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Pros and Cons of Declawing Your Indoor House Cat

Updated on March 23, 2020
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Loves to share her views on issues that everybody should be aware of.

From 6  months onwards people declaw kittens.
From 6 months onwards people declaw kittens. | Source

Declawing is a procedure that cat owners get done for a number of reasons. It could be because their cat is continuously destroying the household furniture. It might be a preventative measure to stop themselves and others from getting scratched by the cat or it could be for medical reasons, the cat might have a tumour or infection under the claw.

Whatever the reason behind it, this procedure which is requested by some pet owners prior to adopting a cat is something that many veterinarians are hesitant to perform for personal or legal reasons. There are many ongoing debates by each side about the positive and negative impact of declawing.

While some countries have bans in place against declawing cats, other countries are still undecided what stance to take and it seems it might be something people will debate about for the next few years.

A study carried out in 2017 by The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that compared to non-declawed cats, the chances of back pain, aggression and barbering which is excessive licking of the hair along the back was 3 times higher in declawed cats.

Diagram of How a Cat is Declawed

Diagram of how a cat is declawed.
Diagram of how a cat is declawed. | Source

How is a Cat Declawed

The procedure involves separating the third phalanx bone from the joint of each cat paw. This procedure is referred to as disarticulation.

There are three methods a veterinarian could use to declaw a cat.

  1. Laser
  2. Scalpel
  3. Guillotine

A laser onychectomy is performed with a laser using the disarticulation method.

A scalpel onychectomy is performed with a scalpel blade again also using the disarticulation method.

But a tendonectomy which is a much more extreme form of declawing involves a guillotine. This procedure which is similar to amputation, involved severing the tendon of the paw that controls the claws actions. Severing this tendon means that the cats claw is no longer useable.

Is Cat Declawing Illegal

Cat declawing is still legal in many parts of the United States and Canada. However in Europe, cat declawing is illegal. Some Canadian provinces like Newfoundland, Labrador, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia as well as Manitoba have now all banned cat declawing. It is also banned in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. It is illegal in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil.

In June of 2019 a bill put forward by Linda Rosenthal which for many years was opposed by many would request to see declawing of cats banned in New York as well as a $1000 fine for those who performed the procedure.

In July 2019, the bill passed by State Legislators was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo making it illegal in New York to declaw cats.

Is Declawing Common

A study done on cat declawing (feline onychectomy) in 2016 by The Canadian Veterinary Journal carried out a survey of 500 respondents and found that 75.8% reported performing onychectomy. Over a monthly period the procedure was performed 60.1% times with 73.3% confirming that they do the procedure only after other recommendations were unsuccessful.

Cat using claws to climb fence.
Cat using claws to climb fence. | Source

Pros for Declawing your Cat

  • Many cat owners declaw their cat to increase the quality of the owner-cat relationship.
  • Many cat owners use this procedure to ensure that when their children are playing with the cat that there is no chance of them getting scratched. Having the cat declawed will protect the child from getting clawed by the cat.
  • Another reason is to stop the spread of Cat Scratch disease.
  • For medical reasons like a claw is infected.
  • Also sometimes if a pet owner is ill or has a disease that makes them vulnerable to getting ill, then getting scratched by a cat could endanger their health.
  • Some people prefer to declaw their cat to avoid things getting damaged in their home.

Cons Against Declawing your Cat

  • Acute pain can be the result of a declawing procedure done incorrectly. It isn’t very common, but there is always the chance that something could go wrong later on.
  • The cat will be in pain for a period of time until they recover from the operation.
  • Indoor cats can find it difficult to cover what they have done in their litter tray if this procedure is not done correctly.
  • It is mostly a cosmetic procedure as outdoor cats need their claws to hunt and protect themselves from other predators.

How to Stop Your Cat from Scratching Things

If you want your cat to stop destroying your home then there are some products you could invest in to keep them occupied especially if they are an indoor cat. Most cats will use a scratching post if it is in the house. Older cats might be a bit hesitant at first so you might have to persuade them to use it. Try to get kittens used to a scratching post or activity tower early on to stop them using your furniture.

Cat Scratching Post

There are many varieties of scratching posts. Depending on what you want to spend, there should be something within your price range. If you are starting off with a kitten, then you can get a scratching post on a stand. Some also have a seat on the top. This type of scratching post will have natural sisal (type of rope) wrapped around the post. Some scratching posts will also have a toy attached to the top of the pole by a string. Some cats will love the toy, others won't. If you have a grown cat they might find this entertaining, and will use this instead of your furniture to sharpen their claws.

Cat Scratching Mat

These mats are great because depending on the version you get, your cat will find it very entertaining. They can lie along the side of the mat or jump on top of the mat. If you can find a scratching mat that has holes on the side of the box along with toy balls inside with bells then even better as cats will love sticking in their paws in the small holes to try and pull the balls out. These scratching mats are made of strong cardboard and are strong enough to withstand constant use but they will have to be replaced if used on a regular basis.

