Last Update: April 14, 2020

Declawing Cats: Guide to Concerned Fur-Parents

Declawing Cats: Guide to Concerned Fur-Parents

Yes, cats are cute, cuddly, and loveable. But their scratches could also ruin elegant and pricey furniture pieces.

Perhaps your friends and relatives can testify that declawing cats is the solution. However, it’s not a secret that declawing is actually a painful process for your furry feline companions.

The good news is, there’s more to declawing than the traditional painful process.

In this post, you’ll discover ways to control your cat’s scratching and protect your furniture pieces without compromising your cute cat. The first step is to understand the behavior of cats and why they scratch in the first place.

Why Cats Scratch

Did you know that most cat owners complain about damaged drapes and furniture pieces due to their pet’s scratching? Scratching is natural for cats, and they usually do this on a vertical or horizontal surface.

Kitties scratch not because they’re being such a bad kitty. Instead, they scratch for three main reasons set their territories, get rid of their claw’s outer layer, and flex or stretch their body. Cats usually scratch just after rising from a nap. They also do it because they’re excited about something, perhaps a snack or you coming home.

Yes, the natural scratching behavior of cats might be annoying and (sometimes) destructive. But as a pet owner, understand that this is just part of your kitty’s normal behavior. Instead of totally discouraging the scratching, train the cats when and where to scrape.

Give them some acceptable objects or items to scratch, such as a scratching post. Although vets don’t recommend declawing, it’s an option many still choose.

What is Cat Declawing

Too often, many cat owners consider declawing merely as cutting or trimming nails. But it’s more than that and far more dangerous!

As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) defines it, declawing is amputation. It’s a surgery that removes the cat’s last digital bone. As the entire nail bed is also removed, the claw can’t regrow.

10 Interesting Facts About Cat Declawing

Also called onychectomy, surgical amputation of the claws of the cat has long been controversial. Although this move allows pet owners to save their drapes and furniture from unwanted scratching, many veterinarians often consider this operation as extremely harmful for the cat.

So before making a decision to have your feline friend undergo declawing surgery, take time to consider the following facts first:

1. Declawing alters the footing of the cat and can result in uncomfortable pain closely similar to wearing ill-fitting footwear.

2. Removing the cat’s claws weakens the muscles, diminishes its surefootedness, and makes it prone to injuries due to a fall.

3. Performing onychectomy makes cats powerless against the threats of other animals, considering that their claw is part of their defense and offense arsenal.

4. Declawing causes health emergencies and medical drawbacks for cats, such as tissue necrosis, infection, lameness, and paw pain.

5. Removing the claws also causes behavioral problems (e.g., avoiding the cat litter box, biting), making them even harder to handle.

6. Declawing is banned in the UK, Japan, Australia, and many European countries, although it’s still being widely done in the US. 

7. Carrying out onychectomy is usually for the convenience of cat owners, but the procedure is permitted if all other alternatives are fully explored. 

8. Declawing is not a proven effective method to improve the cat’s behavior, control its aggression, or prevent any behavioral issues.

9. Giving cats relevant training, especially where and what to scratch, proves to be a better method in managing scratching behaviors than declawing.

10. Biting becomes the cat’s main mode of defense in the absence of claws.

As much as pet owners want to manage scratching behaviors, the effects of this process on cats shouldn’t be taken for granted. Pets do have their rights.

Pros and Cons of Declawing Cats

Cat owners often feel overwhelmed and confused about the declawing debate. Which is really better, to declaw or not to declaw?

For the sake of comparison, we have laid out the positive and negative effects of declawing. This could help shed some light on the issue.

Benefits of Declawing Cats

1. Cats without claws couldn’t harm the furniture.

2. The process of declawing does not affect pad sensations; hence, the cat could still do its normal climbing and walking routines.

3. A declawed cat exhibits less destructive scratching behaviors.

4. As a surgical method, declawing could be done to promote the health of cats, especially in removing existing infections.

5. Declawing makes cats less aggressive, reducing their likelihood of being left at animal shelters due to their challenging behaviors.

6. Without their sharp claws, cats could be less dangerous to kids.

7. With the cat’s paws being less sharp and the furniture free from scratches, cat parents and their feline companions could enjoy more time for pet-owner interaction.

