The Cruelty of Declawing

Crystal Creek Rescue > The Cruelty of Declawing

Thank you to the Humane Society for information on this important and often misunderstood topic. 

Scratching is normal cat behavior, and it doesn’t aim at destroying your favorite chair or getting even. Cats scratch for many reasons: to remove the dead husks from their claws, to mark territory, and to stretch their muscles. But what if they are scratching where you don’t want them to?

Have you ever heard that declawing cats is an easy, painless way to get them to stop scratching up all your stuff? Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, declawing can cause major health problems and lead to worse behaviors than scratching. Plus, there are other ways to reduce unwanted scratching. 

Many countries have banned declawing, such as England, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing on principle, except for the rare cases when it is necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.

Common Declawing Myths

We’ve heard many myths surrounding declawing. For example, it won’t necessarily protect people who are immunocompromised or living with clotting disorders from threats caused by scratches. Internal medicine specialists do not recommend declawing as a means of protecting human health. In fact, fleas, bites, and contaminated cat litter pose more potential problems.  

As we mentioned, people also think it’s a simple procedure that is harmless. Let’s talk more about that one below.

What is Declawing?

People usually think that declawing the equivalent of having your fingernails trimmed. That’s not even close to being true, unfortunately. 

Declawing actually involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be someone cutting your finger off at last knuckle. It is an unnecessary surgery that provides no medical benefit to the cat and can in fact cause medical harm. Mindful cat owners can easily train their cats to use their claws in a manner that allows everyone in the household to live together happily and with no furniture damage involved.

Medical problems

Medical drawbacks to declawing can include:

  • Chronic pain in the paw
  • Infection at the surgery sites
  • Tissue necrosis (tissue death)
  • Lameness of the paws
  • Back pain
  • Removing a cat’s claws changes the way its feet meet the ground and can cause continuous pain similar to wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes.
  • Regrowth of improperly removed claws
  • Nerve damage, and 
  • Bone spurs.

Behavior problems

In the postoperative period, shredded newspaper typically replaces clay or clumping litter in the litter box in order to prevent litter from irritating declawed feet and suture sites. This unfamiliar litter substitute, accompanied by pain when scratching in the box, often leads cats to stop using the litter box completely. 

Some cats may resort to biting and institute it as a common behavior because they can no longer rely on their claws for defense and boundary setting.

But How Do I Stop My Cat From Scratching?

Cats are usually about 8 weeks old when they begin scratching. That is when you should start to train kittens to use a scratching post and allow nail trims. 

If you are worried about your cat damaging your home, or want to avoid unwanted scratching, start with these tips:

  •  Always keep their claws trimmed to minimize damage to household items.
  • Provide scratching posts and boards around your home. Offer different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard, as well as different styles (vertical and horizontal). Use toys and catnip spray to entice your cat to use the posts and boards. 
  • Ask your veterinarian about soft plastic caps (like Soft Paws®) that are glued to the cat’s nails. 
  • Attach a special tape (like Sticky Paws®) to furniture to deter your cat from unwanted scratching.

This is why we require our adopting pet parents to agree that they will not declaw their cats after adoption.

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