Why Declawing Cats is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea
We at Pawmetto Lifeline are firmly against the practice of declawing cats. We feel that it is a physically cruel and unnecessary procedure that often causes more problems for the cat that it supposedly solves. Some people wonder why we are so adamantly opposed to this procedure, so we wanted to take a few moments to explain what the procedure actually involves and the physical and emotional repercussions it can have for the cat, having been through it.
What Exactly Happens When a Cat is DECLAWED?
The surgery to declaw a cat doesn’t simply remove the tip of its claws (like removing a fingernail on a human). Declawing is MAJOR surgery, where the entire last bone of each toe is AMPUTATED. (If this were performed on humans, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.) The procedure is bad enough, but for cats, it gets worse because they have to walk or stand on the amputated ends of their paws throughout the entire recovery period. Even after the wounds from the surgery have healed, declawing changes a cat’s entire physical relationship to its body. After the claws are removed, the foot and leg meet the ground differently which can cause shoulder and back pain. There is also a much higher likelihood of nerve damage and abnormal bone growth at the site of the amputation.
Behavioral Issues AFTER Declawing
Many people think, “My cat is clawing inappropriately so having him declawed will solve the problem”. Unfortunately, declawing a cat can actually CAUSE more behavioral problems than it solves. Cats’ claws are a vital part of their anatomy that evolved to help them navigate the world around them as well as being an essential part of their sense of security. Although we may think their claws are primarily for defense; that is only one purpose. Cats use their claws to mark territory (not just from the actual scratches, but also from scent glands in their paws), to remove nail husks and debris from their paws and to stretch and exercise their muscles.
While the original scratching behavior will stop, declawed cats often react in more unpredictable ways to defend themselves and mark their territory, which can be worse for their humans. These behaviors often include biting, spraying (even in spayed/neutered cats), and inappropriate urination and defecation. In fact, many declawed cats that are here at Pawmetto Lifeline were surrendered because they refuse to use the litter box. Declawed cats can also often be emotionally unpredictable because they are confused by the loss of their claws or they over-compensate because they no longer have that tool. We have seen countless declawed cats who have been surrendered to us or one of the local municipal shelters because their behavior became unmanageable to the owners only AFTER they were declawed.
What can be done instead?
There are many alternatives to having a cat declawed!
• Because scratching is a normal part of a cat’s nature, provide many appropriate surfaces and toys for the cat to scratch on instead of your furniture! Examples include scratching posts, cardboard boxes, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Scratchers should be tall or long enough to allow the cat to stretch fully, and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching. Cats should be positively reinforced when they use these tools instead of the furniture or carpets!
• Claw clipping is also highly recommended and can be done by you at home! Clipping can be done every 1-3 weeks. Special claw trimmers are available at just about any pet store and you can find one that fits your hand and is easiest for you to use- that will make it easier to use on your cat. (Please note, some cats will accept this easier than others, but 2 people and some gentle restraint may be necessary for others!) The best way to do it is to wait until the cat comes to you (keep the clippers nearby) and is relaxed. Then gently massage the paw, squeezing gently on the middle paw pad until you see the tip of the claw protrude from the end of the cat’s paw. (If you regularly massage your cats paws like this when you are petting him, he’ll get used to this contact)Then quickly snip just the clear, sharp end of the claw off. Be sure to avoid going into the pink area, the “quick”, to avoid any nerves or the vein that runs through each claw. See these great tips from the ASPCA here, and watch this helpful video from a veterinarian as she demonstrates good technique.
• There are several products that you can get that will slip over the end of your cats claws to protect them from whatever surface they’re scratching on. One of the best known brands is Soft Paws (http://www.softpaws.com/). Their website and package insert provide detailed information about how it works and how to apply!
• Protect your furniture with products like Sticky Paws. Sticky Paws is a double-sided tape that comes in several sizes and lengths that you can apply where you don’t want your cats to scratch. Cats don’t like the feel of sticky tape on their paws so they won’t scratch where that is applied. This is best applied after you’ve provided lots of appropriate scratching surfaces for your cat to use instead!
Quite simply, declawing a cat is an unnecessary procedure that provides no benefit to the cat and should not be done. Informed owners can use any number of alternative techniques to prevent your cat from causing damage in your home, resulting in happier cats and humans!