Negative Effects of Declawing 

1. The process of declawing could be traumatizing for cats and could lead to more behavioral problems than it prevents.

2. Vets and animal rights advocates seem to have come to a consensus that cat declawing is a form of animal cruelty.

3. As this process can be likened to removing a human being’s last finger joint, declawing could also pose permanent health problems to cats, such as the inability to maintain balance and scratch for self-defense.

4. If not done properly, infections could grow on the cat’s wounds and lead to chronic health problems.

5. Declawing is a painful procedure that causes excessive bleeding and muscle pains.

6. The emotional toll of declawing could be hard on cats, making them feel grumpy and resentful to their owners.

7. A declawed cat is no longer that effective in defending itself from the attacks of other animals.

8. Declawing affects the stance and footing of cats, rendering them less able to land effectively after a fall.

Claws and scratching come as part of owning a cat. Yes, declawing has been here for many years. But recent studies have shown that declawing leads to welfare issues.

Is declawing really the best option to manage the scratching behavior of your feline companions? Are there any other alternatives?

Before the discussions on alternatives, it’s best to dig deeper on declawing by knowing the ways it is done.

Types of Cat Declawing

Over the years, cat declawing is done in several methods. The following are the widely used ones:

1. Guillotine clipper declawing – The vet positions the sterilized guillotine nail clipper around the cat’s distal bone. This procedure severs the tendons that held the claw without mangling the bones of the middle toes.

2. Blade declawing – This declawing method is done almost the same way as the guillotine clipper declawing, but with a scalpel. The goal is to mangle the tendons that hold the cat’s distal toe bones together.

3. Tendonectomy – In this procedure, the goal is to damage the tendons of the last bone of the cat’s paw without removing the claws. Yes, the cat still has its claws, but it no longer has the full control to stretch them for a scratch. This also results in abnormal claw growth and more frequent nail trimming.

4. Laser surgery – Although this procedure is more expensive than the other processes, laser surgery means shorter recovery time for the cat. It’s also less painful. In this procedure, a laser is used to get rid of the cat’s third paw bone. The tissues of the cat’s paw are exposed to intense light beams to heat and vaporize them.

Declawing a cat might be a viable option for pet owners looking to manage their furry feline friend’s scratching behavior.

But in a gist, if this procedure is done to a human being, this looks like removing or cutting the last knuckle of each finger.

Non-Surgical Alternatives to Declawing

Vets discourage declawing for many reasons. But it doesn’t mean cat owners should have to struggle with their pet’s destructive scratching behavior. Instead of declawing, experts suggest following more human alternatives:

Consider using non-toxic nail caps – As a recent animal-friendly invention, nail caps for cats come in handy if you like your feline companions to keep their claws. These are made of non-toxic materials and come in a range of fashionable designs and colors. There are even nail caps with adhesives that could help control the cat’s scratching behaviors.

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Avail of a feline behavioral training for your pet – Train the cats while they’re still kittens. Use treats to direct their scratching on apt objects, such as scratching posts.

Trim the cat’s nails frequently – Trim their nails every 2 or 3 weeks. This isn’t just to keep their nails at the desired length, but also to make sure their nails aren’t too sharp. Are you about to trim your cat’s nails for the first time? If yes, it would be wise to visit a vet first to learn how best to do this. Then, buy a good clipper so it would be easier to do this procedure at home.

Make surfaces, especially furniture, tacky – Cats don’t like to scratch on tacky surfaces. So it would help to choose furniture covers with tape-like texture. If that isn’t available, apply sticky coatings on surfaces.

Set a space at home for cats – Yes, cats are cute and cuddly creatures. But they shouldn’t be given unlimited and unrestricted access to your home. Set aside a space at home where they’d love to stay. Place scratching posts, catnips, and other treats. Doing this prevents them from roaming around the house, damaging furniture with their scratches.

Image: Humane Society / IcemanJ / iStock.com

Use pheromones – It’s also important to note that cats scratch when they’re stressed. Stress could compel cats to make scratches to mark their territories. Could stress be the cause of your cat’s scratching behavior? Pheromone spray helps decrease stress levels and it could be a good solution. Buy pheromone diffusers and spray on areas and surfaces where cats do their undesired scratching.

Consider spraying repellents on furniture – Consider using citrus scents and antiperspirant sprays to detract cats from scratching on furniture.

