start training your furbaby to scratch other things besides people and furniture. A scratching post is an effective tool because it allows felines to scratch without causing damage to stuff around the house.

Alita Maine Coon with toy mouse

Are There Alternatives to Declawing?

If your feline is constantly scratching, you can take other steps besides removing the claws:

1. Soft Claws

These are nail caps that are applied to the animal’s nails using surgical glue. It only takes Max or Fluffy a few days to get used to wearing the caps.

It’s worth noting cat owners will need extra patience when using the nail caps. However, it’s definitely a practical alternative to removing the animal’s claws.

2. Behavioral Training

This approach is more effective with kittens than adult cats. The key is to use negative reinforcement to change the animal’s behavior instead of ending it. For example, you can redirect the kitten, so it plays with a toy or claws at a scratching post.

3. Pheromone Sprays/Diffusers

You can use these products to help your animal feel less anxiety/stress. Even if it’s not directly related to your feline’s scratching, it can help. Simply spray the pheromones on objects where there’s unwanted scratching.

4. Scratching Post

This is a great investment because it usually works. You can even install a scratching post in every room that includes soft furniture. This will encourage them to claw at the post instead of the sofa.

5. Nail Trimming

Yes, the caveat is they’ll grow back. However, the main benefit of this option is the animal will get to keep its claws. The pet will still sharpen its nails and use them. However, if you trim the nail more frequently, they’ll be less likely to cause damage when your feline scratches things or people.

What Are the Pros?

1. Humans with low immune systems

If people in your home have a low immune system, then they’ll be more likely to get sick when contacted with infectious diseases. In these situations it might seem that only declawing your pet can solve the problem.

In fact, it could help. However, it’s also worth noting that someone is more likely to get them from other sources like bites or fleas.

2. Ability to keep the cat

In some situations households have tried other options and select declawing as a last resort. In fact, it might seem like the only option that allows them to keep the pet

For example, in some cases the feline has caused significant damage by clawing at furniture or taking a swipe at household members. Perhaps the family wants to protect people with weak immune systems or babies. In these situations, declawing might seem like the only way to solve the problem.

3. Treats damaged claw/cancer tumor

In some situations declawing is only needed for a limited number of claws. This includes situations like severe damage to the claw or cancerous tumors in the nail.  In these situations your veterinarian will likely suggest the removal of the nail to prevent serious health issues.

A Quick Summary of the Cons

There are some major drawbacks of removing a feline’s claws. One of the main ones is that cat claws are natural. In fact, they use claws to exercise muscles, sharpen nails, and just have fun. They also need them for self-defense when dealing with predators outside the home.

The procedure itself can be quite painful for animals. They’re given painkillers for the treatment, but the pain often lasts for several weeks following the procedure. It can even result in complications like a nail starting the grow back.

Pet owners often get their felines declawed to deal with behavioral issues. This can include scratching adults or kids while they’re playing.

However, removing the nails can actually cause new behavioral problems. That includes more biting since the cat can’t use their claws for defense, and relieving themselves outside the litter box.

I can’t help thinking the whole procedure is very stressful for your Maine Coon

So, Should You Do It?

The ultimate decision is up to the pet owner. It’s a tough decision and as noted over half of US pet owners don’t have a problem with removing an animal’s claws. About one-quarter of all US cats have already had the procedure done.

However, it’s certainly essential to consider the stance by veterinarian organizations and animal rights organizations like PETA. These organizations oppose the medical procedure in most situations. The main exceptions are when the animal’s claw is severely damaged, or it contains a cancer tumor.

One of the main arguments made against not declawing felines is it harms animals and is only done to benefit humans. However, in many cases the whole procedure can be avoided.

This is mostly about taking steps to prevent cats from scratching when they shouldn’t. You can start training your kitten at 8 months old about what to scratch and what not to claw at. A scratching post or toy can help with the process, so they scratch those things instead.

You can also deal with the nails themselves to reduce destructive scratching. They include trimming the nails more often or adding caps to them.

Even the common reason for declawing that people with weak immune systems might get sick isn’t a great one. Scratching can cause illness, but it’s more likely to happen from things like bites or fleas from your Maine Coon.

So, while it’s up to the owner to decide whether or not to remove their pet’s claws, it’s something you shouldn’t rush into. Think about the main cause of the scratching and whether or not you can take other steps to deal with the problem.

Consider what it would be like to lose one-third of your fingers.

Conclusion

There’s no question declawing is a controversial topic. It’s illegal in the UK and Japan, but over half of US pet owners aren’t opposed to it. While up to one-quarter of felines have undergone the procedure, some American veterinarians refuse to do it.

The ultimate decision is up to the pet owner. In some cases, it’s needed like when the cat’s nail has cancer cells. However, in other situations like damaged furniture or immune system issues, it’s more of a grey area.

The biggest takeaway is declawing your Maine Coon has pros and cons. It’s not the “quick fix” many owners think it is, and in some cases doesn’t solve the problem the procedure is trying to address. In the end, do what’s best for your household but don’t forget how your decision will affect your furry friend.

Remember, it may not thank you.

If it hasn’t be clear that I’m against this procedure then let me now take the opportunity to amend that notion. While I respect people to make their own decisions, the whole procedure is not for me.

Short of it being an absolute necessity due to health for Alita, I cannot see myself doing this procedure. I have lost cats before that have run away, and the thought of her being defenceless if she gets away for a short time makes me very uneasy.

Cat’s are born with claws for a reason and most reasons the procedure is done are for the owners satisfaction, not the cats. Unless my Maine Coon needs it done for her health, my Maine Coon will keep her claws.

Nail trimming seems a far better option than something more permanent. And painful, as well as counter productive.

 

 

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1 thought on “The Pros and Cons of Declawing Your Maine Coon

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      My husband and I are moving places and we want to bring our cat, so we wanted tips and advice on doing so! I didn’t know you could declaw your cat to end behavioral issues and keep your pet from damaging your household. I’ll have to go to a vet with my cat for a declawing consultation, thanks to this post.

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