My Pet World: Declawing cats is unnecessary

September 28, 2010|By Steve Dale

Q: Can you settle an argument I'm having with my husband? I'm pregnant and he's concerned that Magi, our 7-year-old cat, is going to scratch the baby. Magi has never scratched anyone, at least not intentionally. I got Magi three years before I married my husband. Do you think we need to declaw our cat?



A: Please don't declaw your cat. A declaw (onychectomy) is an amputation. A cat's toe has three bones, and the claw grows from the end of the last bone. In a declaw surgery, the veterinarian is amputating the last bone, which contains the growth plate for the claws.

I'm scratching my head as to why your husband believes declawing is necessary. Each year, thousands of babies are born into homes with cats and grow up unscathed.


Sometimes, cats (or dogs) never previously exposed to the smells and sounds of a newborn can get nervous. To avoid this in your case, have a friend with a baby visit a few times before your delivery. When your cat comes around, offer tidbits of salmon or tuna, especially if the baby fusses. The idea is to associate fussing babies with incredible snacks. Also, take an interactive toy (fishing pole-type toy with feathers or fabric) and play with the cat while the baby is nearby.

Another technique is to download the sound of a baby crying off the Internet. Play the sound at a barely audible level as your cat eats. Assuming the cat isn't disturbed by this, gradually pump up the volume. Also, assuming your cat enjoys her food, hopefully she'll associate the sound of a baby crying with an enjoyable activity — chowing down.

Many new parents with cats are determined to keep their pets out of a baby's room. I agree that no pet should be with a newborn or toddler without adult supervision. However, cats are curious, and it may be futile to try keeping your pet away. This also sends the wrong message to the cat. I say, instead make the baby's room cat-friendly with hiding places, cat grass, toys and more.

Q: We have three indoor cats, and we don't want to vaccinate them for rabies. I know it's the law in our state, and veterinarians must support the law. But it's ridiculous because we live in a high-rise and the cats never go outside. Also, I've read that rabies vaccine can cause skin cancer. What do you think?



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