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Is DeClawing A Cat Cruel?

Updated on November 20, 2014

Should Declawing A Cat Be Considered An Act Of Cruelty And Made Illegal In The US?

There is considerable debate raging over whether the practice of declawing cats should be made illegal. The US is one of only a couple of countries who still practice this procedure.

Is Declawing A Cat Cruel?

I am a longtime critter lover and pet owner. My degree is in Veterinary Technology and as such many years ago, I assisted in the surgical procedure of declawing cats. Of all of the operations I participated in during my time as a tech, this was by far the most gut wrenching procedure to witness

There are alternatives. I know with careful and patient training most cats can be trained to not scratch people or furniture. But I also know many cat owners who were successful with training some cats and not with others.

Is it okay to declaw when other options have been exhausted?

A friend recently adopted a would be barn kitten and declawed (and neutered) him before giving him to her elderly mother. Her mother is frail and cat scratches are dangerous because they can easily become infected. The cat would have most likely had a much shorter lifespan living outdoors as a barn cat. Should my friend have forgone the affection the two of them could give each other and not adopted the kitten because of the declawing?

Indeed with millions of unwanted cats I tend to think that even more cats would be turned out because of property destruction if declawing were cited as cruel and made illegal.

So What Do You Think?

Is it a small (albeit very painful) price to pay to live indoors, being well loved and well fed or is it just plain cruel no matter the reason?

Photo credit by Mona Majorowicz aka Wild Faces Gallery

Information About The Cat Declawing Procedure

According to wikipedia

Onychectomy, popularly known as declawing, is an operation to surgically remove an animal's claws by means of amputating of all or part of the distal phalanx, or end bones, of the animal's toes. It is performed most often on household cats, though occasionally on other animals such as circus lions or dancing bears. Because the claw develops from germinal tissue deep within the third phalanx, amputation of the bone is necessary to remove the claw. The terms "onychectomy... and "declawing" imply mere claw removal, but a more appropriate description would be phalangectomy, excision of toe bone.

Although common in North America, and Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and China, declawing is increasingly becoming unpopular and considered an act of animal cruelty in certain other regions (more...)

Photo of Bengal Cat by Mona Majorowicz
Photo of Bengal Cat by Mona Majorowicz

Reasons For Possible Declawing

Because sometimes it just needs to be done.

* If It's "The cat goes or the claws go" it should be done.

* People whose immune systems are suppressed or the elderly on blood thinners who can't be exposed to the bacteria on a cat's claws.

* Physical issue requiring toenail removal.

My Oliver as a kitten Photo by Mona Majorowicz
My Oliver as a kitten Photo by Mona Majorowicz

Alternatives To Declawing

* Trim Your Cats Toenails

* Get a good scratching post (or several.)

* Toenail caps

* Train your cats from day one as kittens

* Behavior modification through use of deterrents like odor or physical

Photo by Mona Majorowicz
Photo by Mona Majorowicz

Feral Cats: A Real Problem

I bring this issue into this conversation because I guarantee if declawing is made illegal the number of abandoned and stray cats will increase. Now I don't believe something should be made legal (or in this instance kept) just because of the potential outcome. But I do think it's necessary information to consider in order to make an informed decision.

According to the ASPCA

There are tens of millions of feral cats in the US. The ASPCA endorses the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program is an effective way for communities trying to control their wild cat populations. Studies have shown that simply destroying the cats is an ineffective way to manage the problem and borders on cruelty. For information regarding information and how you can get involved with a TNR program please visit the ASPCA website.

In the Midwest here most small towns have a huge problem with stray and feral cats. Two of my very good friends from two different small towns worked diligently with the city council and sheriff departments to set legislation to stop the trapping and killing of the stray animals. One friend was able to get them to do the trap-neuter-release program. The other was not. She has since moved because two of her cats were trapped and destroyed.

My hometown has been struggling with how to deal with all of the wild cats roaming the streets for several years. They are at the moment instigating a program which includes licensing and tagging pets so if they get trapped, they can be returned to their owners instead of being destroyed.

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Some Books To Help You Understand Cat Behavior and Training

Oliver as a kitten
Oliver as a kitten

And Finally, Here's What I Think

I am one of those people who rarely sees the world in black and white. I tend to see all the possible and potential shades of gray. I imagine for that reason and the fact that a good part of my life has been spent working in the animal industry I can understand both sides of this issue. But I don't think declawing is cruel. No more say than spaying which is also an invasive surgery with potential complications. Most people spay their pets for the convenience of it. Yes, of course no one wants any unwanted litters, but the truth is dealing with females in heat is a pain.

Indeed if declawing a cat is cruel so is the breeding of dogs and cats with genetic mutations (like pug faces or shar pei wrinkly skin) which often require surgery or medical attention throughout the animals life. Following this a step further, are then the people who own these animals cruel, because they perpetuate the breeding of these deformities through their purchasing of them? Yeah, okay this is not about those things this is about declawing a cat. But before one casts stones it is usually best to really look around at the house your standing in.

