If you’re reading this, you might be considering having your cat declawed. Our recommendation? Don’t do it! Get a cat scratching post instead.
You probably have your reasons for wanting your cat declawed: you have a small child and your cat’s scratching is too violent, your favorite leather armchair has been ripped to shreds, or you have an illness that makes you particularly susceptible to diseases that could enter your bloodstream should you get a cut from your cat’s claws.
Declawing, then, might seem like an attractive option. But before you make a call to your vet, here’s a long list of reasons to reconsider.
Declawing = Amputation
Declawing a cat is like cutting off your fingertips down to the first knuckle: Ouch.
According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman in his book, The Cat Who Cried for Help, “Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint and dismember all apply to this surgery.”
The Procedure and Recovery Are Painful
Because of the severity of the surgery, cats may feel phantom pain once the procedure is complete. And if the surgery isn’t done well, it can cause the nails regrowing inside the paw, which is extremely painful for your cat.
Even if it’s a perfect procedure, your cat will need to relearn to walk — you just had his toes removed. The new gait cats acquire from the amputation can lead to other problems down the road, such as arthritis and joint deterioration. It can negatively affect your cat’s balance, and lead him to favor or overuse certain muscles that can cause future problems.
Clawing is Natural Cat Behavior
You can’t stop cat scratching. I promise. No amount of cat training will do. Trying to get a cat not to scratch is like trying to stop the sun from rising: it’s out of human control.
Cats claw in order to:
- Mark their territory: Not only do they leave visual scratches, but their scent rubs off their paws
- Groom: Clawing helps trim down their nails
- Exercise: By digging their paws into something sturdy, they can stretch out their whole bodies at once.
Almost No One Recommends It
The American Veterinary Medical Association, The Humane Society of the United States and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all think declawing is a bad idea in most circumstances. (And, just throwing it out there, many other countries like the United Kingdom and Australia have all but banned the procedure.)
- “Onychectomy is an amputation and should be regarded as a major surgery. The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian. Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents an above normal health risk for its owner(s).” — AVMA
- “The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing except for the rare cases when it is necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.” — The Humane Society
- “The only circumstances in which the procedure should be considered are those in which all behavioral and environmental alternatives have been fully explored, have proven to be ineffective, and the cat is at grave risk of euthanasia.” — ASPCA
Declawing Leaves Cats Defenseless
If your cat has even the smallest chance of getting outside, declawing him is practically a death sentence.
Think about it: a cat without claws can only rely on biting to ward off predators (or other cats), and that requires being in much closer contact than swatting his paws.
Even if your cat is always inside, declawing can leave him feeling defenseless. Which leads us to the final reason to avoid declawing…
Your Cat Might Act Out
Although there’s not definitive scientific proof, many owners of declawed cats have shared stories of their cats becoming more aggressive, rather than less so, after the procedure.
Some cats feel vulnerable and turn to biting to prove their dominance, and others feel they can no longer mark their territory and will turn to using your entire home as their litter box.
In short, if you are using declawing as a behavioral modification tool, it could seriously backfire.
So What Can I Do? How Do I Keep Cats From Scratching Furniture?
First, make sure your cat has a designated area where she is allowed to scratch.
If you don’t want her tearing up grandma’s parlor sofa, then invest in a high-quality scratching post or cat scratching carpet and place it near your cat’s favorite clawing locales. It’s futile to try and get your cat to stop scratching altogether, so cat scratchers give them a spot to safely expend energy.
Next, trim her nails. It’s not easy (you might need to ask a friend to help you), but if done every week or so, it can keep her claws from hurting as badly if or when she scratches you.
Tape off your furniture. Chances are if you are considering declawing that your cat has a few choice spots she’s torn to shreds. Cover these in masking tape, or special double-sided tape, to discourage your cat from returning to her old favorites.
Finally, you might want to try Soft Paws for your indoor cat. These nail covers keep your kitty intact, while still reducing her ability to destroy your furniture or scrape up your face.
There Are Better Options: Keep Your Kitty Intact
So before you consider declawing kittens (or their older siblings), think about all the negative side effects for both you and your cat. Scratching posts for cats, those pretty SoftPaw nail covers and double-sided tape can work wonders for your furniture, all while treating your felines with dignity and respect.
Amputation is never the answer.