Declawing cats should not be routine


April 30, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

There has been a disturbing trend in the last few years regarding the declawing of cats. It has gotten to the point where some people now consider the procedure as routine and beneficial as a spay or neuter, and schedule it automatically, as a way to prevent behavior problems that may not develop.

It's not routine.

Declawing should always be considered a last resort to "cure" a cat from destroying furniture. The procedure is roughly similar to amputating the tips of your fingers, from the first joint forward. Front paws are the only ones involved in the vast majority of cases, since most of destructive clawing does not involve the rear paws.

It's a major procedure, and a very controversial one among cat lovers, many of whom consider it reprehensible.

Before sending your cat to be declawed, explore all possible options. Provide your pet with a scratching post to give her a place to do the stretching and clawing all cats need. Discourage furniture destruction by shooting water at her with a spray bottle, and by keeping the furniture off-limits when you're not around. Finally, learn to keep the sharpest edge off your cat's nails through regular clipping. It's a simple procedure, especially when you start with a kitten. Your vet will be happy to show you how.

With a little effort on your part, you can probably spare your cat the trauma of this often unnecessary and always debatable surgery.

Q: Which pet lives the longest?

A: The pet with the potential to live the longest is probably the parrot, which generally has the same life span as humans -- 60 to 70 years, with some living to be 100. Some fish, such as goldfish, and their close relations, Koi, also count their life spans in decades.

The key to such a life span, though, is proper care, and neither goldfish nor parrots seem to get it very often.

Parrots more often die from misinformation as much as anything else, although this is changing as we learn more about correct care -- and especially feeding -- of these expensive and affectionate pets.

A parrot's best friend is an avian veterinarian, and any new bird owner is well-advised to seek out a good one. He or she can help you with reference materials, diet and medical treatments to ensure your pet is with you for a long time.

Cats and dogs usually live 10 to 14 years, although many live a few years beyond that. Giant breeds of dogs, such as Irish wolfhounds, often live approximately half of that normal life span.

We are just now beginning to learn how important geriatric care is for dogs and cats, and one part of that regimen -- routine veterinary dental care -- shows considerable promise not only in extending the lives of our pets, but also in keeping them healthy enough to enjoy those extra years.

Q: This probably seems like a silly question, but how can I tell if my cat is too fat? She's definitely not bony, but my husband thinks she's fat, and I don't.

A: According to the excellent "Cornell Book of Cats" ($24.95, Villard Books), a healthy adult cat weighs 8 to 10 pounds, although studies indicate that approximately 12 percent of cats seen by veterinarians are at least 15 percent overweight.

At normal weight, a cat's ribs are hidden but can easily be felt. In overweight cats, the ribs are hard to find, and sometimes impossible.

Just as in humans, obesity has a wide range of health risks for cats, including increased strain on joints, ligaments and internal organs.

If your cat is overweight, seek advice from your veterinarian on the proper course of treatment for gradual weight loss.

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