I have owned only two indoor cats and both have been declawed in the front. Both were gallery cats and thus the liability of them scratching patrons or inventory was too great not to. Oliver (who's baby picture this is) was devoted to me but in general had a fierce demeanor and really hated most people. He slapped everyone, which of course would have been scratched had he not been declawed. Surprisingly most of my customers loved him regardless of this treatment and was often gifted with toys and treats from his fans.

I found Oliver nearly dead as a kitten. He was starved and huddled half frozen abandoned in a ditch in late October, not yet weaned from his mother. I literally carried him around under my clothing for the first 24 hours. He was my furry child and I adored him. Knowing what I know, having assisted perform the operation countless times, I still had him declawed. There was no way he would have been able to be my gallery cat and live a life of love and luxury otherwise.

Please Share Your Thoughts

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    • JoleneBelmain profile image


      6 years ago

      I think like all medical procedures, it all depends on what the circumstances are, and you can never truly give an opinion to 1 question that will be good toward all situations. Great lens, gives a lot to think about.


    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      We declawed one of our cats because she suffered from an illness which caused her to scratch and bite herself till she bled. Declawing her probably gave her a few more years than she would otherwise have had. It was funny but she could still scale our 6 foot fence to escape the backyard.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      7 years ago

      So glad that Oliver survived.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for Great post. I really like this article.

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 

      7 years ago

      This is quite possibly the best MonkeyBrain lens I've seen. You presented both sides so artfully and fully. I enjoyed reading every word of it.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      Very well done, you've convinced me that the bigger picture often determines the necessity of declawing a cat. Squid angel blessed and featured on Blessed Pets.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've had many cats but haven't had any declawed. I didn't know there was so much controversy involved.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Very interesting debate and you provided some lots of great information. I don't think it should become illegal because each situation is different but I do think that there should be more information out there to make people aware of both sides of the argument so they can make an intelligent decision with their own cat.

    • RetroMom profile image


      7 years ago

      Most interesting question, I think if it is necessary you have to do it, but, can you find a different alternative first!

    • Lemming13 profile image


      7 years ago

      Good, balanced debate - but I'll always be anti-declawing. I had my pets spayed and neutered, not because of inconvenience but to ensure they would not be producing kittens which could wind up as strays; that procedure (which prolongs their lives and does not inhibit their normal activities apart from reproduction) is not comparable to declawing. Thumbs up for a good lens, though.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      Excellent debate topic! My daughter really agonized over the cruelty of declawing her cats. What she found when researching it, was that some vets recommend it, while others do not. It can be a really, really difficult decision.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You make wonderful points on both sides of the fence and I like that. If people have more information and more ideas, they can better make up their mind if they are not sure which way to go. Nicely done.

    • indigomoth profile image


      8 years ago from New Zealand

      A thoughtful, well balanced lens.

    • jolou profile image


      8 years ago

      I can understand getting it done. It does save furniture, and is much better when the cat jumps up on a lap! I need to get my cats nails clipped every few weeks because they grow so fast.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      8 years ago

      This is a good debate. Congratulations on your purple star!

    • pylemountain1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good debate and congratulations on your purple star. My daughter's cat's claws were removed at a very young age and a couple of days later he was back to his crazy normal self. And, his name is "Crazy". :-)

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 

      8 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Great debate!

    • KarenHC profile image


      8 years ago from U.S.

      This is a tough question -- although in general I think declawing a cat should be avoided, there are probably situations where declawing the cat is preferable over other outcomes.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting debate. I enjoyed reading both sides, although I don't really have an opinion as I have limited exposure to cats.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image


      8 years ago

      The problem with 'it depends on the owner' is... hey, does it depend on the owner if they feed it too? Put their dog in a pitfight or dock its tail? Just because the owner has the power to do something doesn't mean they should.

    • Shibamom LM profile image

      Shibamom LM 

      8 years ago

      Great debate you have here. It makes me ponder the practice of bobbing puppy tails, removing dew claws and clipping ears for our benefit. Surely those should be considered cruel also.

    • sheriangell profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent debate - it certainly is a complex one.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      Personally, I would be against declawing a cat. The cat is not to blame if the owner is frail, has small children or expensive furniture. However, I'm aware that an otherwise good home and loving owner is an important thing in a world where so many animals lack these. I appreciate hearing the case for the other side from someone who I know to be an animal lover.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well presented argument! Nice job.

    • Shibamom LM profile image

      Shibamom LM 

      8 years ago

      This is an excellent debate issue. It brings up the fact that we bob puppies tails, remove dew claws and take painful measures that their ears stand up for our pleasure. I believe we should consider that as cruel also. Great Monkeybrain.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Interesting Debate! I think it depends on the owner and if kitty will be staying indoors or not. In my opinion, I think it's just too cruel. ;(


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