Cat Activity Tower

There are similar to a scratching post but on a larger scale. They have towers, a few seats, and two or three posts that are wrapped with sisal rope which cats can grip when stretching. They can use the post to sharpen their claws and when they want to scrape at something. If you have more than one cat, these can be a great way for cats to entertain themselves and encourage them to become more active.

In 2016 The American Veterinary Medical Association wrote an article titled 'The Welfare Implications of Declawing of Domestic Cats'. They outline that the main medical concerns post-surgery can be haemorrhaging, paralysis, distal limb ischemia, claw regrowth, wound dehiscence and disease.

Cats playing with each other.
Cats playing with each other. | Source

Is it Dangerous if a Cat Scratches you

Cat scratch disease otherwise known as Bartonella henselae infection, is a disease that is spread to humans from a cat scratch, as well as from a cat bite.

Humans can catch this virus which originates from fleas but only from a cat that is carrying the virus. If you are severely scratched by a cat carrying the virus then there is an increased chance of you catching the virus. It usually takes two weeks for the symptoms of the virus to appear. A lump appears in the area which is accompanied by exhaustion, fever and headache.

The flea droppings are what give rise to the virus and when an infected cat that is severely infected with fleas get irritated with them, he/she will scratch the area of their skin where the fleas are. They will then pick up the flea droppings that in turn get embedded under their claws.

How to Stop the Spread of Cat Scratch Disease

  • Make sure you give your cat a course of flea treatment every three months. If you have an outdoor cat or live in the country, this is necessary.
  • From the time you get your cat, try to get into the habit of cleaning under their claws regularly to remove any dirt or clay.
  • Bring your cat to the vet for annual health checks.
  • Regularly check your cats coat for fleas or even ticks.
  • If you have an indoor cat the chances of them getting fleas is reduced but you could accidentally bring fleas into your home from outside. If you are in a house with untreated cats they could pass fleas onto your clothes.
  • While socializing you cat with other cats is great, one risk associated with this is that you don’t know if other pet owners are as diligent with their cats health as you.
  • Always wash your hands after petting or playing with your pet.

Test for Cat Scratch Disease

If you are unsure whether you have this disease you can get tested. The US National Library of Medicine explains that the test involved carrying out an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunoassay) blood test which tests your blood for antigens which are harmful substances found in the blood.

Give your cats toys to stop them getting bored.
Give your cats toys to stop them getting bored. | Source

In January 2020, at the American Veterinary Medical Association, 84% voted in favour of the decision on declawing being with the veterinarians themselves.

Things you Should Consider before Declawing your Cat

If your cat is constantly scratching at people and objects in your home you need to think about why it is behaving in such a manner. It might be bored or maybe someone visiting you or someone living in your home is hassling the cat. Scratching is one way that a cats defends itself.

Sometimes adopted cats need time to feel secure in their new surroundings. Also cats who are not getting enough attention from its owner will attack or paw the owner to demand attention.

Indoor Cat

If you have an indoor cat, then you most likely will have an active cat with lots of energy to burn. Give your cat a toy, build a cattery, or buy a cat activity centre which allows them to do something during the day. Cats like going outside, so try to do things outside with your cat and if you are worried about your cat running away from you, then invest in a cat lead that gives you peace of mind.

Anxious Cat

If you have a rescued cat that you have adopted from a pet shelter, then you need to understand that it takes a while for a cat to feel a hundred percent secure in its new surroundings.

There are all these new people, new smells and other cats or dogs in this massive house that they have never been in before. So try to look at this environment from their level and try to adapt your attitude to understand that their behaviour is coming from a place of insecurity. Try to be patient and understand the changes that they are going through.

Bored Cat

Cats can get bored very easily. Try giving them toys or object to help keep them occupied. Give them a toy mouse or a toy ball that makes noise and they will use this to keep themselves entertained. You need to give your cat something to keep it distracted and get it to focus on this because then they won’t spend half their day being naughty.

Also sometimes your cat just wants you to pet them and acknowledge that you know they are there. By nature cats are predators so giving cats toys that squeak and ones that they can throw around the room and pounce on.

Conclusion

Declawing is a personal choice and each person will have an opinion on whether they approve of it or not. Sometime in the future it could be that declawing is banned altogether and that a medical reason will be required by your veterinarian as to why you want this procedure performed.

Most cat owners know that cats only scratch you when provoked. If a cat is sleeping and you start to annoy it, then of course it will attack you. As for damaging furniture, you need to stop this behaviour from day one.

One solution is to ban them from that area of the house. If your cat is an indoor cat that has full access to all the rooms, this might be more difficult. That is why you need to try to distract, train and reward them from good behaviour.

Most animals grow out of bad behaviour especially if corrected each time they misbehave.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sp Greaney

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