Declawing: The Facts

Cat ClawsMany cat owners ponder the decision of whether or not to declaw their cats. You’ve heard all of the rumors; good and bad. Some people believe that declawing a cat is an inhumane act, while others see it as a housekeeping necessity. We’re here to set the record straight and give you all the facts on the ethics of declawing, as well as other ways to make kitty claws be an issue of the past.

Declawing may be debated, but it is generally settled upon by animal rights groups and most veterinary specialists that it is not a humane act. Several countries have banned declawing for good, and many more countries are following suit. Most animal rights groups only support declawing in situations where it is a necessary medical procedure. This is only the case if the cat has cancerous nail bed tumors.

In order to understand why declawing has become such a hot-button topic, you must first understand the procedure. When a veterinarian declaws a cat, they will put them under general anesthesia so that the cat cannot feel any pain during the procedure. Then, the veterinarian will amputate the last bone of each toe on the paws that are being declawed. This stops the claws from growing since the root of the nail is completely gone. If you were to “declaw” a human, you would be snipping off the tips of a humans’ fingers, just before the top knuckle. As painful and disturbing as this sounds, the procedure is performed on cats every day.

There are three ways that a cat is declawed:
Resco Clipper: In this method, a sterile clipper is used to snip off the tips of the first bones where the claws grow from. The incision is then closed with stitches or glue. This method leaves room for the claws to re-grow, causing painful infection and will require more expensive surgery to remedy the procedure.
Disarticulation: The veterinarian will remove the entire “first knuckle” where the claws grow from as mentioned previously. The recovery time will be just as long and painful and prone to infection, but eliminates the likelihood of claw regrowth.
Laser: In this method, the veterinarian will either entirely remove the bones that grow the claws, or will slice the tendons that control the cat’s retraction muscles. In the second way, the cat will no longer have control over their claws and tend to get stuck on fabrics and may still need to have their claws trimmed regularly.

The pain of the procedure is just the first of many reasons as to why declawing is inhumane. Once the procedure has been performed, the cat must deal with the healing process which can last for many days and is very painful. This can cause back pain, paw pain, tissue death, and infection if not treated properly. While the cat heals from the surgery, their litter box must be filled with shredded newspaper instead of litter to prevent the litter from infecting the wound. The box must be cleaned meticulously so that the paws don’t get infected. This situation has been known to cause cats to forego using their litter boxes for months on end, as the uncomfortable experience of using a weird litter substitute can be emotionally scarring.

The litter box problem isn’t the only behavioral issue that can come from declawing. Declawing can force your cat to become a biter, which is much more serious and problematic than scratching. A cat uses their paws and claws to signify when enough is enough, and without the option of a scratch, they usually resort to biting. A cat bite can lead to serious infection that could even land cat owners in the hospital.

"How did I get up here?"

“How did I get up here?”

Declawing disables a cat from defending itself not only in the home but in the great outdoors. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, declawing could be a death sentence in the wrong circumstance. If your cat is an indoor-only cat and they get out, they’ll have no means to defend themselves against enemies, or be able to easily climb a tree to avoid harm’s way. A declawed cat venturing out into the world can be a horribly traumatic event in a cat’s life.

If you are seriously concerned about your cat’s claws, or are considering adopting a cat but the claws are holding you back, the following are some ways to work around cat claws:

You can adopt a cat that has been previously de-clawed. We always push adoption over purchase when it comes to inviting a new kitty into your home. If you are seriously convinced that it is necessary for you to have a declawed cat, the only humane way to have one is by adopting one that has been previously declawed. This way, the cat gets a loving home, and you have nothing to do with the horrible procedure. You’ll need to take extra care of your declawed cat so that they can’t get outside and into trouble.

You can pay for nail caps. Taking your cat to the groomer is a regular practice in many cat owners’ lives. You can have the groomer apply plastic nail caps to your cat’s nails, preventing them from scratching up any furniture or people while retaining the use of their claws and the sensation of pawing. You’ll only need to take your cat in once a month or less and can even choose fun colors for the caps. The cost of nail caps is typically $20 per visit. This price is much more manageable than the $100-450 price tag that comes with a declawing procedure. This price doesn’t include the surgical maintenence that a cat owner may need to shell out for since declawing tends to awaken other medical problems and infections in cats.

You can keep up with trimming your cat’s nails. If you don’t want to spend the money or time on nail caps or professional trims, you can trim your cat’s nails at home. Many cats allow their owners to trim their nails after they’ve gotten used to the feeling of the procedure. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can help protect furniture, keep your cats and other pets safe, and keep you from getting painful scratches. To learn more about how to easily trim a cat’s nails, click here.

Many veterinarians don’t offer declawing in this day and age, so if you’re still convinced that you should have the procedure done, you may have a hard time finding a veterinarian that will perform the procedure without medical necessity. At the end of the day, all signs point to the fact that declawing is inhumane and unnecessary. There are many ways to train your cat to use their paws and claws properly, all of which cost less, are more effective for safety, and keep your cat’s general welfare in mind.