Facts About Declawing Your Cat

Have you been thinking of declawing your cat? Please be aware of common complications, side effects, and alternative solutions to having a cat declawed.

What It Declawing

Declawing is the surgical removal of a cats nails by amputating the last knuckle joint in their paw. This would be the same as removing the last knuckle joint on your hand or foot. This surgery is actually considered cruel and is illegal in many countries.  North America is one of the few places where declawing cats is still common.  The technical term is Onychectomy. 

What always amazes people is that their veterinarian will do something, such as a declaw, and not tell the owner of potential side effects. But you as an owner, need to be aware that since you are PAYING a vet to do this surgery, there is no reason for him, or her, to try to talk you out of it.  Unless you ask about the risks and potential problems, they probably will not tell you. 

Lover boy hi! by zenera.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zenera/3758731321/  Cats who are happen often extend their nails. 

How Declawing Might Affect Your Cat

  • Heightened flight or fight response

    A declawed cat KNOWS that it is defenseless. It will react stronger to trivial situations. In nature, weak animals are easier targets and they know it, so they either must flee, or make an appearance that they are healthy and strong. This is why declawed cats often become nervous biters, or are easily frightened and react in a way that may seem too extreme for the situation.

  • Refusal to use the litter box

    Because of the pain in their paws a declawed cat may refuse to use its litter, either permanently, temporarily, or it may develop as an issue later in life.

  • Chronic back pain

    Because they are now unable to walk naturally on their toes they must walk on the heel of their paw. This is unnatural, and as a cat gets older it may result in chronic back pain.

  • Complications from surgery

    Sometimes the surgery does not go correctly, bone chips remain, tendon damage occurs, or regrowth occurs. All of these may result in a cat that requires further surgeries or euthanasia.

  • Death

    The declaw itself won’t kill your cat, but if it gets out it could be easily killed by a dog or other animals.  Remember these cats do not act like you might think.  Knowing that they have no defense sometimes makes them more aggressive as they do not want to appear weak. 

File:Declawedcat.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Declawedcat.jpg A declawed cat.

Alternative Solutions

  • Claw protectors

    You can buy claw covers that you glue onto your kitties nails. These often come in packages of 40, but since cats rarely use their hind claws, you can save money by using them only on the front nails.

  • Tolerance

    Your sofa is still useful for sitting on, even if it has some scratches on it.

  • Provide cat furniture

    If your cat is allowed its own scratching place it will be happier. You need to indicate to the cat that it is allowed to scratch certain things. You can do this by rubbing catnip on it. Also you can renew use by moving cat furniture around or laying it on its side.

  • Deterrent sprays

    There are several spray products that cats do not like the smell of, you can use these on your furniture to prevent the cat from scratching there. Even a quick squirt with water will tell a cat not to scratch a certain area. Do not go crazy and spray a cat once it has stopped scratching or it will not understand the punishment.

  • Slip covers on your furniture

  • Adopt a kitty that is already declawed

    Rather than buying a kitten and putting it through the risky procedure and pain, try finding a cat who has already had the surgery done.

  • Wait for it to outgrow the behavior

    Kittens are typically claw aggressive, this diminishes by the time the cat is about 1 year old.

  • Select a breed not known for being claw aggressive

    Himalayans and Persians are not known for being as claw aggressive as other breeds.

  • Trim your cat’s nails

    It is very simple to do or can be done by a groomer or veterinarian.

Happy Furry Friday from Henry by Muffet.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/83143087/

Above is Henry, he had been adopted after being declawed. 

Other Thoughts

If you do declaw your cat, you must make sure he or she does not go outside ever. They are an easy target for a dog or other cat, and they will not always run. Remember what I said earlier – they may want to appear tough so will stay and fight.

Declawing is a permanent procedure, once done it cannot be undone.

Never declaw a kitten.  If clawing is an issue a person should not even consider getting a kitten, rather they should select an older cat (one past the clawing stage) or a cat that was already declawed.

Scratching is completely natural to a cat. There is no point in getting a pet and depriving of the things that are natural to it. If clawing is something you cannot tolerate, then perhaps a cat is not the right pet for you.

Further Reading on the Removal of a Cat’s Claws

Behavior Problems Common in Declawed Cats

Alternatives to Declawing

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  1. Ruth Ockendon Laycock

    On November 13, 2008 at 9:33 am

    We in the UK have just started a petition to ban declawing in the USA and hopefully eventually worldwide.Please read it,and if you agree, sign it and pass it on to as many people as you can.
    THANK YOU
    Ruth
    http://www.petitionthem.com/default.asp?sect=detail&pet=4312

  2. Babz

    On November 14, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Please think twice or three times before subjecting your cat to this, you will be ruining their lives.

