Should You Declaw Your Cat?

Cats have a natural tendency to sharpen their claws by scratching things. This tends to mean your furniture, rugs, and carpets get torn up pretty bad if left alone. It may not seem so bad at first, but over time it can cause a lot of damage – enough that many owners decide they want to declaw their cat and stop this behavior for good. In addition to this, cats may accidentally scratch humans with their claws. Cat owners who have small children are concerned this may be a serious issue. However, declawing is permanent and extremely painful for the cat. Therefore, you should consider all of your options before making this irreversible decision.

First, you need to think about your cat’s overall health and psychological well-being. If it has any behavioral problems currently, it may worsen or they may develop behavioral problems after the procedure. Research data shows that 33% of cats develop behavioral problems after being declawed. In other words, 1 in 3 cats will not be able to cope with losing their claws and they may become even bigger problems than before. That should illustrate to you just how damaging this procedure is.

Furthermore, the surgery that is performed to remove your cat’s claws, known as an onychectomy, is a comprehensive surgery that requires putting your cat under anesthesia. Once anesthetized, not only will the vet remove the nails, but also the bone that the claw is connected to. To put it into perspective, this is like a human having surgery to remove each of his finger knuckles. This process is highly invasive, as tendons and nerves will have to be cut through. After the surgery, the cat’s paws are bandaged tightly for many weeks until the wounds heal.

Even though the cat is under anesthesia during the surgery, what makes it bad is the pain it has to endure after the surgery. Not only that, but losing their claws can be psychologically damaging to them since there are so many things they can no longer do such as climb trees, catch prey or defend themselves properly. Many countries outside of North America find the act of declawing to be inhumane and cruel. Despite being legal in the United States, many veterinarians think this is highly unethical and refuse to do it.

Once your cat has been declawed, it needs to remain an indoor cat for the rest of its life. Staying outdoors, it can no longer climb things as easily, nor can it defend itself from dogs, coyotes, or raccoons. In fact, it can no longer even do basic things like stretch its body since it requires its claws to maintain a grip and balance itself.

While we can sympathize with owners that are fed-up with their cat causing damage to their household items, there are still alternatives that can provide a satisfactory solution.

For instance, if you keep a quality scratching post in a visible area of your home, your cat may be enticed to scratch that instead. There are ones that are covered in carpet with catnip stored inside to make it more alluring than your furniture. You may need to first encourage your cat to scratch the post by giving him treats every time he scratches it to develop the habit.

Next, you can discourage scratching of any other objects by squirting your cat with a water gun. Make sure to spray your cat as soon as he scratches something that is forbidden, or else he may not make the association that you are unhappy with his scratching. Whenever he scratches the post, however, then reward him with a treat. This process of positive and negative reinforcement is the basis in developing the new habit and discouraging old ones.

If you have done everything mentioned here, and your cat still doesn’t obey you, you can attempt to use acrylic shields. Essentially, this is a nail cover that is placed over your cat’s nails which greatly reduces the damage that scratching can do to your possessions.

In conclusion, we highly recommend you think long and hard about the many alternatives to declawing that are available. Declawing is a permanent decision that may have negative affects on your cat’s well-being and quality of life, and we do not recommend it.