Grog: I've had the pleasure of having cats in my life continuously since I was very young, with the exception of one stretch of a few years in the 2000s. I have declawed only one of my cats. At the time, she was an only cat, and I decided to do it basically to protect the furniture of all of my various friends and family members who were willing to take care of my kitty when I was traveling, which was a lot.
I regret having done it, for a number of reasons. I'm not going to say it ruined her life or anything, but it changed her personality in big and small ways, all of them for the worse. She went from being a confident and dynamic cat to a very anxious and needy one. Over time, her paws kind of collapsed in on themselves and she couldn't even stand comfortably for any length of time. It affected her ability to do things like jump up onto something tall, because she had so little control. Jumping down was worse, because it caused her pain, and that part never really went away. She couldn't grab and hold onto cat toys anymore, and I don't think she ever successfully captured a fly or moth again in her life. She was an indoor kitty, so I wasn't worried about whether she could defend herself, but, like many indoor cats, she got out a few times, and on one of those occasions she had a life-threatening encounter with my neighbor's very big, unleashed dog. For my cat's sake, I wished she could have at least had a weapon of her own that day.
My cat lived for many years and I was very sad when she died. A few years later, when I decided to adopt two kittens, I looked around at my nice furniture and my nice carpets, and I admit I wasn't loving the idea of things getting clawed up (or, for that matter, being shed on and puked on). But when I thought about my former cat, I could not imagine declawing again.
I would not presume to judge another person for making a different decision. But I will tell you the same thing I have told friends who have considered declawing (and have asked me for my opinion), which is that, to this day, I cannot think about this cat I loved for so many years without feeling primarily guilt, regret, and shame. To me, what I did was selfish and short-sighted. When I compare those feelings to the ones I have now with my two lovely, hilarious friends, the furniture just doesn't even cross my mind.