To Declaw or Not to Declaw?

Helena June 13, 2012 12
To Declaw or Not to Declaw?

I’m pretty amazed by how little people know about declawing cats.  Maybe it’s the description – declawing.  That sounds to me like the claws are removed, like removing fingernails, which actually would be pretty barbaric.  Unfortunately, cat declawing is a bit more intense than that.

First though, let’s think about why cats claw objects.  Cats scratch to play, mark their territory, maintain their nails, stretch, and for exercise.  They are definitely not scratching your couch just to torment you.  Yet, many people think it’s perfectly okay to have their cats declawed.  Here’s the part where I explain the gory details behind this procedure.

Declawing involves 10 separate, painful amputations.  Declawing a cat involves general anesthesia and amputation of the last joint of each toe, including the bones, not just the nail.  It is a very serious operation.  After surgery, the nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain but remaining invisible to observers.  Declawing results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and because of impaired balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats have to relearn to walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.

Dr. Jennifer Conrad wrote in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that, “routine declawing (unlike sterilization) is never performed for the sake of the animal” and that as a veterinarian, she has “an obligation to do what is best for the animals and not what is most convenient for their owners.”  England, Australia, Japan, and nearly two dozen countries ban or severely restrict declawing surgeries.

Here are some effective and compassionate alternatives to declawing:

  • Provide scratching posts
  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly – and cut only the TIP
  • Cardboard scratching boxes!  Our cat is a huge fan of theseDon’t forget to sprinkle a little catnip on top.
  • Soft Paws nail caps are an ultra-chic non-toxic humane alternative to declawing

I beg of you – the next time you hear of someone who is talking about declawing their cat, please tell them why this is a terrible idea and let them know about these great alternatives!


Image courtesy of Flicker‘s The Commons


  1. Becky Striepe June 13, 2012 at 10:43 am -

    Thank you for this! I knew it was very invasive and painful but a lot of these deets are new to me! This will make it much easier to talk to folks when they mention wanting to declaw.

  2. Desiree June 13, 2012 at 10:44 am -

    I’ve had cats over the years growing up at home and I’m used to them having been declawed. Now, as an adult, living on my own, I’d longed to have a cat at home, and a good friend of mine, also my sons babysitter, had a cat who needed a home and I willingly took him. The thought of getting him declawed didn’t cross my mind because although he was under my care, I also kept the idea in my head that if his original owner didn’t have him declawed it was for a reason, and now this brief article and my own judgment about cats needing to defend themselves only reassures me that there are always alternatives to having to subject an animal to such torture. Who are we to make a decision like that for an animal who can’t speak for itself? I do clip his nails and groom him as needed. His claws have taken to my couch(an old one at that) but I do not mind. If you’re worried about having an animal in your home and ruining expensive furniture then maybe you shouldn’t have animals to begin with.

  3. Ally8957 June 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm -

    We have soft paws on our cat and LOVE them!! I always thought declawing was a terrible thing to do, but I never knew just how bad the actual procedure was. Thanks for putting this out there! I have shared it with lots of friends already.

  4. Cj Sirois June 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm -

    soft paws are awesome & work great. plus the colors are adoriable!

  5. VeggieGrettie June 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm -

    They are super cute!

  6. VeggieGrettie June 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm -

    I am glad to hear that they work so well. I too had no idea how truly terrible declawing is until Helena shed some light on it for me.

  7. VeggieGrettie June 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm -

    Great points Desiree! It is always a good idea to trust you intuition.

  8. Bluravnn June 28, 2012 at 3:26 am -

    Never declaw your cats! It can be terribly painful, and not only right after the procedure but for their lifetime, cause deformities, plus leaves them defenseless if they need to protect themselves. (I know this first hand, not by my doing) It’s a horrible practice and I cannot believe vets actually are willing to do this. Totally inhumane. Learn to clip them, use the caps, alternative scratching places for your cat. Everyone should know the real facts. This isn’t to be mean, but If you want to adopt/buy a cat and declaw it, you should probably get a different animal to suit your lifestyle. This is part of their bodies that should not be tampered with just to save a piece of furniture, etc. Please for the sake of their well being do NOT do this.

  9. Lois July 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm -

    You want to declaw your cat? Cut off the fingers on your hand up to the first knuckle and see if you still think it’s a good idea.

  10. kristiina s August 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm -

    We use soft paws and love them!  Thanks for writing about this. It’s so sad to see declawed kitties.

  11. VeggieGrettie August 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm -

    I am so glad to hear that they are working for you!

  12. bXc October 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm -

    I work at a vet and have had people hang up on me when I explain what declawing is. They either think I’m insulting them or they don’t want to look like a bad person. The Vets I work with do not want to declaw and we’ve don’e maybe 3 in the year I’ve been there. We direct people towards “kitty caps” (a generic brand of Soft Paws) we will even apply them for them. Here’s another thing people do not understand about declawing: It is a lot worse to get an adult cat declawed then a kitten. As painful as getting a kitten declawed is, it is way worse for an adult cat. Not only are they more developed but they are also heavier resulting in more blooding and more pain. As horrible as it may sound I go out of my way to make it extremely difficult for owners to get their cats declawed, nevermind the fact that our pricing alone deters declawing, only one of our vets will even do the procedure so they have to come in for their consultation while she is in and schedule on the days she does surgeries.

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