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Declawing a Cat: Should You Do It?

Updated on March 22, 2015
Maggie Bonham profile image

Maggie Bonham, or Margaret H. Bonham, is a multiple award-winning pet author and expert. She has written more than 20 books on pets.

What are the pros and cons of declawing a cat? Declawing has been banned in many countries as being inhumane; most animal welfare groups are against declawing. But some pet owners see declawing as the only way to be able to keep their cat. So, what is the right thing to do? Be sure to seek your vet's guidance and consider other alternatives to declawing before making the decision.

What's Involved When Declawing a Cat

Declawing is a major surgery. To remove the cats claws, a portion of each of the cat's toes must be removed along with the claw. Most veterinarians use a type of guillotine-like tool, which cuts through the toe joint at the first knuckle, thus removing the third toe bone. Right underneath that knuckle is a pad, some of which is removed as well. It is like cutting off the tips of your fingers. Occasionally you may find a vet who offers cosmetic declawing. This declawing takes out a smaller piece of the bone and spares the pad. It's a complex surgery, and is time-consuming to perform. Most vets are unable to perform this type of surgery.

Short-Term Complications Associated with Declawing

Most declawing procedures require that the cat stay at the veterinarian's for two days because it is such a major surgery. The veterinarian fills the wound with surgical glue and then bandages the feet. The next day, the bandages are removed. When the cat goes home, he will have trouble walking for several days to several weeks as he tries to adjust to walking without the tips of his toes. It's likely that you may see blood spotting from the toes for the first few days. You'll have to use shredded paper or newspaper litter for up to 10 days after the declawing as other types of litter can cause infections. Your cat will be a lot of pain for several days and you may have to give your cat medication to control it. There may be a change in your cat's posture in the way he holds his feet. Your cat may suffer from infections if his feet aren't kept clean. If the entire third bone isn't removed, there is the possibility of either nail regrowth or an infection.

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Behavioral Problems and Declawing

Studies are inconclusive that declawing causes behavioral problems. However, most trainers and humane organizations cite anecdotal evidence where cats refuse to use the litter box or increased biting due to their declawing. Because cats often associate pain with their environment, cats often associate the litter box with the pain from declawing. What's more, cats cannot defend themselves while outside. So you must make any declawed cat you have an indoor-only cat.

Benefits to Declawing

Obviously, one of the benefits is that your cat is unable to scratch furniture. He will still go through the scratching motions, but he will not be able to tear the furniture. If someone within your house is immune compromised, there's less chance of injury due to scratches. However, most infectious disease specialists don't recommend declawing because those with immunodeficiencies and bleeding disorders run a greater risk from cat litter, fleas, and bites. Most trainers, cat behaviorists, and veterinarians discourage declawing because there are many more humane solutions available to keeping a cat from destroying the furniture.


Alternatives to Declawing

There are many good alternatives to prevent your cat from clawing your furniture. The first is to trim your cat's nails. You can have your veterinarian make sure you know how to properly trim them. You can then apply a nail cover such a Soft Paws that will prevent your cat from digging his nails into things. You can also train your cat to scratch appropriate items such as cat scratchers. You can deter your cat scratching your couch or other furniture by using two-sided tape made for preventing cat scratching, such as Sticky Paws. By placing a cat scratcher next to the item do not want scratched, you can deter your cat from scratching an undesirable item and encourage him to accept substitute.


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    • Maggie Bonham profile image

      Maggie Bonham 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      True, but yes, it is a last resort. But honestly, most people are unwilling to do what I mentioned above and opt for the easy fix.

    • amanda5577 profile image

      Amanda 3 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Maggie. I simply meant as a last resort. So many cats end up in shelters for problems that aren't always able to be fixed, or one too many people may end up getting hurt, especially if the cat is aggressive towards people. I agree that everything possible should be done to correct medical or behavioral problems, but it's still an option if all else fails. Either that, or cats deemed too aggressive will face a chance of being put to sleep once surrendered to a shelter. Like I said, I am not a fan of declawing, but it is still important to look at opposing viewpoints especially in extenuating circumstances in which behavioral therapy and veterinary examinations, medications, diet changes, etc. fail.

    • Maggie Bonham profile image

      Maggie Bonham 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Hi Amanda!

      I honestly disagree with you. You can trim your cat's claws (get a towel and wrap the cat in it, if you're sure you're going to get blood drawn.) Declawing causes a cat to often resort to biting.

      Often aggression suggests an underlying health or behavior problem that needs correcting. When a cat becomes exceedingly aggressive, it's time for a step back and figure out why the cat is aggressive and use the money one would spend on declawing and come up with a way to fix the actual root of the aggression. Problem is people rely too often on the lazy and painful solution.

    • amanda5577 profile image

      Amanda 3 years ago from Michigan

      This is a very interesting post, and personally I am not a fan of declawing. However, after looking at this post objectively, it seems that the benefits of declawing mentioned are minimal in your article. Furniture can be replaced and isn't necessarily a good reason for having your cat declawed, especially since there are other methods to curbing this behavior. In addition, there is one plausible reason for declawing a cat. I knew a cat who would spontaneously attack other cats in the house. It's one thing to assert dominance and keep a hierarchy. However, when this behavior becomes too aggressive and causes tuffs of fur being torn out and deep scratches, it can become a dangerous situation. Declawing might be an option in this type of scenario. Just something to think about. Other than that, great post and thanks for sharing!

    • Maggie Bonham profile image

      Maggie Bonham 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Thanks for your insights! It helps to know that I'm right about moving the scratching posts. You might want to get a few just to keep her out of trouble.

    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 3 years ago from New Jersey

      We had our first two cats declawed, before we realized how bad it was for the cat. My current one has all her claws and she's gotten to some of the furniture, but she's stopped now that we've moved her scratching post.

    • Maggie Bonham profile image

      Maggie Bonham 3 years ago from Missoula, Montana

      Glad it was informative!

    • easefeeds profile image

      Ease Feeds 3 years ago from Cyperspace

      I really appreciate this instructive article. I had no idea what declawing cats consisted of before. I did have a sad experience in my neighborhood with a cat who was declawed when some pit bulls got out. I would surely think long and hard about declawing if there is a chance of the cat getting outside.