This week I’ve got more going on than I care to list. Some of it is my standard holiday fare (party-catering, get-togethers, gift-finishing, tree-trimming, etc.). Most of it, however, is related to a backlog of work secondary to this entire year’s October through December season.

I’m sure you’re feeling a similar pinch. It’s in the spirit of mutual empathy, then, that I ask you to help me achieve two objectives in one fell swoop: 1) I require an above-average pet owner’s review of my Miami Herald column so that I can improve these in the coming year, and... 2) I need to free up some time to finish up a few pressing writing projects I’ve been stressing out about.

To meet those goals in this, my busiest week of the year, I hope you’ll forgive me for offering up six Miami Herald articles in a row. Most deal in some of the more controversial topics we tackle. And that, at least, should help bring out your holiday spirit. ;-) Feel free to critique away. That’s the point, right?

Remember, however, that I have only 400 words to work with (and the Miami Herald has a way of editing me a bit, especially when it comes to titles). Keep that in mind as you marvel at the brevity (incompleteness?) of these pieces. Here's the first one, a timely one given California's recent declaw outlaw debates:

Considering declawing? Think again...

Q: I’m having a really rough time training my ten month-old kitten to leave my arms and legs alone when he plays. Between his teeth and his claws, I’m all scratched up. The worst part is that my elderly father (who takes blood thinners) is also getting injured during his play fights. I’m considering having him declawed but some people have said that it’s cruel and that it only makes cats use their teeth even more. Is this true?

A: The procedure we commonly refer to as a “declaw” is one an increasing number of veterinarians refuse to perform.

That’s because of a few facts you should consider:

#1 Declawing involves the removal of the first knuckle of a cat’s front limb digits. It’s effectively a multiple-amputation procedure. As such, it’s considered a painful surgery, much more so once a cat reaches physical maturity.

#2 Though the pain of this procedure can be mitigated through the use of effective pain control measures, there is no guarantee that all cats undergoing a declaw will receive them. Owners need to ask about these and understand that the fees for sophisticated pain control measures may be more than they expected to pay.

#3 In Europe, declawing cats is more likely to be considered on the same level as removing teeth for bite prevention. It’s deemed a “cosmetic” procedure because it’s done purely for the benefit of the owner and is of no no therapeutic value to the animal. Therefore, declawing cats is considered cruel and in many EU countries has been outlawed outright.

#4 Cats who have their claws removed are still more than capable of inflicting damage to a human or to furniture. And yes, anecdotally it’s reported that cats whose claws are removed defer more to their more dangerous teeth when defending themselves or exhibiting unwanted feline-on-human behaviors. But the extent to which cats may “compensate” with biting behaviors has not been well-researched.

#5 Alternatives exist to declawing: Adding in a conspecific playmate (to reduce normal play-fighting with humans), the early introduction of scratching posts, Soft Paws to cover the claws, etc. are all recommended in lieu of declawing.

#6 Cats can be trained to keep their claws controlled. The use of the word “no,” offering toys in place of human hands early on and water-spraying techniques to solidify the understanding that aggressive play is not acceptable behavior are all recommended.

Consider seeing your veterinarian, a trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for more specific information on your cat’s individual play-aggressive tendencies. They need not end in declaw.

Image: myllissa / via Flickr