Take Paws: A Case Against Declawing

Jackson ManicureIMAGINE, IF YOU WILL…

The full pads of your feet are deeply lacerated, as are your knees, elbows and hands. You cannot bear weight on any part of any limb. You crave food, thirst for water, and need to use the toilet, but each movement toward fulfilling life’s most basic needs causes pain. Your gait changes and spine twinges as your posture shifts to find comfort.

Now imagine that you haven’t been told what happened to you, that the direct pain will last 3 weeks, or that phantom pain from nerve damage and perpetual discomfort of physical bone hindrance will likely follow …

This is the experience of a declawed cat.

HOW CLAWS ARE REMOVED

To remove the claw portion of a cat’s anatomy requires full amputation of the last bone of each toe. A cat’s toes are essential to balance, mobility and survival. In the article “Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than a Manicure,” The Humane Society of the United States says, “If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.”

For more about a cat’s life after declawing, and beware the gruesome images, visit Save-our-paws.org.

THE AMERICAN WAY

The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and other countries have deemed declawing illegal due to ethical concerns. In “Declawing Cats Q&A: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives,” Atlanta veterinarian Drew Weigner, certified specialist in feline medicine by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, tells WebMD that “Some of these countries ban it outright, while more often the policy says it should not be done, but if a vet determines it’s medically necessary it’s OK to do it.”

In America, cat declawing is often seen as a damage deterring convenience, an easy alternative in a quick fix society. Of course, declawing is warranted in some situations, but not to keep the couch intact.

WHEN IS DECLAWING NECESSARY?

Weigner says, “Medically, sometimes you have to remove a claw if the claw is damaged beyond repair or if it has a tumor. Sometimes it’s also trauma to the owners. There are people whose immune systems are suppressed or the elderly on blood thinners who can’t be exposed to the bacteria on a cat’s claws.” Otherwise, she believes what “it really boils down to, cats are born with claws and they should keep them.”

DAMAGE CONTROL: HOUSE AND CAT

Fear not for your household furnishings in the face of denounced cat declawing. Veterinarian Christianne Schelling, DVM, offers more than a few effective and humane methods to avoid destruction at Declawing.com:

Cat Scratching Solutions provides many solutions as well as insight into the psychology of why cats scratch. You can teach your cat to use a scratching post (sisal posts are by far the best). You can trim the front claws. You can also employ aversion methods. One of the best solutions I’ve found is Soft Paws®.

IN OUR EXPERIENCE…

Ultimate Touch Cat Claw Clipper - Amazon Affiliate LinkWith two ridiculously playful, indoor tomboy cats in a single household, I’m here to tell you that the damage can be managed. All it takes is a little patience, attention and plenty of appropriate places for cats to scratch.

We offer plenty of scratching toys and trim our cats’ nails using the Ultimate Touch Cat Claw Clipper (Amazon affiliate link), not only to avoid destruction of the house but, more importantly, to prevent our wrestling contenders from clawing each other’s eyes out. I love this tool because the blade truly clips and does not crack the cats’ nails.

At first, we could only clip 1 or 2 nails in an evening while casually watching TV, gauging stress and never pushing beyond our cat’s tolerance levels. With weekly attempts, they quickly learned to trust. We can now do 80 claws in roughly 5-10 minutes, doling out lots of praise and petting between the clipping of each.

THE ONLY UNSOLVED MYSTERY LEFT…

Jed and Jackson slam into walls and shelves mid-chase, knocking items over time and time again … no matter how much I rearrange. Who’s got a remedy for that?

The Sensible Feline - Blogger Edition. Brought to you by World's Best Cat Litter

FOR MORE GREAT INFORMATION…

This article is featured on Sensible Feline Blogger Edition, a free, online resource for cat lovers written by cat lovers and sponsored by World’s Best Cat Litter. Be sure to visit for more great cat topics such as:

  • “Making Vet Visits Less Stressful for Your Cat” by aFURmation
  • “Dental Hygiene in Cats” by FloppyCats
  • “Don’t Fear the Virus: FIV is not a Tragedy” by Paws and Effect
  • “Overcoming the Litterbox Blues” by Romeo the Cat
  • and much, much more…

Comments

  1. Erin Wallace says:

    Thank you thank you for this post! I will not dewclaw my cats because I’ve always found the practice brutal to the extreme. Perhaps more people will read this and see the light. This is a practice that should be banned here as well.

