Should you Declaw your Cat?

Picture of cat relaxing

If you own a cat, you understand the frustrations of shredded furniture. While you understand that scratching things is a positive experience for your cat, you’d really rather your furniture not bear the brunt of his good time. Declawing seemed like the perfect solution, but when you inquired about the possibility of booking this surgery at your vet, you were informed it is a service they no longer provide, and you were left with the feeling that declawing is a procedure that is not only painful but also cruel.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

The reasons why cats scratch are more complex than most people realize. In the past, cat owners have assumed that their cats had a penchant for destruction and attributed vengeance as high on their list of motives for their cat’s incessant attacks on their furniture.  However, the true reasons behind scratching are more varied.

Cats like to scratch things to:

  • Remove dead particles from their claws
  • To establish a territory as theirs
  • To help them limber up their muscles

While we view scratching as a nuisance behavior, it is easy to see that for our cats, it is much more than that. This instinctual activity begins as early as 8 weeks for our cats.

Is Declawing a Cat Wrong?

If you find yourself pondering the ethics behind declawing a cat, you’re not alone. It is a surgery veterinarians used to regularly perform without question. After all, it used to help keep cats in their homes, and in a day and age where there are more cats than there are homes, you would think that veterinarians would be on board with anything that helps to cut down on the homeless cat population.  However, there is much more to this most recent anti-declawing movement than that.

Research shows that cats that undergo declawing surgery experience emotional issues and behavioral setbacks. But more than this, the procedure itself is painful and has a lasting physical impact on the cat that goes far behind the actual surgery.

Cats who undergo this surgery often regress when it comes to previously well-established and desirable household behaviors. The most common complaint amongst owners of declawed cats is that their cats will no longer use their litter box with any regularity. Owners of declawed cats also report an increase in cat bites distributed to household members and visitors alike.

But the greater problem at hand are the physical problems a cat experiences after undergoing declawing surgery. Veterinarians object to this type of surgery for several reasons, and the lasting physical impact on the cat is but one of them. Declawing is a surgery that is unnecessary and that provides no benefit to the cat. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Because the integrity and structure of a cat’s foot is significantly altered as the result of declawing, cats who undergo the surgery experience pain when walking. This pain is best compared to the feeling humans undergo when wearing shoes that are slightly too tight or rub against their skin. Human beings can remove their shoes if they are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there is no relief for a declawed cat. He is doomed to suffer with this frustrating pain for the remainder of his life.

But the resulting problems from declawing do not stop there.  Other negative effects of declawing include:

  • Possible infections
  • Additional tissue death in the paw pads
  • Claw regrowth
  • Damage to the nerves in the surrounding tissue
  • Bone spurs
  • Continual pain
  • Inability to defend itself against predators
  • Early on set arthritis

When these lasting effects are weighted against the one positive—your intact furniture—it becomes clear that the risks and future negative impact on your cat are simply not worth its one benefit, particularly when that one benefit is only for your good.

How Do Veterinarians Declaw a Cat?

To truly comprehend if declawing your cat is ethical or not, it helps to understand the process. When a veterinarian declaws a cat, he makes use of a scalpel or a pair of nail clippers similar to the guillotine style some pet owners use to cut their dog or cat’s nails at home. Laser technology also makes the same surgery possible. However, declawing of cats is far more than simply a very deep and permanent nail trim. Declawing a cat involves amputation then a gluing and wrapping of the joint to allow for proper healing. When a cat is declawed, the surgeon essentially removes the last portion of the toe joint. For ease of comparison, it would be similar to your doctor removing your fingers from the knuckle up. If you imagine how this surgery would impact your future going forward, it is easier to understand why declawing a cat IS a moral and ethical issue and why veterinarians today are opting not to declaw unless there is a valid medical reason that is of benefit to the cat.

In 1998, a study was conducted by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  Its findings cited that a more recent procedure known as a tendonectomy which had been purported to have fewer lasting side effects on a declawed cat carried the same risks of blood loss, potential lameness, and later physical, emotional, and behavioral issues.

What Can You Do?

If your cat makes mincemeat out of your furniture, there are some things that you can do to reduce future damage.

Among the best options are:

  • Regular trimming of your cat’s nails
  • The addition of appropriate cat scratching posts throughout your home
  • Making use of Soft Paws, cat nail caps that are soft and allow for scratching but without destruction
  • Coating furniture with a sticky adhesive tape that discourages scratching

Is declawing unethical? It is an unnecessary procedure with zero benefit to your cat; in fact, your cat will suffer harm not good. To combat scratching behaviors, follow the tips in this article to see a reduction in your cat’s household destruction.  Your cat will thank you for it!



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