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Laser Declawing Cats

Updated on July 27, 2013

Laser Declawing Cats: It's Not As Benign As It Sounds

Laser declawing cats isn't as benign as it may sound. The laser can cause injury. And declawing by any method can have lifelong consequences for the cat's health and quality of life.

Paws come with claws for a reason. Taking them away can affect your cat's personality and can cause difficult-to-resolve behavior issues. It can also affect the cat's posture and her ability to balance when she lands after a jump. Some veterinarians believe declawed cats live with chronic, lifelong pain.

That said, if you're thinking about declawing your cat, here are some things to know about laser declaw surgery.

© Andrew Arestov |
© Andrew Arestov |

Before You Declaw

Declawing a Cat Can Have Unexpected Consequences

Declawing your cat may protect your furniture, but it can cause problems that are far worse than a shredded couch.

Litter Box Aversion: A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) says more than 15 percent of declawed cats stop using their litter boxes. Although no one knows why some declawed cats develop a litter box aversion, one theory suggests that digging in the litter box is painful immediately after declaw surgery, and some cats always associate the litter box with that pain.

Biting: The JAVMA study also found that nearly 18 percent of declawed cats either started to bite or bit more frequently after being declawing.

Loss of Balance: Without claws to provide a strong foothold and pinpoint contact on surfaces, many declawed cats have difficulty balancing in narrow spaces or regaining their balance after jumping, says veterinarian Christianne Schelling.

Arthritis: The altered gait of a declawed cat can put stress on leg joints and spine, leading to damage and arthritis, veterinarian Jean Hofve says on her website,

Chronic Pain: Veterinarian James Gaynor, a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists, told a 2005 North American Veterinary Conference "it is becoming more and more apparent" that many declawed cats suffer from chronic pain.

Laser Declawing Is More Than a Manicure

Declawing Involves Amputating The Top Digits Of The Cat's Toes

While laser declawing may cause less bleeding and postoperative pain, the end result of laser declawing cats or performing the surgery with a scalpel or guillotine clipper is the same. The veterinarian amputates the top digit of each of the cat's toes. Whatever method your veterinarian chooses, declawing a cat is far more than a "manicure." It's major surgery, and it will have a profound effect on the way your cat does things for the rest of her life.

The Dangers of Laser Declawing Cats

The Procedure Can Cause Severe Burns

Laser declawing generally takes longer than the scalpel and guillotine clipper methods, requiring the cats to be under anesthesia longer. There are always risks to anesthetizing a cat. Another risk of laser declawing is thermal necrosis or burns.

Veterinarian Wendy Brooks, education director for the website, warns that not all veterinarians receive adequate training in operating laser machines. "A laser is a sophisticated piece of medical equipment and there is a learning curve involved before it can be utilized perfectly," she says. Before allowing a veterinarian to laser declaw your cat, she suggests asking how many laser declaws the veterinarian has done and asking to visit a recovering patient in the hospital.

Since the equipment is expensive, Brooks adds, laser declawing usually costs more than other methods.

By User:Howcheng (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By User:Howcheng (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

How Laser Declawing Works

A Look At How Cats Are Declawed

Lasers generate intense heat at specific wavelengths. These wavelengths are selectively absorbed into the water found in skin and other soft tissue and vaporize the cells. The surgeon, or veterinarian, can achieve very precise results by controlling the extent to which the wavelength is absorbed by surrounding tissue.

A cat undergoing laser declaw surgery must be anesthetized. The veterinarian then amputates the last bone of each toe by using the laser’s small beam of intense light to cut through the tissue by heating and vaporizing it. As it cuts, the laser seals small blood vessels and nerve endings around the cuts, causing less bleeding and postoperative pain than the scalpel or guillotine clipper methods of declawing cats do.

Cats who have been laser declawed usually spend at least one night in the hospital.

Postoperative Care of Laser Declawed Cats

Newly Declawed Cats Need To Be Confined To Avoid Injury

Most veterinarians recommend replacing normal cat litter with shredded newspaper for the first few days after a cat has been laser declawed. Since exercise should be restricted, and the cat should not jump, it may need to be confined. Jumping off tabletops or counters may cause bleeding and pain.