  2. @Erin Wallace Thank you for saying so, and I hope you’ll share this information on your social networks. This article has just been approved for a new cat resource page to be hosted by World’s Best Cat litter, so let’s hope increased readership follows. There is so much more to be said on the topic, but I hope I touched enough points to make a difference. Thanks for reading!

  3. @Erin Wallace Thank you for saying so, and I hope you’ll share this information on your social networks. This article has just been approved for a new cat resource page to be hosted by World’s Best Cat litter, so let’s hope increased readership follows. There is so much more to be said on the topic, but I hope I touched enough points to make a difference. Thanks for reading!

  4. MariaS_Handmade says:

    WOW! I did not know this. I do not have cats so this was never an issue for me…but I always believed that “declawing” was almost like shots: just something you do for your pets (not *against* your pets). Thank you for sharing!!! I will post everywhere!

  5. @MariaS_Handmade I think your original understanding is a common belief. All too often, clients hear of the “convenience,” they want this, and vets discuss the guillotine method (as it’s called) of claw removal in terms of being a safe and easy. That may be true for the vet, but not for the cat. Education is still lacking for a large portion of the general public, so thank you for sharing!

  6. David Payne says:

    When I adopted my Maine Coon, Miles Davis, I had to sign a contract with the agency saying I wouldn’t de-claw him. Not that I could ever imagine doing that!

  7. Many rescues do terrific work to educate the public about what cat de-clawing truly means. Sadly, too many people still have no idea.

  8. CatChatCaren says:

    loved this and thanks for posting! I never declawed either of my cats (and never would!) Thankfully my vet(s) were as opposed to it as I am.

    Redirecting scratching behavior IS possible! Neither of my boys were ever destructive scratchers w/gentle direction from me

  9. Ah, what perfect timing – a very good friend of mine is talking about declawing her two kittens “because she always has” and I’ve been trying to change her mind. I live with 3 kitties and they only scratch their scratch post and their cardboard scratchers from Trader Joes 🙂 Whenever I have had a problem area I have used the double sided tape and they have lost interest. Thanks for the great post – I have passed it along and hopefully it will save two very sweet kitties from a painful procedure!

  10. @CatChatCaren Thanks, Caren! And KUDOS on humanely training your boys! We have a few loose threads on the ottoman left over from kittenhood, and easily trimmed with a pair of scissors. Even if the couch was shredded, I couldn’t bring myself to declaw.

  11. @julesmelfi Oh, I do hope this helps those poor kittens. There is a story at Save-our-paws.org about the pain cats hide – as evidenced by a cat with a severely ingrown nail from an improperly removed toe. So sad that this cat walked in pain for years before a “lump” was discovered and an inch long, curled toenail was removed from its foot. Ugh. We don’t even know the discomfort that we can inflict with this procedure.

    • julesmelfi says:

      I just wanted to let you know that my friend decided against declawing her kitties! Yay, thanks for posting this article at exactly the right time . .two sweet little kittens thank you 🙂 @Kim Clune

  12. Amy@GoPetFriendly says:

    Excellent post, Kim. I’m not a cat owner, so this information was quite interesting. If I’m not mistaken, isn’t the procedure of removing a dog’s dew claws equally painful?

    • @Amy@GoPetFriendly I found this article about dogs’ dewclaws. http://dogs.thefuntimesguide.com/2006/05/removing_dew_claws.php

      The difference is that a dog’s dewclaws can actually be a danger. Removal depends on whether or not they get caught on things and have the possibility of getting ripped off – which would be worse than surgical removal (to which I can attest with my own gashed finger). Decisions about surgery depend on how much of the claw is formed, because not all grow into full digits like a thumb and these are easier to remove with less issue for the dog. If they are removed, folks often do so during a spay/neuter. It seems to me, overall, it would be a case by case basis.

