Dear Tabby: Should I Declaw my Cat?

deartabbyDear Tabby,
My cat scratches me all the time, sometimes even breaking the skin. She started to go after the furniture too – what should I do? Declaw her?
Cat Scratch Mama

Dear Mama,
Declawing is a serious procedure. It is known as Onychectomy, and is an operation to remove an animal’s claws surgically by means of the amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges, or end bones, of the animal’s toes. Wikipedia
declawing your cat
This is a highly contested procedure as it can be likened to cutting off the tip of your finger and is seen as inhumane. It is banned in many countries, although it is still allowed in the states. The American Humane Society (AHS) also advises against it. Declawing can be done surgically with a tool similar to a guillotine that cuts the claw and the top of the bone that the claw is attached to. It may also be done with laser.
Declawing can have long term negative effects including:

  • Pain and possible infection from the surgery.
  • Removing part of the bone and claws may impact the gait of your cat that could lead to orthopedic issues.
  • Your cat may be less likely to use the litterbox – it will be painful after the surgery and your cat may then associate that pain with the litterbox and refuse to use it.
  • Claws are a natural protective measure and their removal may lead to your cat becoming more aggressive or biting more frequently.
  • Your cat may become more accident prone as the claws act as natural aids in jumping, climbing, running, etc.

Cats use their claws not only for protection but for proper grooming. They scratch them to keep them trimmed and loosen dead outer layer of the nail. Scratching humans is not their normal outlet so you may want to reconsider declawing and look to other solutions to remedy the problem before taking that drastic of a step.
The best solution is to give your cat LOTS of scratch-able objects: scratching posts, trees, toys even corrugated boxes. You will need to spend some time training your cat what is acceptable to scratch and what isn’t, but if they have plenty of scratch friendly objects, it should be too hard. You should also trim your cat’s nails regularly so they don’t feel the need to “file” them.
You can also ask your vet about a new products in the market that are gel caps that can be placed on your cat’s claws. (Soft Paws®) or Sticky Paws®, a special tape you attach to your furniture to help prevent unwanted scratching.

Good Luck,
Additional Readings:

Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than a Manicure
8 Reasons Why You Should Never Declaw Your Cats
The Facts About Declawing and the Alternatives
Declawing Cats: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives


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  1. If more people considering this procedure heard the details of exactly how it’s done, along with the possible negative effects, they might change their minds about having it done!
    I had never thought about clipping Sam’s nails until she had in ingrown one. I was actually surprised at how good she is about it (easier than some of the dogs!).
    Jan K recently posted…Taking it SlowMy Profile

  2. That is great advice! Kitties need their claws for a lot of different reasons. My mom got her cat declawed and the cat will not use a litter box anymore. For people that think things would be different when a laser is used for the amputation rather than the guillotine cutters, my mom’s cat had the laser surgery.
    Robin recently posted…Inside Mars’ Global Innovation CenterMy Profile

  3. No declawing! Once we lived in Europe where declawing is illegal, we had to learn to live with the claws and it is so easy. Make sure and put scratching posts in convenient areas, near your couches for example so they have an alternative to the couch scratching. My kitties also get their claws trimmed by Mom every two weeks to keep them from being sharp as needles. We have had five cats with claws now and not one thing in the house wrecked except the actual scratching posts getting scratched to death from over use but that is what they are for!
    Emma recently posted…Go Hands Free With the Umbilical Belt #MultiPetMania {Giveaway}My Profile

  4. Gweat posty. We fink this infurmation shulda been available to pet pawents a long time ago, and vets shuld splain it to each and every patient dat asks fur a declaw. We fink it wuld cut down on them a lot. Course we also fink ifin yous wanna change yous kitty so much yous ought not to own a kitty.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi
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  5. Declawing is definitely a controversial topic. But their are two sides to every story. The AVMA and AAFP have not taken a position against declaw for a reason: “there is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when compared to control groups”. Having seen hundreds of declaws done throught the years, I see no issue with declawing a young cat (ie. less than a year), by a skilled surgeon, with appropriate post operative pain medication. I do have an issue with the fact that a person, who could proved an excellent home for a kitten, is turned away at a humane society because they refuse to sign a waiver saying they will not declaw. If the only way someone is going to have an indoor cat is to declaw it, I am all for it. A cat who goes outdoors is more likely to be hit by a car, attacked by an animal, or catch a contagious disease; than a young cat having complications from a properly performed declawing procedure.
    Anne recently posted…An Insider’s Tricks to Saving Money on Pet MedicationsMy Profile

  6. As a cat behaviourist, I absolutely second this blog post in their cautioning you. Declawing could make a relatively simple behavioural issue into a complex one that will be far more annoying to deal with. You might end up trading scratching for peeing in your house.

    Scratching is a natural, necessary behaviour that serves several purposes, such as shedding the top layer of the nail to keep it healthy as well as marking their territory. Really, this is something that is as simple as redirecting it to the appropriate place to scratch and should be a snap to do for any trained professional.

    Please consider investing in a cat behaviourist instead of a declawing procedure, if you’re not sure how to solve the problem yourself. It is likely to cost you less, make you and your kitty way happier and provide you with some very good insight into how to navigate both your cat’s and your own needs and wishes.
    Ilse Devriese recently posted…Coming SoonMy Profile

  7. When Mommy adopts a kitty she asks for declawed ones. Like me, and brandi before me. Why? So she can take extra care of our toesies, and get special litter that doesn’t track or hurt us. She is sweet that way.
    Ps. Also she gives awesome massages all over!
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  8. I also think that cats need their claws for a lot of different reasons and I would never declaw my cat. Here in Portugal it’s illegal.
    Rosa recently posted…The Crazy Cat Lady StereotypeMy Profile

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