It doesn't sound like much when you consider it's a medical term. But turn it into a common phrase -- cat declawing -- and the meaning is much clearer.
Take it a step further and explain the process as cutting off the last bone of each toe on a cat's paws and the term becomes all too visual and painful-sounding.
The practice of declawing cats has become a hot topic among city leaders at city and county meetings. San Francisco and Berkeley recently passed ordinances banning the practice in all cases except for medical reasons. Violators could be fined or jailed.
Declawing is against the law in 20 countries, including most of Europe, Brazil, Japan and Israel. In the United States, Norfolk, Virginia and West Hollywood have cat declawing bans and Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank and Culver City may follow suit.
Experts say cats that have been declawed will avoid using the litter box because scratching in the litter is painful on their nubby paws. Also, since the claws are the cat's first defense, declawing robs the felines of protection.
Cats' claws also play an important role in their exercise as they grab onto a scratching post or tree trunk with their claws and stretch their limbs. The San Francisco SPCA lists a host of other important uses for cat claws.
There are other ways to protect people and property from those sharp little claws, such as nail covers.
It seems Tuesday's meeting helped sway at least one of the Marin supervisors. "I'm leaning very heavily toward going for it, given the cruelty issue," Supervisor Charles McGlashan told the Marin IJ. "It really is a heinous practice."
The California Veterinary Medical Association opposes such bans, saying the decision should be made between the owner and veterinarian. Spokesman Carl Singer says there are some cases where declawing is preferable to putting the animal down. The association also says elderly or disabled pet owners might not have the means to purchase nail covers or teach cats not to scratch. Parents might also choose to declaw an indoor cat to protect young children.
Here's a suggestion: Don't get a cat. Whether you are a cat lover or not, the practice of declawing is just plain mean.