Declawing: Bad for Cats and the Humans Who Love Them

Kitten pawThese days, more and more people are becoming aware that declawing is bad for kitties. From Denver to Nova Scotia, some areas have even made the surgery illegal. And it turns out that declawing a cat isn’t just harmful to the kitty—it also causes problems for humans, too!

Declawed cats are more likely to soil the house.

Thinking of declawing to protect your furniture? Think again! Declawing Fluffy might keep her from scratching the couch, but she’ll be more likely to pee on it instead. A recent study found that declawed cats in homes with multiple cats were three times more likely to soil the house instead of using the litterbox. This study is just one of several confirming that declawed cats are more likely to go potty outside the box. The best way to keep furniture safe is simple—provide an appealing kitty scratching post and encourage Fluffy to use it! Be sure to keep your cat’s nails trimmed, too. For more extreme protection, you can even find “nail caps” for cats. These colorful little pieces of plastic clip onto and cover claws.

Declawed cats are more likely to bite.

Some well-meaning parents wonder if they need to declaw the family kitty to keep kids safe from scratches. That’s actually the worst step a cat owner could take: declawing increases the risk of negative human/feline interactions. Without claws to defend themselves, cats are more likely to feel insecure and resort to biting (ouch!) and a range of other behavior problems. Instead, try giving Fluffy a quiet space away from the kiddos where she can retreat if she’s feeling stressed.

Declawing leads to high vet bills.

In addition to the initial cost of the declawing surgery, the pain management that follows, and the risk of complication, this procedure can lead to higher veterinary costs later on, too. If a kitty who doesn’t have claws to defend herself gets outside, she’s more likely to be seriously injured by neighborhood cats or by predators. Health problems such as arthritis, stiffness, and chronic pain can also result from declawing. (Some owners find that declawed kitties are in too much long-term pain to move and play like they used to.)

There are compelling reasons NEVER to declaw a cat. Whether your goal is a safe happy family, or safe unscratched furniture, declawing is counter-productive.

Beyond these practical considerations, there’s also an important moral side to the issue. “Declawing” is a misleading name. The procedure cuts off more than claws: it amputates part of the cat’s toes. This highly painful amputation can cause suffering, health, and behavior problems for the rest of the cat’s life.

If—after knowing the facts—you still have your heart set on a declawed kitty, please choose to adopt a cat who has already been declawed. Kitties declawed by previous owners before they became homeless are waiting for you at your local shelter!

Curious to know more about declawing? Check out these FAQs from The Paw Project.

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  1. Studies have also shown that the older a cat is, the more complications it will have from declawing. You should never declaw a cat that is older than a year old because this is a major change to the cat’s anatomy. Imagine living your life until you’re a teenager and then having your arm amputated. It would be a huge change and adjustment for anyone and animals have feelings just like people do. Cats have a much higher chance of becoming depressed post-declawing if they are older than a year. The stress put on them can compromise their immunity which can cause disease and cancers to infiltrate their body. Cats already have a high chance of having urinary issues and kidney failure, and feline leukemia so please do your research before you decide. I do have a cat that is declawed, she was declawed before a year old and is now 11 human years old, but after that she never really played with her toys anymore. She plays with laser pointers and balls but no toys. She is very loving and got through the surgery just fine but I could tell she was hurting afterwards and the vet we used didn’t even offer her pain medication. I had to take her back a month later because she got an infection in two of her feet because they didn’t offer any antibiotics until I took her back the second time. Please believe me when I say that this is so traumatizing for cats. Both her and her dad were declawed because my boyfriend’s mom convinced me it was what was best for them but after my second cat got the infection, I researched and found out the horrific way they do it. After that I promised myself, never again. The best alternative to declawing that I have found is called “kitty caps.” They are silicone claw covers that you glue onto your cats claws. This prevents them from scratching you and they can “scratch” furniture and their posts without tearing anything up. They do take time and maintainence to keep up but if you love your kitty and don’t want to put him through this awful procedure, this is a great option!

  2. I have a cat that at the time when I adopted was already declawed by her previous owner. Yes it is very true. She used to bite and also potty on the sofa. However, with a lot of love and patience I managed to tame her. I knew about the reason behind her biting habits, but never knew why she had to pee ( and poop too) on the sofa. Now I know. She knows now that I love her very much. With a lot of llove, I have managed to gain her trust, to make her feel safe and secure. Unfortunately she does not play with any toy other than her laser pointer. It must be due to the fact that she is lacking claws to catch anything. I hope one day I can find the right toy that is specifically designed for cats like her. My baby is sleeping in bed next to me right now.

  3. I’ve had my kitty since May ’19; he is now around 16 months old. I had been planning to have him declawed until I read this. This was truly upsetting and I would never put sweet Inky through this awful procedure. Thanks.

    • Hi Ed,

      We’re glad to hear the article was helpful – thank you so much for looking out for Inky and for caring about kitties!

      ~The SAFe Rescue Team >^..^<

  4. This is a really great message – it actually got me a bit emotional. I am so sad I didn’t read it 10 years ago. When I had my first cat, I was about 16 and my mother insisted we get my cat declawed.
    I had NO idea it was amputation of any kind, my mom didn’t really tell me much about the procedure and by the time the vet was explaining it, she was on her way into have it done. I’ve felt awful about that day my whole life. I was young, but old enough that I should have researched it more myself and not gone on what my mum wanted.

    My cat’s declawing supposedly went okay, but she died of liver and kidney failure (at 7 years old) a few days later. I still to this day believe that it was the stress and shock from the procedure that did this.

    Do you think that’s possible? Are there any long term side-effects of declawing – can surgery like that lead to shock in the animal?

    Thanks for writing this informational post for people to keep them educated on what this procedure actually is. We have two cats now, I’m much older and wiser and we’d never declaw our cats.

    • Hi Jaimee,

      Thank you for sharing your story. We’re very sorry that your kitty passed away so suddenly! That must have been heartbreaking. We couldn’t say for sure whether stress from the procedure could have contributed to organ failure in your kitty. Your veterinarian could likely give you more information. There certainly can be long-term effects from declawing, discomfort and behavior issues being the most common. (Some vets even specialize in “Paw Repair Surgery” to help declawed cats who have problems after the procedure.) Thank you again for sharing, and best wishes to you and your kitties!

  5. This is a great and informative article! Thank you for sharing this information about declawing, an important topic that is near and dear to my heart! I hope that one day kitties won’t have their toes amputated for human convenience, but until then we’ll continue to educate people and hope that kitties in the future won’t have to go through this horrific and senseless surgery.

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