Greater Androscoggin Humane Society Executive Director Katie Lisnik holds Baby Face, a 2 month old Domestic Short Hair cat at the Lewiston center on March 26, 2021. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Cats who’ve shredded furniture or scratched door frames occasionally prompts the question: Can, or should, this cat be declawed?

Experts offer a resounding NO, especially if you don’t want your kitty using furniture or a rug instead of the litter box.

In fact there’s a growing trend nationwide of passing laws banning declawing cats.

No such legislation has been proposed this year at the State House in Maine, but outlawing declawing cats has happened in the state of New York and a growing number of cities and countries.

March 29 is “Declaw Awareness Day,” according to several national cat advocacy organizations.

“Declawing cats is not in the best interest of most cats and families, medically and behaviorally,” Katie Lisnik, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, said.

If a declawed cat gets outside and is threatened “it has no defense mechanism,” Lisnik said. Also declawing cats removes the ability for cats to leave their smells through their paws, a practice cats do to mark territory and communicate with other cats.

In the home, cats use claws to scratch in the litter box. For some declawed cats, using the litter box can be painful, prompting them to urinate around the house.

Cats that have been declawed sometimes are frustrated with their lack of ability to defend themselves and resort to biting, Lisnik said.

Stephanie Mains of the Cat Coalition of Western Maine, a private cat rescue organization in Harrison, said declawing is actually amputation.

“Declawing to a cat would be similar to cutting a human’s fingers to the knuckles,” Mains said. “That’s what it feels like to a cat. That’s why so many places are outlawing it. After declawing, they don’t walk the same. If they get out, they can’t climb a tree. They wouldn’t make it.”

Sometimes the paws get infected after their claws are amputated and they endure pain for their rest of their lives, Mains said.

Dr. Alex Munroe with Waffles the pug in this Sun Journal file photo. Bonnie Washuk photo

Dr. Alex Munroe, a veterinarian who lives in Auburn and practices in Portland, agrees.

Declawing “is a procedure which is literally the amputation of the entire top of the last bone of the claw. It’s painful, requires an initial difficult recovery, and really should not be done,” he said.

One of his cats that he adopted late in the cat’s life was declawed. “You run into issues such as litter box avoidance if there is even so much as one clump or slightly firm litter in the box. Some cats develop what is called neuroma, a painful, dead-ended nerve at the tip of the paw,” Munroe said.

His declawed cat was “always sitting with her left paw retracted up off the ground.” The cat took every opportunity to keep her front paw up, he said.

Having a dog or cats can mean some moderate damage in the home. If someone doesn’t want to deal with that, “don’t get a cat!” Mains insists.

Ditto that, Munroe says. Owning a cat involves cleaning the litter box daily, nights where your cat will meow and keep you up, leave fur and scratches on furniture.

If that isn’t acceptable, “please reconsider pet ownership. Give your Roomba (robot vacuum) a name!” he said.

When a cat owner asks him about declawing, Munroe educates the human on why it’s harmful and recommends alternatives: scratching pads, upright rope towers and carpeting the edges of door frames, screwing clear plastic paneling on furniture, or even buying “nail caps,” known as soft paws, on the cat. Nail caps are replaced on a monthly basis.

With a growing number of cities outlawing declawing, it’s becoming less common, Munroe said.

“I would certainly be OK if this procedure were written out of practice,” he said.

The cost helps avoid declawing, he added. “The price for the procedure is now high enough that it provides the final deterrent for most owners.”

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society will soon have a tip sheet for people looking to adopt kittens and cats on the problems of declawing, Lisnik said.

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