Many people do not understand what happens when they take their cats in to be declawed, and they might not understand why many veterinarians are no longer willing to do it. Most people seem to be of the mindset that having a cat declawed simply means having their claws removed, but the process is, of course, much more painful and complex than this. Considering the various processes, the recovery, and the ultimate effect it has on the cats in question, declawing is quickly being labeled as necessary only for the health of the animal.

What Is Declawing?

Declawing is a process that renders a cat without its claws, which would disable it to have a productive life outside of a household environment. In other words, if your cat is both an inside and outside cat, declawing is probably not an option for you. This is because:

  • It renders a cat unable to climb.
  • It renders a cat unable to grasp its prey.
  • It renders a cat unable to properly protect itself.
  • It renders a cat unable to mark its territory.

While these may not seem like important aspects to humans, keep in mind that you are basically taking away many of the abilities a cat needs to survive in the wild. Cats will scratch areas, such as tree trunks, to mark which territory belongs to them. Their claws are needed for them to hunt and grasp prey, and they are needed to defend themselves both against other predators and other cats. A cat without claws can no longer climb, and considering that cats will climb in order to better survey their surroundings and their territory, this is important to them. Declawing a cat that also lives part of its life outside only ensures that while outside, your cat will be in danger.

It is also necessary to point out that declawing is very painful for the cat. Why is this? Because of the processes involved in declawing a cat.

Why Do People Declaw Cats?

The most given reason for people to declaw their cats is simply because they want to prevent the cat from scratching furniture or people. By removing the cat's claws, the cat cannot scratch any longer. Some people have bleeding disorders and immunodeficiency, which could make an untreated scratch dangerous for them. Also, many parents with young children fear that a cat will become aggressive or that the child might provoke the cat by harming it; the likely response is that the cat will scratch to protect itself.

How Are Cats Declawed?


Amputation appears to be the most popular method as it is also the most cost effective, and this is typically the procedure that people mistakenly believe is simply the removal of the nails. It is actually far worse than that. Even if the nails were removed, they would simply grow back; this also happens in humans who have nails ripped from the nail bed. Given time, they grow back. This process of declawing ensures that claws will not grow back. Unless they do, which will be delved into in a moment.

Amputation is exactly what it sounds like; the veterinarian cuts off part of the cat's toes. To ensure the claw does not grow back, the veterinarians use a scalpel or a guillotine clipper to remove the last knuckle on each toe of the cat's foot. This would be like cutting off a human's fingers at the first knuckle. Only, in cats, this can become a much bigger problem. The wounds are sewn or surgically glued, then bandaged. The cat is then forced to walk on its amputated toes while they are healing.

Laser Surgery

Though this sounds better than amputation, it is simply another form of the same. A high-beam laser is used to cut through the bones by heating and vaporizing. While some people think this is safer than amputation, studies have shown that cats are just as likely to have the same adverse effects if laser surgery is performed rather than traditional amputation. The only difference is that laser surgery costs more than traditional amputation.


A less popular way to declaw a cat actually does not declaw the cat. Instead of removing the toes, the tendon that controls the claws is severed. While the cat gets to keep its claws, the cat can no longer extend them or control them. This can result in claws that grow thicker than normal, and many challenging forms of clipping have to be performed in order to keep the claws from snagging or, worse, growing so long they grow into the cat's paws. Because of this, the cat may actually have to go through the declawing procedure anyway. Despite the fact this is not a form of amputation, yet again the same effects have been seen in cats who undergo this as well.

What Happens to a Declawed Cat?

Unfortunately, people think that declawing a cat will make the cat less of a problem when, in reality, this may and can cause more problems in the long run. While a cat's paws are still healing from the painful procedure, the cat will have to use a litter box. Though it is recommended to use newspaper to help decrease the pain, the cat might not want to use the litter box anyway. Why? Because once a cat has used the litter box, it tends to dig and bury. Because its paws are hurting, however, the cat may avoid the litter box all together, and the owner would be left to clean up the mess. Also, newspaper in a litter box is an unfamiliar material, and a cat may not become used to it, which would also lead to the cat not using the litter box.

