What Is Declawing?
Declawing your cat implies that the declawing procedure only involves removing claws.
Declawing of cats, is actually far more than removing the claws, as the name may suggest. When a cat is declawed, it is amputation of the claw and surrounding bone.
To compare declawing in cats in human terms, it is the equivalent of amputation at the first knuckle.
Declawing a cat (onychectomy), is a topic that is always controversial, emotionally charged and with differing opinions.
Declawing of cats is the amputation of the last digital bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each front toe. If the surgery is performed correctly and the entire nail bed is removed, the claw will not regrow.
The surgery involves the risk of anaesthesia, excessive bleeding and postoperative complications, including infection, and is accompanied by pain that may last from several days to much longer unless appropriate pain control is provided.
Why Are Cats Declawed?
The practice of cat declawing is a medical procedure carried out by a veterinarian in a veterinary hospital.
It is a highly contentious issue and is not common practice or even legal, unless necessary for the health of the cat, in most parts of the world.
This article from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals outlines their position statement on declawing cats.
Often a declawed cat will end up in an animal shelter because cats that have been declawed frequently develop feline behavior problems including using a litter box. Declawed cats have litter box problems because the declawing procedure can cause pain in their paws, making it uncomfortable for them to dig in the litter.
Cats that have been declawed may develop an aversion to the litter box due to negative associations with the pain they experienced after the surgery. It is also difficult to find a litter for cats that have been through the declawing process, to enable them get enough traction to dig in the litter.
This is a sad situation, but I applaud anyone who decides to adopt one of these abandoned cats.
Whatever we might personally think of the procedure, it is most important that we treat all of our kitties with the care and love they need.
Problems After Declawing
This is a list of issues that can arise after a cat is declawed. It doesn’t mean that all declawed cats will have these problems, but this may highlight issues that you hadn’t considered previously.
- A declawed cat may bite more often and become aggressive because they have lost their main line of defense. This can make them feel vulnerable and insecure and can cause anxiety and stress. This may lead to behavioral issues in declawed cats such as biting and aggression.
As the cat can no longer use scratching as a natural way to mark territory, they may become more territorial and possessive of their space, which can also contribute to aggressive behavior.
- Often, a cat that has been declawed will have bowed front legs and is not able to walk properly because their paws have been amputated.
Declawed cats bear weight differently to cats that have not been declawed. This is because the digits help support body weight. When some of the digits are removed this will cause gait problems.
- Outside cats that have been declawed, have no defense. They are not able to protect themselves by climbing to a higher vantage point, which is usually what cats under attack will do.
Declawing lessens the cat’s ability to climb a tree. They cannot defend themselves in the same manner as a cat with claws intact.
- Some landlords insist that a cat be declawed before leasing a property because they believe it will reduce property damage caused by the cat’s scratching behavior.
However, this is a misconception, as declawed cats may still scratch and cause damage, and may also have litter box problems, which can cause additional damage to floors and carpets. Fortunately people are becoming educated about the negative issues that surround a cat being declawed for non medical reasons.
- The elective procedure of declawing a cat, does pose unnecessary health risks. Sedation always carries a risk of death. There is always post operative pain. This is distressing as we know how good cats are at covering their pain.
- There is a risk of infections and complications after surgery. This can cause more pain and distress for the cat. If you have a rescue cat that has already been declawed this article discusses the best litter for declawed cats. Shredded newspaper litter is safe for use after surgery and for ongoing use.
- A cat cannot scratch an itch with the front paws once it has been declawed. This is a most regrettable situation for the cat.
- Have you ever seen a cat use its claws to get stability when climbing a tree, walking along a fence or when they land from jumping? A declawed cat is not able to do this.
- Declawing may also affect the cat’s ability to grasp toys. In time all of these natural actions which have been denied will affect upper body musculature and overall physical health. This can lead to chronic pain and arthritis, which can further impact the cat’s quality of life.
- Declawed cats may develop adverse behavior such as overeating.
FAQ – Declawing A Cat
Is It Really Cruel To Declaw A Cat?
It is cruel to declaw a cat. Without claws, the cat no longer has any natural defense mechanism. The operation to declaw a cat is not without risk.
Declawing a cat should never be carried out purely for the convenience of the owner. Declawing is sometimes a necessary procedure for medical reasons.
Is Declawing A Cat Painful?
Declawing is painful for the cat. Cats hide their chronic pain very well, as part of survival in the animal world. Any post operative infections will cause further pain
Using a litter box can be problematic for declawed cats because the litter may be hard on their sensitive paws.
Can Declawing Change A Cat’s Personality?
Declawing a cat can make the cat aggressive as the cat’s means of defense have been removed.
A cat’s personality will often change and they will become “biters,” as this is now normal cat behavior and the only way they can protect themselves.
Can You Declaw An Adult Cat?
Adult cats can be declawed however they often take longer to recover as opposed to the operation being carried out in younger animals.
They may also become aggressive and not use the litter box because of pain or difficulty getting traction in the litter.
Sadly, these cats are often found at animal shelters as their owners can no longer cope with their destructive behavior.
Front Leg Claws And Rear Leg Claws
It is the front claws that do the damage when a cat is clawing at furniture. The image below shows how the claws of a cat are about to inflict damage.
Why Cats Need Their Claws
Cats need their claws to walk, run and to balance.
Cats love to jump to high places and they use their claws for traction, support and stability. That’s what claws are designed to do.
Cats use their claws when running up and down trees and to escape when needed.
Cats scratch when stretching. Scratching marks a cat’s territory. Cats claws need sharpening and scratching also helps to remove the worn outer claws exposing the new sharper claws.
What About Declawing An Indoor Cat?
Declawing an indoor cat is not an acceptable practice for all the reasons listed above.
If you already have a declawed cat, it is safer for the cat to be an indoor only cat as its defense mechanism, the cat’s claws, have been removed.
If allowed outside, the cat may not be able to escape a predator.
Declawed domestic cats must therefore always be indoor cats.
Health Issues With Declawing Cats
Declawing cats can cause health problems for the cat, for example the wound can become infected which then needs further veterinarian care.
Declawed cats can have problems with balance, walking and running. Declawing your cat leaves the cat unable to defend itself.
Declawed cats no longer have claws to help cover their eliminations.
Declawed cats often have litter box avoidance issues which leads to peeing and pooping anywhere and that can lead to abandonment.
Some veterinarians provide laser declawing in place of the more traditional surgical procedure.
Laser declawing is more expensive than traditional declawing and doesn’t make the procedure problem free. Some of the potential pitfalls of laser declawing.
Alternatives To Declawing Your Cat
One of the most effective alternatives is a vertical scratching post, which provides cats with a safe and appropriate place to scratch.
Regularly trimming a cat’s nails can help reduce the damage caused by scratching.
Finally, using a scratching post covered with carpet or sisal rope or sisal fabric is another great way to redirect a cat’s natural scratching behavior away from furniture and onto a more appropriate surface.