On declawing

I’ve never liked the idea of declawing a cat–claws are part of who they are. That’s why my cats have theirs. I recently watched a riveting documentary called The Paw Project and it builds an airtight argument against declawing.

anti-declaw billboard

But my first cat–a kitten I’d found in my late teens–was declawed. I sent her in to have the procedure and I can share first-hand why I’d never do that again.

I wasn’t planning to get a cat. She found me I guess you could say. I lived in an apartment that didn’t encourage pets and if cats were to be allowed, they had to be declawed. I couldn’t afford to move, and I was too selfish to rehome the cat. For her best interests, I should have found a home where she’d be allowed to remain whole.

When I brought my cat back from the vet, she was in a lot of discomfort. To see her limping and favoring her front paws broke my heart. She left bloody footprints around the apartment for a week too–my first realization that declawing isn’t a simple procedure; it’s an amputation.

Declawing consists of removing the first joint of each toe–because cat’s claws grow from the bone. My cat endured ten amputations for no good reason. She couldn’t scratch carpets, walls, or furniture, but she also couldn’t stretch and climb like a normal cat. She was indoors-only, but one afternoon I had her on a harness and leash when a dog rushed onto the property and tried to maul her. She climbed the nearest tree, but without a grappling-hook grip, she fell back toward him. By sheer luck she reached a horizontal branch on her second try.

In her old age, she wobbled on arthritic feet and stopped using her litter box. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s common with declawed cats.

Cats need to scratch. It’s a territory marker (with both scent and visual clues). It’s good for their muscles too. I have a tall cat tree for my cats to climb and strategically placed scratching posts around my house. My cats prefer their posts to my furniture. In a few cases, I’ve had to put double-sided tape on sofa corners until they got the hint that the furniture isn’t for scratching. I trim my cats’ claws regularly too. No matter what, my cats’ wellbeing is more important than my sofa!

fistful of clawsCats’ claws are important for self-defense. They use them to fend off attackers and to make a quick getaway. Cat scratches hurt, but cat bites are more dangerous. If a cat loses her toes and claws, she’ll be more likely to bite. It’s better to adopt two kittens together (so they can roughhouse and learn about boundaries) or use toys–not hands–to play with an energetic cat.

If a cat experiences pain in the litter box (from a UTI or painful feet), he’ll likely associate the location as the source of the pain and change his behavior. With age, amputated toes often become arthritic and painful. Many cats who experience this will develop litter box issues.

Basically, removing claws doesn’t benefit the cat; it benefits only the owner. That’s why it’s unnecessary and uncalled for. If a piece of furniture is more important than a cat’s well-being, then maybe a cat isn’t the best choice. If someone is worried about junior being scratched, then adult supervision is needed. Teaching kids to play appropriately with cats, and never leaving little kids unattended with cats is the most sensible option.

Many countries and (as you’ll learn in The Paw Project) some cities in the USA have banned declawing. It’s barbaric and should be banned nationwide. I wasn’t educated on the risks and dangers of mutilating my cat with a declaw procedure. At the bare minimum, people need to know what they’re subjecting their cats to and what the outcomes are. I’m happy to report that my current vet is very anti-declawing. She won’t do the procedure. Instead, she educates cat guardians and works on changing problematic behavior.

I hope that’s the norm and that declawing will be sent to the history books.

10 thoughts on “On declawing

    • Ha ha! Sofa casualties happen but at least the cat’s are okay 🙂

      I noticed my cats leave the microfiber loveseat alone, poke holes (accidentally) in my vinyl chair, and love the loose weave of my sofa. From now on, I might just go microfiber all the way! Attracts hair, but rolls off easily.

  1. Great post on a very important topic that every cat lover should know!

    To call it declawing is part of the problem, since without more information, that makes it sound like only the claws are removed. A major reason is the veterinarians–they know exactly what happens because they are performing the amputation and should let people know what it involves and have a pamphlet with all the problems (as you have listed) or better still, refuse to do it, like your vet. Let’s hope you’re right, that declawing will be sent to the history books someday SOON!

    While we’re on the subject of cats (they are adored by millions of people) but it grieves me to see them free outside for two reasons.

    1. They are in danger of being killed by a car. When I mention this to my friends who let their cats out, they say their cats are not happy indoors and that the cats are very smart to avoid cars. That is not a valid answer, I see dead cats on the road too often.

    2. They do a massive amount of damage to wildlife. To this my friends say it is natural. However, cats are not “natural” to our environment. They’re domesticated and introduced into the environment. As wild mousers in North Africa, where they originated, they were part of the environment. Not anymore.

