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The Dangers of Declawing Your Cat: What You Need to Know

It is a mistake to believe that declawing your cat is a harmless "quick fix" for unwanted scratching. Declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to become a biter. Declawing can  also cause lasting physical problems for your cat, such as arthritis.

In many countries, declawing has been banned, and for good reason. The Humane Society of the United States highly opposes declawing except for the rare cases when it is necessary for emergency medical situations.

If you are worried about scratching, it is a situation of finding better alternatives than the dreaded declaw procedure. (See below)

Truth about cats and scratching

Scratching is a very normal cat behavior. It isn't done to destroy your favorite furniture or to get even with you. Cats scratch to remove the dead husks from their claws, mark territory, and to stretch.

Cats are usually about 8 weeks old when they start to scratch. We recommend using this time to train your kitten to use a Cat Scratching Tree or Condo. Paw~lease do not consider declawing your kitty to prevent the scratching behavior. Declawing can actually lead to an entirely different set of behavior problems that may be worse than shredding the furniture, carpet or rugs.

What is declawing?

Some people believe that declawing is a simple surgery that removes a cat's nails, or the equivalent of having your fingernails trimmed. Sadly, it is far worse than this!

Declawing involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like removing the ends of each finger at the last knuckle (let that sink in for a moment).

The standard method of declawing is amputating with a scalpel or guillotine clipper. The wounds are closed with stitches or surgical glue, and the feet are bandaged.

Another method is laser surgery, in which a small, intense beam of light cuts through tissue by heating and vaporizing it. This process is still the amputation of the last toe bone and has the same long-term risks of medical or behavioral issues.

A third procedure is the tendonectomy, in which the tendon that controls the claw in each toe is severed. The cat would keep their claws, but wouldn't be able to control them to scratch. This process is associated with a high risk of abnormally thick claw growth. Therefore, more frequent and challenging nail trims are required to prevent the cat's claws from snagging, or from growing into the cat's paw pads.

With a little patience, educated cat hoomans can easily train their cats to use their claws in a manner that allows everyone in the household to live together happily.

Some negative effects of declawing

Side effects to declawing include extreme pain in the paws, infections, tissue damage, and back issues. Removing a cat's claws changes the way their feet hit the ground, similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes. There can also be a mutant regrowth or bone spurs if claws were removed improperly. 

For several days after surgery, it is recommended to use shredded newspaper in the litter box to prevent litter from irritating declawed feet. This litter substitute, accompanied by pain while scratching in the box, may lead to your cat to stop using the litter box altogether. Some cats may even become biters, because they no longer have their claws for self defense.

Try our tips for stopping unwanted scratching

If you are worried about your cat damaging you or your home, or want to avoid unwanted scratching, start with these tips:

  • Keep cat claws trimmed to minimize damage to household items.
  • Provide stable scratching toys around your home. Try putting catnip or treats in areas to entice your cat to use the designated scratching areas. 
  • Ask our 24/7 veterinarians about soft plastic caps (like Soft Paws®) that are glued to the cat's nails. They need to be replaced about every six weeks.
  • Attach a special tape (like Sticky Paws®) to furniture to deter your cat from unwanted scratching. 

Don't subject your cat to unnecessary procedures

All in all, declawing should be reserved only for those rare cases in which a cat has a severe medical problem that would require this surgery via veterinarian, such as the need to remove cancerous nail bed tumors or a damaged claw beyond repair.