Before deciding to declaw your cat, please read the information below and speak with your veterinarian about the effects that declawing can have on your cat.
Scratching is a natural innate behavior of cats. It serves to condition the claws and to mark territory with scent from the paws. Cats need their claws to climb, chase, hunt, and defend themselves. Providing scratching posts and keeping a cat's claws trimmed can help prevent damage to furniture.
Declawing is a painful operation, not a simple manicure and provides no medical benefit to the cat. It involves the surgical removal or amputation of the entire last digit of each toe. It is comparable to the removal of human fingertips to the first knuckle. Sensory and motor nerves are cut, damaged, and destroyed even without surgical complications. Although the paws appear to heal well, recovery is a slow and painful process with a wooden lack of feeling, then a tingling sensation. Cats often avoid using the litter box after surgery due to the pain.
Cats are digitigrade (they walk on their toes) and declawing can hamper the sensations and enjoyment that a cat experiences when walking, running, sprinting, climbing, and stretching. Numerous studies have confirmed that cats can suffer physiological damage when their natural defense system is removed. Stress in cats can cause health and behavioral problems and many declawed cats are surrendered to animal protection agencies due to these problems.
Declawed cats often exhibit one or more of the following problems:
- Avoidance of the litterbox
- Unprovoked biting
- Impaired balance and agility
- Extreme timidity, especially when strangers or other animals are present
- Lack of playful activity which can lead to obesity in later life.
Once cats have been declawed, they must be kept indoors for the rest of their lives. A declawed cat that is let outside is a target for any dog, cat, or other creature. They cannot defend themselves or even climb a tree to escape danger. If you are adamant in your preference to have a cat declawed, consider adopting a shelter cat already declawed that needs a good home.
Cats are wonderful creatures and are a great pleasure to have around the house. They provide hours of entertainment and are a source of relaxation when you need some quiet time to unwind. Cats can easily be trained not to scratch the furniture and other items in your home. Provide at least one, or better yet, several scratching posts for your kitten as soon as possible. Try to get the posts covered with a material of a different texture than your upholstery, so the kitten doesn’t get confused about which object is OK to scratch and which isn’t. (A wooden post wound tightly with heavy sisal rope [they do not like nylon or plastic] makes a good scratching post.) Encourage and praise the kitten when it uses the post; squirt your kittens with a spray bottle of water when they uses something you do not want scratched as a deterrent; begin clipping your kitten’s nails each month as needed (your veterinarian can show you how). They will get used to having this done and it will be an easy task even when your kitten has grown into an adult.
For more information on declawing, see these sites:
- The State of Declawing Today
- A Veterinarian's View
- The Tragedy of Post-Declaw Pain Syndrome
- The Paw Project
- Alternatives to Declawing
“With the qualities of cleanliness, affection, patience, dignity and courage that cats have, how many of us, I ask you, would be capable of becoming cats?”