    I love birds and have seen countless beautiful birds killed by cats. This is a serious problem.

    To those who love cats, please think about the birds too!

    Thank you! ♥

    • It is a naming issue, isn’t it? It should be called toe amputation. My vet doesn’t outright say she won’t declaw because then people will go elsewhere. She makes a consultation with the people who want declawing done and goes over all the cons. Of everyone she’s talked to, only two people still wanted the operation done. Everyone else changed their minds after reason two or three. I’m happy to have a great vet!

      I used to have an indoor/out philosophy but I’ve seen the havoc cats wreck on the environment. They kill birds and don’t eat them. At least wild animals eat what they kill. Killing a rodent is dangerous for cats because of disease but also because many are poisoned and that can enter the cats’ systems. Cats can go missing, get hit by cars, eaten by coyotes (even in the city), are abused by mean people, sleep in car hoods and get injured or killed, drink antifreeze and die, and get in fights with cats and other creatures. They don’t live as long or are as healthy as indoor cats.

      I bought a “catio” (special outdoor enclosure) so my cats can enjoy fresh air and bird-watching. Someone told me a catio is too expensive, but I said it’s cheaper than a vet bill. Then she went on to list the vet expenses she’s had to pay for her cat’s absceses, cornea injury, etc. Not fun for the cat and not easy on the wallet. Also, neighbors hate it when cats poop in their gardens! In some cities, cats at large is not allowed.

    • great post, Carmen. Personally, I call it “de-boning” when talking to people so they understand what a violent act against the cat it is. I agree, “declawing” is not correct.

  2. thank you for that post. declawing is really a symptom of humans treating animals like – things.
    thumbs up on your “catio” from a comment here. never knew such things existed, but then again, I’m a dog person, little do I know of cats 🙂

    and what do you thing of neutering of pets? I can’t support it, and I don’t accept Peta’s points. example: our dogs haven’t been neutered, and we took proper care of finding them mates. it really isn’t THAT hard. but dogs are also all different (duh), and while our first dog was a very alpha-ish sort of character with lots of beautiful offspring, my mum’s zwerg schnauzer only humps his toys. with females, he only manages to play, and so we stopped looking for mates for him.

    my credo: if you can’t take care of the animal, get yourself a game of sims and a cosy blanket. that simple. because it’s hard work to raise it, and to care for it. (also drives me nuts to see how some people “walk” their dog: yadda-yadda on their cell phone in the park, while the dog just sits next to them, bored to death)

    • My philosophy is different. In the US alone, almost 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year. I can’t justify bringing animals into the world when so many are being killed for no reason other than a lack of a home. This number is declining (it used to be over 12 million a year) in part because of spay and neuter programs.

      I know altering a dog or cat is invasive and they have no say in the matter but it’s the lesser of two evils. It’s for the good of the species. Maybe if someone invented a good animal birth control, that would be an option. Getting an animal fixed isn’t natural, but cats and dogs don’t live natural lives.

      They’re domesticated and now it’s up to humans to make sure they’re all treated well. Even if I found homes for my dog’s pups, it would mean that shelter dogs aren’t getting adopted because someone adopted my dog’s offspring instead.

      I definitely agree with your credo about getting a video game instead of a dog if a person can’t take care of an animal! I like that 🙂 I also like paying attention to my dog when we go on walks. It’s out special time. But I see so many people talking on the phone too, and completely ignoring their dogs. Frustrating!

  3. Err…did you mean to reply to some other article? This one’s about declawing, not spay/neuter. Your comment seems really our of place, but your sentiments on spay/neuter are absolutely correct.

    When humans refuse to spay/neuter their pets and litters result of their negligence, they create the next generation of suffering. There aren’t enough homes for them all, and with 6-8 million cats entering shelters annually (and 70% never making it back out) humans need to step up and take responsibility for the problem we’re creating.

    • Ah – I DID mean to reply with spay/neuter info. It was a reply to Beautycalype but I added my comment to the general section instead of after her question. Fixed that! Thanks.

      The issues are different, but similar in that declawing, fixing, (and tail cropping and ear docking) are all operations people perform on animals–without their consent, obviously. But where declawing is for the benefit of humans and cropping and docking are for looks, neutering is in the best interest of the overall dog and cat population. My comment might have seemed out of place but that’s where the train of thinking came from.

      I’ve been meaning to write about both neutering and docking/cropping, so I’ll get on that!

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