Declawing, a.k.a. onychectomy, is a very heated and controversial topic. In honor of Declaw Awareness Day (March 29th), I want to do just that – raise awareness about what declawing is and its harmful effects on cats. I can only assume that the majority of cat owners who have the elective procedure performed on their cats simply don’t understand what is actually involved with the surgery, hence Declaw Awareness Day!
Problems with declawing
Here are some snippets I’ve grabbed from the wonderful worldwide web. I hope, hope, hope that someone considering declawing does their own thorough research and then realizes why they should not declaw their cat. (Full source info listed at the bottom of the post.)
- Declawing is amputation: “What most people do not realize is that declawing the cat requires amputation of the last digit. In a human, this would be the same as cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.” Source
- Regarding complications with the declawing procedure: “Complications occur in 50% of patients and include pain, bleeding, damage to the foot pads, lameness, swelling, infection, and regrowth of the claw.” Source
- Declawing can cause litter box issues: “For several days after surgery, shredded newspaper is typically used in the litter box to prevent litter from irritating declawed feet. This unfamiliar litter substitute, accompanied by pain when scratching in the box, may lead cats to stop using the litter box.” Source
- Declawed cats may have painful, physical problems: “Once their claws have been removed, they can no longer perform their natural stretching and kneading rituals. They become weaker as they age and may experience debilitating arthritis in their backs and shoulders.” Source
- Walking becomes unnatural for a declawed cat: “Cats walk on their toes, and declawing leads to changes in gait due to weight now being placed on the second phalanx. Furthermore, over time, the severed tendons may shrink, resulting in the bone curling down, giving a clawed appearance to the foot. Immediately after declawing, more weight is shifted to the back feet, altering the cat’s gait. Over time, the weight is re-distributed between the four feet, however the second phalanx was not designed to be a weight bearing bone, resulting in an altered gait and the possible development of arthritis in later years.” Source
- Declawed cats can develop behavioral issues: “Cats without claws have lost their first line of defense, and because of this, can live in a state of stress. They cannot fight off other animals, or escape quickly from a dangerous situation. They may also become biters because they no longer can use their claws as a warning.” Source
- Declawing is a regional thing: “While declawing is a popular and lucrative practice in the United States, it is not practiced in European countries.” Source
- U.S. cities that have banned declawing: Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Monica. Malibu condemned the practice in a resolution, but did not legally ban the practice. Source
- Countries that have banned declawing: England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand. Source
- Look how seriously Israel takes declawing: “Israel’s legislature passed a bill that outlaws the practice of declawing cats, a move that is a win for animal activists, but devastating to fancy couches and rugs across the country. And the letter of law comes with a hefty pricetag — a $20,000 fine and up to one year in jail.” Source
Thoughts on declawing
Here are some quotes that I have gathered on declawing and the “no-declaw” movement.
South Orange County Animal Hospital is one of only two clinics in Orange County, California (that I could find) that does not perform declawing. When I asked them why they do not declaw, they provided the below statement:
“South Orange County Animal Hospital does not offer declawing. This decision is a combination of anecdotal experience of its staff members, as well as peer reviewed journal articles regarding the medical consequences of declawing cats. Our staff members collectively have a wide variety of experiences, some including performing declaw in cats and others with extensive experience in animal shelters seeing relinquished declawed cats with behavioral problems including biting and inappropriate urination. As we discussed this as a team, as a hospital, all staff members were educated of the consequences that can occur with declawing a cat. Subsequently, our position has been and will be that declawing will not be performed in our facility.”
Visit their website to learn more.
When contacted by Three Chatty Cats for a quote as to why she got involved in the “no-declaw” movement, Lori at City the Kitty said:
“I got involved in the no-declaw movement a couple years ago after I had read all about the cause on the PawProject.org website and saw how many cats are having that inhumane procedure done to them. After more research, I realized how many cats are unnecessarily suffering and going through such a cruel and disabling surgery. It really broke my heart seeing that millions of cats had to go through such a painful thing and all for the sake of a piece of furniture. I jumped head first into the cause with City the Kitty and now work 16 hr days, 7 days a week as a volunteer to help end it.”
