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Why Shouldn't You Declaw Your Cat?

Updated on March 30, 2016

What Is Declawing?

Every cat owner knows the frustration of having your new sofa or carpet ripped up by kitty claws. Of course we adore out beloved feline friends but our cat's desire to scratch can make us want to rip our hair out. When cat owners hear they can declaw their cats they often think that it's the prefect solution. Although it sounds good in theory there are a few things you should know before you rush your cat to the vet to have its claws taken off.

The first thing you must know is what declawing actually entails. Many people wrongly think that the claw is just pulled out and that's the end of it but that isn't the case. The last bone in your cat's toes also has to be amputated which is painful and risky. There are two main ways that vets declaw your cat; one is done using a scalpel, the other a is done using a laser. Having your cat declawed would be like removing the tips of your fingers.

This picture shows where the bone is amputated
This picture shows where the bone is amputated | Source

Risks Of Declawing

There are a lot of risks associated with declawing. People believe that it is a "quick fix" to scratching but removing the claws often cause more problems.

  • Pain for your cat: After surgery cats are in a lot of pain. Obviously there is a lot of inflammation around the area but your cat will still have to walk, jump, and dig in their litter box with those inflamed paws. Cat's will often have lingering pain even long after they've recovered from their surgery.
  • Infection: As with any surgery there is a risk for infection. Declawed cats have a high risk of infection after surgery since they have to dig in the litter boxes and walk on their paws before they've fully healed.
  • Lameness: Since it often hurts the cats to walk in the way they are used to they begin to walk in a new way to try and lessen the pain. If the cat continues to walk in the wrong way then it may eventually lead to lameness.
  • Regrowth: Sometimes the claw can regrow if it isn't removed properly. This can lead to more pain, infection, and further invasion surgery for your cat.
  • Behavioural issues: There are several behavioural issues that can occur in your cat after declawing. These will be discussed more below.

Behavioural Issues Related To Declawing

Declawing can cause more troubling behavioural issues than the scratching you are trying to prevent. First you must try to understand why your cat is scratching. They aren't doing it simply to annoy you but because of instinct. Our domestic moggies are very similar to their big cat ancestors which means that the hunting instinct is still very much alive in them; their claws are essential to that so in their minds, they have to be kept nice and sharp. To a cat, claws are the first line of defence and the first thing used when "hunting" something.

Now you know a little more about why a cat scratches you might understand why they seem to love scratching that favourite chair of yours. Cats that are declawed often become biters. If a cat can no longer use their claws to defend themselves then obviously they will use their teeth instead. This can lead to injury for you and hurt the relationship you have with your cat. Perhaps the most challenging behavioural issue is the fact that many declawed cats stop using the litter box. While a cat is recovering from being declawed they can't use regular cat litter due to the risk of infection and the pain of digging through small pieces of litter. Newspaper is often used instead but as we all know cats are finicky creatures, they will often refuse to use the litter box because it is different and this creates a habit of going outside the box. They also sometimes find it painful to dig even after they've recovered from the surgery, because of this they will sometimes go right outside the litter box instead of in it to prevent the pain.

Since no one likes to clean up accidents or have a cat that bites, declawing your cat will probably cause you to have to deal with more problems than you did before.

Claw Caps

Claw caps can come in many different colours so your cat can look cute while being unable to destroy your belongings
Claw caps can come in many different colours so your cat can look cute while being unable to destroy your belongings | Source

Alternatives To Declawing

Although it may seem as though declawing is the only option to stop your cat from scratching there are several alternatives to this risky surgery.

