Because cats are notorious scratchers, some pet parents believe the misconception that declawing their cat is a harmless, easy solution when it comes to saving their home and bodies from unwanted scratches.
When you bring home a new cat, you’re making a commitment to care for her from head to toe—claws and all. We all want what’s best for our furry friends, which is why we want to strongly encourage all cat owners to spare their kitties from unnecessary discomfort by considering safe, humane alternatives to declawing.
What is Declawing?
Some cat owners choose to declaw their cats in order to protect their skin and furniture from cat scratches, or to protect other pets in the household from cat claws during rough play or even fighting. However, declawing offers no benefit to cats.
Contrary to what its name suggests, declawing a cat is a surgical process that removes more than just the claws. This procedure, also known as onychectomy, amputates part of the cat’s toe bones along with the claws.
To put it into perspective: if performed on a human, this procedure would be similar to cutting off the fingers at the last knuckle instead of simply trimming the fingernails.
Declawing cats is a controversial subject and with good reason. Many animal welfare groups and organizations consider it to be inhumane, and strongly discourage pet owners from declawing their cats.
Why You Shouldn’t Declaw Your Cat
Cats use their paws and claws for a large portion of their daily routines: grooming, digging in the litter box, scratching, kneading, and pouncing on their prey. Not only does declawing offer no benefit to cats, this life-altering procedure can also lead to long-term consequences.
For starts, declawing is incredibly uncomfortable for a cat. The healing process can last for weeks or even months while nerve endings heal, and the overall discomfort can be long-lasting.
Declawing physically alters a cat’s feet, meaning that it changes the way she walks. Years of unnatural movement can lead to significant joint and mobility issues later on in life—like wearing an ill-fitting shoe for years at a time.
A declawed cat may find it difficult and uncomfortable to dig in her litter box and choose to avoid using it altogether as a result.
Because cats use their claws as their primary form of defense, a declawed cat may resort to biting or other aggressive behavior.
If you take away a cat’s claws, you take away her instinctive ability to scratch. As a result, you are taking away an outlet for feelings of stress or excitement, a form of exercise and entertainment, and a way to stretch the feet and body.
An unhappy kitty is rarely a well-behaved kitty. In an attempt to get rid of a cat’s unwanted behavior, declawing may do just the opposite.
Putting a Stop to Problematic Scratching
Instead of removing your cat’s claws altogether, consider the following:
Keep your kitty’s nails trimmed to minimize destructive scratching around the house.
Glue blunt plastic nail caps to your cat’s claws. These would need to be replaced once the nails grow out, and may be best applied by a professional.
- Provide your cat with a stable, durable scratcher. A scratching post, scratchpad, and/or interactive scratchable toy should all help to deter her from scratching your favorite couch. Use catnip for training to entice your kitty to scratch appropriate surfaces.
Caring for a Declawed Cat
If your cat has already been declawed, whether by a previous owner or from the recommendation of your veterinarian, it’s important to give her the proper long-term care and attention.
Check her paws regularly for any abnormal lumps and bumps, since parts of the bone may grow back incorrectly.
Even though she isn’t using her claws, your kitty should still have a scratcher for exercise and entertainment. After all, scratching is a feline instinct. Make sure the scratcher is covered in carpet or another soft material to keep her comfortable.
Declawed cats have a more difficult time grabbing small objects, so provide your clawless kitty with plenty of larger stuffed toys and wands that she can play with using her legs and mouth.
Use a soft kitty litter, such as one made from wood, wheat, or paper. These are easier on a cat’s paws than traditional clay litter which tends to be gritty and may cause discomfort.
Declawed cats should typically be kept indoors since they’re unable to use their claws to ward off potential predators. Plus, they’ll have a more difficult time climbing trees and could be more susceptible to injury and infection in the paws.
Feed your cat a healthy diet and provide her with plenty of exercise opportunities to keep her weight under control, too. This is important for all cats but is especially important for declawed cats since excess weight can put extra pressure on the legs and feet, leading to further discomfort.
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