Declawing Cats: Don’t!

Most cat owners understand that every cat has its own unique personality. Some of their personality traits are cute, like when a cat plays fetch, or when they greet you at the door when you come home. Other traits are not so cute… like when they never cover up in their litter box, or when the scratch your furniture to pieces.

While it’s true, cats love to scratch, some are better than others at using their scratching posts instead of your couch. Some cats take behavioral training well and can be taught not to scratch furniture (never hit your cat), others just can’t seem to stop. This is when you might be tempted to declaw your cat. Don’t. In fact, it’s considered so inhumane that the practice is banned in over twenty countries!

What you need to know:

  • Unlike human fingernails, which grow from the skin, cat claws are embedded in the bone. To completely remove the nail, a veterinarian has to remove the bone with it. This is equivalent to amputating the human finger at the third knuckle.
  • Removing the nail causes inflammation, infection, and abnormal growth of the nail. The entire claw can grow back inside the toes and the resulting infection enters their bloodstream and affects their liver and heart.
  • Claws are a cat’s primary defense mechanism, which is essential if they’re outside. Even if you keep your cat inside, the removal of this defense can cause erratic behavior such as increased aggressiveness and biting. The pain may cause them to avoid the litterbox, and they may suffer from emotional trauma.
  • Declawing can result in a lifetime of pain. This pain can cause a cat to try to compensate by bearing their weight on their wrists, which can result in early onset arthritis.

So, your cat is shredding your furniture and you don’t know what to do? Here are some alternatives:

  1. Nail Trimming: This is not the same thing as declawing! A cat cannot do damage with blunt nails. You only need to snip the tip, but you should have your veterinarian teach you how as it is important to avoid the quick (the dark part on the underside of the tip) as it will cause bleeding.
  2. Scratching Posts: It’s good to have more than one post in the house, and at different levels. Taller ones allow for better stretching – if they only have short posts they might be attracted to the taller furniture to get that stretch. Some cats like floor scratchers as well (do your cats pull up the carpet?). Changing the location of the scratchers can help if they are not being used.
  3. Soft Paws: Soft Paws were developed by a veterinarian. These are vinyl nail caps which adhere over a cat’s claws that grow out with the natural growth of their nails and last an average of four to six weeks. They come in clear or a variety of colors.
  4. Sprays: There are many different kinds of sprays on the market that claim to deter a cat from scratching. Some of these are citrus based and have mixed reviews. Feliway, however, uses a different method. It is a pheromone which mimics the scent of cats’ facial glands. It’s been useful in combating a cat’s territorial urine marking, and some animal behaviorists claim it works to stop territorial scratching.

There are many ways to deter your cat from scratching your furniture, but declawing should never be an option. Keep your cats healthy and pain-free by exercising the alternatives above!