  • Teaching your cat where to scratch: Since you'll never be able to stop your cat from scratching completely a good thing to do is teach your cat where they can scratch. So before you yell at Fluffy for scratching the sofa, make sure that he has plenty of things he can scratch. It is important to have multiple scratching posts all around your house. Sprinkle the posts with catnip so your cat is attracted to them; every time they try to scratch something they shouldn't pick them up and place them at the scratching post. It may take some time but your cat will eventually learn.
  • Regular claw trims: Trimming your cats claws will stop them from getting too sharp which will stop them from doing as much damage. Although some cats may protest at having their claws cut in the beginning if you try to make the experience a positive one by giving them something they like, such as treats, they will soon learn to deal with it.
  • Using claw caps like SoftPaws: There are small caps available that you can put on your cats claws. They are normally put on with a non toxic glue and remain on their claws for a couple of weeks until the claw grows enough to push them off. They make the claw blunt so they can't do any damage but the cat can still use their claws as normal. They do not harm the cat in any way and are fairly easy to put on once you've got the hang of it. They are also cheap and can be bought at many pet stores and online.

These are the main alternatives to declawing but talk to your vet to figure out what is best for both you and your cat. Doing all these things is the best way to get good results.

What Do People Like To Use?

What is your favourite alternative to declawing?

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Trimming Your Cat's Claws

Keeping your cat's claws trimmed is important for their comfort and the safety of your furniture. Unfortunately for us many cats really don't like having their claws cut. A lot of owners will put off claw trimming because their cat makes such a fuss. Luckily there are ways to make it easier for both you and your cat.

  • Make it a positive experience: Every time you cut your cats claws make sure that you give them some kind of reward straight away. Have a handful of treats ready for when you are finished or give them lots of attention. Whatever your cat enjoys, give it to them as soon as you have finished cutting their claws; hopefully they will begin to associate having their claws cut with something positive.
  • Distraction: If your cat is easily distracted then doing something to get their attention off their claws can make it easier for you to cut them.
  • Get a cat muzzle: If your cat really kicks up a fuss and starts to bite then there are special cat muzzles that you can buy. You can get ones that just keep their mouth closed and others that also cover their eyes to help keep them still. Remember to take the muzzle off as soon as you are done and give your cat something that they enjoy to placate them.
  • Take them to a vet or groomer: If you really struggle and can't get your cat to corporate when you try to cut their claws then you can always take your cat to a vet or groomer. Many groomers offer very reasonable rates for cutting your cats claws and also gives you piece of mind that you won't inadvertently hurt your cat. Some pet stores also do free nail trimming for cats.

Here's a Short Video Showing How To Trim Your Cat's Claws

Alternative to declawing
Teaching your cat where to scratch
Allows your cat to fulfil the instinct to scratch, doesn't do anything unnatural to your cat
Your cat may still do damage to your furniture
Regular claw trims
Doesn't harm your cat in any way, keeps the nail blunt and short
Has to be done fairly frequently
Claw caps
Stops your cat from being able to do any damage, still allows full use of their claws
Can be tricky to put on, sometimes will fall off very quickly

If Declawing Is So Bad Why Is It Legal?

Many countries- such as the UK, France, Germany, Brazil, and New Zealand- have actually outlawed declawing because it is considered inhumane. Even some states in America have made it illegal. Despite the overwhelming evidence that declawing does more harm than good, there are still states that declawing is legal. The reason for this could simply be pure greed. It can cost $300 per paw to have your cat declawed. That's nearly $1,200 to remove all your cat's claws, plus any extra costs that the vet may charge. I would love to be able to say that people only become vets because they genuinely want to help animals but we all know that isn't the case. While the majority of vets only want to do the best for animals, there are some who do it for the money. Those vets will be more than happy to empty your wallet for any reason, even if it will hurt your cat.

There are groups such as The Paw Project who are working to make declawing illegal. I recommend watching the documentary The Paw Project which will show you more about the after effects of having your cat declawed.

A Happy Cat Is A Cat That Can Scratch

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Don't Declaw Your Cat

So now you know a little bit more about declawing, and you know some alternatives that you can do. There is no need to remove your cats claws, you wouldn't remove a dogs teeth because they chew would you? Declawing your cat puts them in unnecessary agony. Don't condemn your cat to a life full of pain just because you don't want them to scratch. Instead try to understand your cat and work with them to come to a solution that leaves you both happy.

The sources that I used to get my info from are:


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      Ryan William D 20 months ago

      Very helpful thank you!!