Declawing: Why You Should Never Subject Your Cat to This Torturous Procedure
November 15, 2011
In this video, Dr. Karen Becker describes what really happens in a declawing surgery and the significant physical and emotional complications many kitties endure after undergoing the procedure.
By Dr. Becker
Today I want to discuss the procedure known as declawing.
Declawing is surgery that involves amputating the first joint of a cat's toes.
Despite what you may have been led to believe, declawing is painful for the kitty, expensive and irreversible.
Why Cats Have Claws
I believe if most cat owners really understood what occurs during a declawing surgery, they would never choose to subject their pet to the procedure.
Cats are digitigrades, meaning they walk on their toes. Most other mammals, including humans, walk on the soles of their feet.
Cats use their claws for balance, exercise, and stretching and toning the muscles of their legs, back, shoulders and paws. They also use them to hunt and capture prey, to escape or defend against predators, and as part of their marking behavior when they live outdoors.
Declawing Isn't a Nail Trim … It's Amputation
Declawing isn't a nail trim or even nail removal. It's removal of the claw, bones, nerves, the joint capsule, collateral ligaments and the extensor or flexor tendons.
Amputation of the third phalanx or the first toe bone that houses the nail drastically alters the confirmation of the feet, which can lead to a whole host of physical complications such as chronic small bone arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and neuralgia.
Declawing Can Have Emotional as Well as Physical Consequences
Many cats experience emotional difficulties from declawing surgery.
It is common for a pet owner to notice personality changes in their cat after declawing surgery. These changes probably stem from feelings of insecurity after having their primary defense mechanism against predators taken away from them.
Recently declawed cats often become nervous, fearful and aggressive, often resorting to use of their last remaining means of defense – their teeth.
Some declawed kitties, once they discover they can no longer mark with their claws, begin to urinate around the house in order to mark their territory. This can result in long-term inappropriate elimination problems.
Many declawed cats who were confident on the ground when they still had their claws, begin spending all their time on elevated surfaces like the top of the refrigerator, countertops, or high shelving in closets.
There are Only Risks – No Benefits – for Cats Who are Declawed
The main reason pet owners cite for requesting declawing surgery is concern over their home furnishings, flooring and window coverings.
And a main reason veterinarians perform the procedure is out of fear the owner may become abusive or neglectful if the cat damages household belongings, relinquishing their cats to shelters, or banning them from the home.
Because there are so many risks and absolutely no benefit to the animal from declawing surgery, the procedure has been outlawed in many European countries and is a hot topic of debate in many local jurisdictions in the U.S.
Alternatives to Declawing
My motto is 'Educate, don't amputate.'
The humane solution to unwanted scratching is to provide sensible, appealing options for the cat.
I explain to all my clients with kittens that felines have claws for a reason, and as long as they have them, they'll use them.
I explain that just as most humans need to trim their nails weekly, it may be necessary to trim your cat's nails weekly or at least quite frequently.
In addition to weekly nail trims, I also recommend cat owners provide at least two different scratching surfaces, including:
- A tall, sturdy scratching post
- A horizontal scratching mat
My cats prefer floor mats, as well as a log I drug in from outside. My cats also love a commercially available cardboard paper scratcher I bought for them.
In addition to providing your kitty with appropriate surfaces to scratch, you must also take steps to protect any off-limits areas your cat is scratching. You can use aluminum foil or double-sided tape to discourage your cat.
You can also consider covering your cat's nails with a commercially available nail cap, which will protect both you and your belongings from kitty's sharp claws.