Visit City the Kitty to learn more.
Susan Whittred, DVM and New York co-director for The Paw Project, who we interviewed for a profile on our site earlier, supports a bill that would make New York the first state to ban declawing. She was recently quoted at ArtVoice.com saying:
“A relatively high percentage of cats are still being declawed despite all the recommendations against it. Targeting this problem through legislation is necessary and overdue. This bill is not an infringement on the veterinarian’s role at all. In fact, veterinarians are helping lead the efforts to see it pass.”
After all that, why do we declaw in the United States?
Apparently money talks. From what I can gather, that is the only reason to do an elective declaw surgery. Why else would veterinarians do that to a cat? In an article I’ve provided below as suggested reading, it is mentioned about one Southern Californian vet that “he declaws every cat that comes in the door because it makes him between $75,000 and $80,000 a year.” Source
But there are people with compromised immune systems. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is a group that “strongly opposes the declawing of domestic cats and supports veterinarians’ efforts to educate cat owners and provide them with effective alternatives.” And their website states: “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals.” Source
Is declawing ever okay? Elective declawing – no. But there may be times when it is medically necessary for a cat to have its claw removed, perhaps because of cancer or non-healing fractures. With these rare cases, it would usually just be one toe declawed, not the entire paw.
Alternatives to declawing
Now that we know that declawing is not the way to go, what can you do if you are worried about your furniture?
- Scratching Posts – They come in a variety of styles, heights and materials. It’s probably best to have an assortment throughout the house as well to encourage your cat to use the post and not your furniture.
- Soft Paw Nail Caps – Learn more here about these vinyl nail caps that cover your cat’s claws.
- Routine Nail Trimming – If you adopt your cat as a kitten, it’s best to start nail trimming when they are young so they get used to it. Or if it’s a struggle, stop by your vet’s office for a trim. Your vet can also show you tips and offer suggestions on how to do it yourself.
- Animal Behaviorist – Look for a cat behavior consultant and see what training and insights they can offer you.
- Last Resort – If you truly, truly feel that you just must have a declawed cat, please consider adopting one that is already declawed and do not put another cat through the declaw surgery. Sadly, there are many declawed cats already in shelters and with rescues that need forever homes. (But why do you think they most likely ended up in a shelter? Because their previous owner declawed them.)
Full disclosure – I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any medical background. I am simply someone who loves cats and wants to see them treated humanely. What I’ve stated above is generally widespread information and can be Googled and found at multiple sources. I have listed additional articles and sites here as suggested reading, along with the sourced bullet points above.
Suggested articles and webpages
- “The Cruelest Cut: How Cat Declawing Became the Next Battleground for Animal Rights” – by Alan Prendergast at HoustonPress.com
- “Declaw: Whom Are We Protecting?” – by Narda Robinson, DO, DVM at VeterinaryPracticeNews.com
- Scratching & Declawing – CatsInternational.org
- Case studies – PawProject.org
- “Declawing – why it needs to stop” – ChirpyCats.com (newly added!)
- If you would like to read one person’s story about her declawed cats, you can do so at the City the Kitty blog. Warning, there are pictures of her cats in the post. They are not graphic, but will likely be upsetting to see, nonetheless.
- “The Truth About Declawing Your Cat” from South Orange County Animal Hospital
- “Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than a Manicure” from HSUS.
- “Problems With Declawing” from Paws.org
- “Declawing A Cat” from Cat World
- “The Truth About Declawing” from Cats International
- “Become an advocate to Ban Declawing” from Cat Support Network
- “In Israel, Declawing Your Cat Could Get You Jail Time” from Time
- “Declawing” from American Animal Hospital Association
It’s about awareness, folks! Please help spread the word for Declaw Awareness Day on March 29th. Do you have anything to add about declawing?
Sophie loves her scratcher because she has claws!