  13. TamarArslanian says:

    BRAVO! Well done!!!!

  14. OldMaidCatLady says:

    Great info! I also carry many claw care products in the Grooming department of OldMaidCatLady.com: http://www.oldmaidcatlady.com/cat_grooming_supplies

    And there’s a free downloadable brochure that can be used by rescue groups, breeders & shelters to educate new cat owners about why declawing is a bad idea: http://www.oldmaidcatlady.com/downloads

  15. HouseOfCats says:

    I disagree with Dr. Weigner’s comment that declawing is necessary when claws cause “trauma to the owner”. The CDC, NIH, US Public Health Service, and Infectious Diseases Society of America all say declawing isn’t necessary to protect people from scratches, so why would a vet recommend a surgery that causes cats to bite more when cat bites are far more dangerous & infectious than scratches?

    • @HouseOfCats Thanks for this information. It is truly appreciated. My question then becomes, are scratches the issue or simply the bacteria in claws? I’m honestly not taking sides here, but the overall point of view – of which was just too long to include here – is that Dr. Weigner feels that, when the owner’s health is at risk but the human/relationship is otherwise good, this may be a better alternative than risking placing the cat in a shelter. Overall, I tend to agree with you. Preventing scratching requires the same tactics for protecting humans as it does for protecting furniture. Offering training, healthy scratch and stretch alternatives, and trying SoftPaws are still all the best alternatives.

  16. lunacydress says:

    If you’re looking furniture a cat won’t scratch, I have a “microfiber” couch, like a fake suede. My cats seem to have no interest in digging their claws into it. They LOVE to scratch the chair I rescued from the curb that’s upholstered in a burlap-esque fabric, so I know they’ll scratch furniture, but they must not like the texture of the microfiber stuff.

  17. CarolineG says:

    YES! Thank you for posting about this very very important issue. Many people just don’t know and they blindly assume it’s “what you do.” Romeo came to me declawed (poor baby) and Pugsley came with claws. As long as I keep P’s claws trimmed, there are NO problems.

    • @CarolineG I too had a stray who came declawed and then my Kringle kitten arrived with a lover for battling everything in sight with all claws extended. Like you, I managed them both just fine without ever considering declawing Kringle to match. Glad to hear this is more than a one-off experience!

  18. LoreleiKathleenHickman says:

    Thank you so much for this article!! I’m a former veterinary technician and I actually left the profession over the declawing issue. I was forbidden from telling clients about any of the complications or bad, traumatic recoveries I witnessed with declaw surgeries- not just at one vet hospital, but at several different ones in several different states. In my experience, very little is done in the veterinary community to educate pet owners about the humane alternatives and the potential negative effects on the cat’s personality and quality of life. If it were up to me, every cat owner seeking a declaw would be informed that declawing is considered the “gold standard” by which to measure the effectiveness of pain medications- which is what vets are taught in vet school. This means it is acknowledged in veterinary medicine to be the *most* painful surgical procedure an animal can be subjected to- yet vets across the country are telling people that it is a harmless, routine procedure. There are numerous humane alternatives to declawing- check out this list: http://cattressmattress.com/2011/08/01/the-declaw-intervention-checklist/#more-1146

    • Thank you for sharing your experience behind the scenes. I can’t even imagine, Lorelei. It breaks my heart to see any animal suffer and I don’t know how you did it as long as you did.

  19. Jacqueline Mason Munera says:

    Great article! However, as someone else notice, the CDC advises against declawing cats in the homes of immune compromised humans. As far as the elderly are concerned, the big issue is the delecate nature of their skin and so many are on anticoagulants that a scratch can cause serious damage.Declawing is still not recomended because of the potential for increased biting as a defense. Keeping nails trimmed or using caps like Soft Paws are a much better option. Purrrs!

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