Some cats also suffer from behavior changes due to the declawing process. While some owners mistakenly believe declawing will make a cat less aggressive, all this does is change how a cat defends itself. Instead of scratching, for instance, a cat might bite. This is worse, of course, because an animal's mouth, like a human's mouth, contains bacteria that can cause severe infections. Since cats will protect themselves if they feel threatened, no medical procedure is going to stop what is an evolutionary development in almost every species of animal, much less in what is renown as an intelligent one.

There are also several medical problems the cat can suffer from, such as tissue death, pain, infection, lameness, and back pain. Because the cat is now missing part of its toes, its feet will no longer touch down the same way, which will cause added pain. Also, because they are removing bones in the cat's feet, there is a serious risk of nerve damage, bone spurs, and, of course, improperly removed claws. If the claws are not removed correctly, they can grow back and cause the cat added pain. Animals in pain tend to become more aggressive, as they are aware that they are no longer able to fully protect themselves. This leads to an increase in aggressive behavior and makes the cat more likely to attack if it feels as though it has been threatened.

Alternatives to Declawing

As stated before, people who have medical problems think it is best to declaw a cat to protect their own health. However, this reason is simply not acceptable. For instance, someone whose health may be at risk might not realize that they are more likely to get sick from bites, cat litter, or, of course, fleas and ticks from an animal's fur. Scratches are usually not deep unless the animal feels truly threatened and can be treated if given proper care. Fleas and ticks can be prevented, but there is no perfect way to guarantee one will never follow a pet inside. With these other risks to worry about, it is ludicrous that so many people are worried more about scratching.

When it comes to children, supervision would prevent the cat from becoming a problem. Parents should watch young children around animals anyway, and the cat can always be removed from the same room the child is in and placed in another room temporarily if need be. Also, scratching posts and catnip provide excellent distractions for most cats. Parents also need to be aware that they need to teach their children not to aggravate or provoke animals; any animal with a decent system of self-defense will react to what they perceive is a threat whether it be a true threat or a three-year-old. To an animal, it is the same thing.

Also, kittens begin to scratch at eight weeks old, marking their territory, sharpening their claws, removing dead husk, and simply stretching their muscles. Most of this is instinctual, and instead of punishing a kitten for "bad behavior," owners should begin to teach the kitten to use scratching posts as well as trim their nails or take them to get their nails trimmed. Though this process can consume time, it will make for a happier, easier to live with kitten. Also, as the kitten grows into a cat, it is more likely to use a scratching post and is usually less aggressive due to the fact it was not put through a painful medical procedure.

There are also alternatives for people who adopt full-grown cats. There are scratching posts made from all different kinds of materials, so you can easily choose the material your cat seems to prefer. To train a cat to use scratching posts and boards, you can use toys and catnip, which are provided at most, if not all, pet stores.

Also, plastic caps have been made that can be glued to a cat's claws. They need to be replaced every six weeks, but most of them are safe for cats. If you need more information, you can ask your veterinarian. These will stop scratching from occurring, as they cover the claws, and they are safe for a cat to wear. Also, special tapes have been made that can be safely applied to furniture that will discourage a cat from scratching. Small mittens have also been made that can be worn on a cat's paws.

Why Should You Declaw a Cat?

There is, in fact, exactly one situation where it is safe to declaw a cat: when the cat's health is what is being affected. Veterinarians and the Humane Society agree that some health issues, such as cancerous tumors in the nail beds, may only be able to be removed through declawing, and that is acceptable.

However, too many pet owners are declawing their cats simply to make the owners' lives easier. If you cannot find the time to train a cat not to scratch or simply do not care to, and you do not want to look into alternatives for declawing, perhaps it is best not to own a cat. After all, what many people forget is that cats are very intelligent animals and can be taught not to claw furniture or scratch people if given the proper incentive and training. Animals are able to feel pain, and declawing is an extremely painful procedure that is likely to cause the cat even more problems in the future. Many veterinarians are now refusing to declaw cats unless the cat's health is going to benefit from it.

Owning any animal is a responsibility. By taking an animal into your home, you are accepting that its primary care is going to be your responsibility. If you feel the need to cause a cat unnecessary harm simply because you are not willing to do what is needed to prevent the cat from behavior you do not like, consider another animal choice. Declawing a cat can lead to serious infections, extreme pain, and a risk of lameness with nerve damage. Consider the alternatives, and if the alternatives do not work for you, perhaps rehoming the cat and choosing a different pet is what is right for you.

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