  3. silviamitchell

    On November 14, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Seen the above petition and signed it, thank god for people like the petitioner who care enough to stand up for those unable to speak for themselves. Cats have claws – GET OVER IT

  4. Michele

    On January 28, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Came across a Company today that manufactures a pet urine stain remover, who is also pro-declawing! (What a cruel way to create more business for themselves.) If like me, you want to avoid buying from anyone who supports declawing, check out the link below.

    http://www.doodoovoodoo.com/to_declaw_or_not.htm

  5. Mrs B

    On January 28, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    That is disgraceful, they really do think they’re doing a good job! I would never buy from them and I’d like to see them stopped from having cats.

  6. Anonymous

    On June 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Oh my god tonight my kitty is spending the night at the vet and she is getting declawed! Im so worried now!

  7. Defensivecats

    On August 24, 2009 at 12:41 am

    My cat is declawed, however he has been going outside for years now and he is the dominant cat in the neighborhood. We’ve actually seen him fling another cat off of a roof and he is declawed. Cats can still defend themselves outside, but I agree it is more difficult.

  8. CaSundara

    On September 30, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I’m from the UK so hadn’t heard of people de-clawing their cats until recently – it’s just not done over here, as far as I’m aware. (Looking at the first comment I assume it’s illegal, as it should be.) Why on earth would anyone want a cat if they don’t want a clawed animal? It’s disgraceful and I hope it is banned in the US, asap.

  9. Tammy

    On November 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Yes I have a 13 year old cat she is a very good cat but one thing, she pulls out her fur and scratches contuineously. At
    times she has sores and open wounds. Plugs of fur everywhere
    I have tried everything from home remedies and thing from the vet. Please help me.

  10. KittyMissPottyPants

    On October 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Its a new trend to blame cat behaviors on declawing, which I find do not fit the reality. If you can handle clawed cats, good for you. However, after having DOZENS of declawed cats in my family, and only having ONE with problems (literally ever), I’d say your blame game about declawing is overblown hype.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being insulting. But it would be appreciative if YOU all wouldn’t be insulting either. It is not abuse, it does not cause psychological problems, and the villification of owners who declaw is just silly.

    There are many myths surrounding declawing that I have never seen pan out.
    “Declawed cats can’t climb.” My cats climb just fine, thanks. Trees, fences, you name it, they climb it.
    “Declawed cats can’t defend themselves.” My cats defend themselves with gusto, and have never been torn up by other animals. They grab, bite, kick, etc, like any other cat. My fat cat even sits on her enemies to subdue them.
    “Declawed cats have psychological problems.” An assumption and little more. I rarely knew a clawed cat back home, and they were well rounded kitties.

    Not to mention the number of cats who aren’t adopted out or abandoned because they’re destructive inside. I’ve seen FAR more of those than these wimpified declawed cats people claim exist. Then there is the real risk of a clawed cat (since they only typically declaw the front paws) hurting other animals in the house. My dog was nearly blinded by a clawed cat at a friends house, and thats okay?

    Its like cropping and docking, its the owners choice. Perhaps you guys should think about the bigger picture, if being declawed means one more pet in a good home instead of gassed at the overcrowded shelter.

  11. KittyMissPottyPants

    On October 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    And, not to drive it home or anything… but animals respond the OPPOSITE way psychologically to being “declawed.” Studies have been done on dogs, for example, who had to be “defanged.”

    They don’t literally take out the teeth, but they can do dental care to blunt the teeth of known biters. These dogs become MORE SUBMISSIVE when they are defanged, not “more flighty” or jumpy, or quicker to respond violently.

    An animal that “knows” its been disarmed is LESS likely to create conflict, and more likely to act neutrally or submissively. So pretending declawed cats become “bullies” to pretend their whole, it just doesn’t pan out either. In my experience, an aggressive cat who is declawed becomes a more social member of the family, since the OTHER animals are no longer threatened by them as well, meaning they can find a calmer place in the group and can no longer terrorize the others so easily. The more people talk about this declawing topic the more I sense PC hippy-style ownership at play.

    So I’d appreciate some well-thought out replies. If your only response is to call me a “cat hater” or “cruel,” then that would only further demonstrate you’re responding emotionally, not rationally, to this problem.

  12. Brenda Nelson

    On October 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    to Kitty Potty Pants. Not all cats become bullies after being declawed, some become timid, some have no side effects at all. It often heightens their fight or flight response meaning some fight, some flee, that is to say that some have problems and become more nervous, anxious, or timid. My own cat Ginger Bitz was one that become anxious and nervous and started peeing around the house.
    You can try bach flower rescue remedy, or adding more litter boxes but ultimately we do have to accept responsibility as these problems have been well documented as being common side effects.
    My parents cat Darwin was one that became a bully. Again, some have no problems at all.

    Dogs have a different social structure than cats, dogs are generally pack animals while cats are usually more territorial, this explains why they react differently.

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