A Veterinarian Discusses Declawing Cats

Cat Claws Deluxe Stand Up Scratcher
Cat Claws Deluxe Stand Up Scratcher

Alternatives to Declawing Cats

Saving Your Couch And Your Cats' Claws, Too

Scratching is natural for a cat, but that doesn't mean the cat has to shred your rugs and couch. If you provide a suitable alternative, the cat will leave your furniture and rugs alone. Most cats love tall, stable scratching posts, especially if the post is located at the entrance to the cat's favorite room. Most cats are also willing to use wide corrugated cardboard scratching pads. These, too, should be placed near the entrances to rooms the cat uses often. Other scratching materials cats enjoy include cardboard cartons, thick pieces of wood and doormats.

To protect young children and elderly people from cat scratches, try Soft Paws. These plastic nail caps cover the cat's claws so it can scratch normally without doing any damage. Keeping your cat's nail trimmed protects furniture and people, too.

See How To Clip Your Cat's Claws

Let Your Cats Dig Into Some Great Scratchers

These are high-quality, durable scratchers that are sure to please your cat. You won't find scratchers this enticing and satisfying at the pet supply chain stores!

Molly and Friends Extra Large Handmade Carpet and Sisal Cat Scratcher, Model Scr-XL, Beige
Molly and Friends Extra Large Handmade Carpet and Sisal Cat Scratcher, Model Scr-XL, Beige

Molly and Friends makes wonderful cat furniture. This scratching post has a stable 19 inch by 19 inch base and is 33 inches tall, so even the biggest cat can get a good stretch.

Cradle Sisal Scratching Post Parts Color: Brown
Cradle Sisal Scratching Post Parts Color: Brown

Also from Molly and Friends, the sisal-covered post is 27 inches high. The cradle adds additional height for stretching and a great place for a nap.

Imperial Cat Grand Scratch 'n Pad Scratcher
Imperial Cat Grand Scratch 'n Pad Scratcher

This scratching pad is made by Cat Claws, known for its cat-pleasing scratchers. Made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, the honeycomb texture of the scratching pad mimics the feel of natural tree bark. And at 10 inches by 19 inches, it's large enough for a big cat to get a good stretch and then sprawl out on the pad for a nap.

Imperial Cat Scoop Scratch and Shape, Italian Green
Imperial Cat Scoop Scratch and Shape, Italian Green

Cats love to fit their bodies to the curved shape of this scratcher, also from Cat Claws. And at nine inches by 21 inches, it, too, is large enough for cats to stretch and nap. It comes with a bag of organic catnip.


Protecting You And Your Furniture From Cat Claws

Soft Claws for Cats - CLS (Cleat Lock System), Size Medium, Color Clear
Soft Claws for Cats - CLS (Cleat Lock System), Size Medium, Color Clear

These plastic nail caps are easy to put on and will protect you and your furniture from cat claws. Have you always wanted a cat with red claws? Here's your chance! Soft Claws come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Resco Deluxe Cat Nail Clippers Original Pet Nail Trimmer, Red
Resco Deluxe Cat Nail Clippers Original Pet Nail Trimmer, Red

This American-made nail trimmer has a small opening that fits perfectly around cat claws and an extra sharp cutting blade.


Scratch A Note Here - I Love Reading Your Comments And Suggestions

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have to say that I adopted 2 cats who were BOTH recently declawed (front paws only) and BOTH lived happy, healthy lives until I had to put them down at ages 21 and 23! NEVER did either one have any issues from the declawing and I truly believe they lived better because WE lived better not having to deal with the clawing and scratching of everything, including us! They were constantly held and pet and loved and when they started kneeding on us, WE LET THEM DO IT because it wasn't hurting either of us! They felt good doing it and we felt good having it done on us. When you AND your pets are happy, everyone wins.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      I have no patience for people who declaw their kitties; Bella Belle had had claws on all four (!) of her paws removed - and then they didn't keep her! Callie was allowed to keep her back claws, but the same story - we heard they were going to have her euthanized because they moved, and she became inconvenient.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      "Declawing" is a euphemism for amputation. More people needs to know this. I marvel that there are still veterinarians out there willing to perform this surgery. Thank you for this lens.

    • Hypersapien2 profile image

      Hypersapien2 5 years ago from U.S.

      Good info on declawing. Thanks.