Regarding the cat declawing: My parents have a darling little psychopathic cat, who I love dearly despite his tendency to play really violently. He was apparently being a little too psychopathic for their tastes, plus he decided the furniture was more fun than the scratching post, and in time they had his front claws removed.
They will never do it again. I will lobby intensely against it if I ever hear of a friend thinking about it. There is something just completely heart wrenching about looking at a cat obviously in pain, and not quite smart enough to realize his front claws are gone... or to have him sitting in your lap, months later, kneading away, and unable to get the feedback he wants.