It’s really just a matter of patience and resourcefulness to manage a cat’s scratching behavior. Ultimately, this will pay off as your pet stays healthy for a long time under your care.

Which US States Is it Illegal to Declaw a Cat?

Cat declawing is illegal in many European countries, as well as in Australia and Japan. In the US, however, cities and states are still being proactive in passing bills to illegalize declawing. But effort goes a long way.

And with the collaboration of animal rights advocates and concerned cat owners, bills are now being passed and approved in different states and cities. The following are the first ones to join the movement on banning this act of animal cruelty:

New York In New York, cat declawing for the convenience and health of the owner is illegal as per the S5532B/A. 1303 bill. Those caught doing this procedure will be subjected to a fine worth $1000. However, declawing is permitted for therapeutic purposes, such as treating an existing disease or infection.

Michigan – Although it’s approval is still on the works, House Bill No. 5508 is set to make Michigan the 2nd US state to ban cat declawing. Same with New York, a fine of $1000 is imposed on people who’ll still do this surgery.

Denver, Colorado – There are still cities in Colorado that are still working on bills that ban declawing. But in Denver, as per the CB17-0709 Bill, the procedure is already declared illegal.

California – The State of California also sees the need to ban cat declawing, which is now outlined in its Bill AB 1230.

Florida Florida’s SB 48 bill against cat declawing seems to be patterned after New York’s declawing legislation. The bill’s author, Sen. Lauren Book, says the operation is totally unnecessary and could only cause permanent health consequences on cats.

New Jersey – Although the Senate Bill No. 920 is still being reconsidered in the senate, it’s already being implemented in the state of New Jersey. The bill indicates six months of jail time plus a fine of $500 to $1000 for citizens caught declawing their cats and other pets or animals.

Following the example of New York and the other pioneers of the anti-declawing bill, many cities and states are now being more proactive in this area of animal rights.

References:

> The Humane Society of The United States. “Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than a Manicure.”  https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/declawing-cats-far-worse-manicure

> ThePawProject.org. “Frequently Asked Questions About Feline Declawing.” https://pawproject.org/about-declawing/faqs/

> CatsInternational.org. “The Truth About Declawing.” https://catsinternational.org/the-truth-about-declawing/

> Health Research Funding. “Pros and Cons of Declawing Cats.” https://healthresearchfunding.org/pros-cons-declawing-cats/

> Faye DesPres.,”Cat Care: To Declaw or Not to Declaw.” CatCare.com. https://www.care.com/c/stories/6268/cat-care-to-declaw-or-not-to-declaw/

> AnimalHearted.com. “8 Facts About Declawing Cats.” https://www.animalhearted.com/blogs/cats/facts-about-declawing-cats

> Gail Fero., July 2015. “7 Facts About Declawing Your Cat.” PetBucket.com https://www.petbucket.com/blog/63860/7-facts-about-declawing-your-cat.html

> The Humane Society of the United States. “Cats: Destructive Scratching.” https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/cats-destructive-scratching

> JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM., June 2017. “Declawing Cats: Adverse Medical and Behavioral Outcomes.” American Veterinarian. https://www.americanveterinarian.com/news/declawing-cats-adverse-medical-and-behavioral-outcomes

> Prestige Animal Hospital. “Declawing Cats: Examining the Pros, Cons and Alternatives.” https://www.prestigeanimalhospital.com/services/cats/declawing

> National Public Radio. July 2019. “Cats Can Keep Their Claws: New York Bans Declawing.” https://www.npr.org/2019/07/23/744436827/cats-can-keep-their-claws-new-york-bans-declawing

> American Veterinary Medical Association. July 2019. Literature Review: “Welfare Implications of Declawing of Domestic Cats.” https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/literature-reviews/welfare-implications-declawing-domestic-cats

> Animal Care Sanctuary.“Alternatives to Declawing.” https://www.animalcaresanctuary.org/resources-and-training-cats/alternatives-to-declawing/

> Sandy Eckstein., “Declawing Cats: Positives, Negatives And Alternatives.” Pets.WebMD.com https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/declawing-cats-positives-negatives-alternatives#1

> Humane Society of Huron Valley. “Declawing Cats.” https://www.hshv.org/declawing-cats-2/

> The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “Position Statement on Declawing Cats.” https://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-declawing-cats

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