Last Updated on November 26, 2021 by Jenny
For anyone asking “Should I declaw my kitten” – there’s a simple and definitive answer – no, you should not.
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What is declawing?
Firstly, let’s make it clear what declawing means. Declawing doesn’t just mean trimming a cat’s nail. It’s a surgical procedure where the entire cat’s claw is removed. And the claw is a joint. Think of the claw as the last part of your own toes and you get an idea of how invasive this is. Are you comfortable having your cat’s toe removed? So why do people declaw a cat, if that’s the case? Firstly, a lot of owners don’t realize that the cat will need to undergo declaw surgery for the procedure. If they aren’t aware that surgery is needed then they might assume it’s just a simple trim. Other owners might understand the process but be unaware of the potential problems it causes. They might assume that yes it’s surgery but it’s not a big deal. These people are very wrong. Some owners are aware of the fact it’s surgical, and they might even know about the cat health problems it can cause, but they think it’s the only way to stop their clawed cat from scratching people, their pets or furniture. These people are also very wrong.
Does declawing hurt a cat?
Declawing does hurt a cat. Even though the surgery will be performed with some form of anesthetic, and you might be provided pain medication for your cat to follow up with, it will only delay the inevitable. Cats will feel pain from the physical damage that’s been done to them, and from the potential health problems caused. They can also experience psychological pain and damage too. A cat needs their claws for a variety of reasons and removing them can cause confusion and trauma. Simply, cats feel various types of pain from undergoing a declawing procedure. You might hear about laser declawing as being a safer and less painful option. That might be partially true – laser declaw surgery does remove some of the risks. Only some though – and your cat will still feel pain later. It’s not worth it.
Cat health issues caused by declawing:
Here’s a summary of some of the health problems caused by cat declawing:
1. Surgical complications
Anytime your pet goes through any kind of surgery, there are risks. Nerves could be damaged which can impact a cat’s ability to walk, or cause lifelong pain. During recovery from the surgery, potential problems include abscesses and infections, lameness and sometimes claw regrowth. If the cat claws regrow they will damage the cat’s paw even more. And if a cat has an issue with bleeding, or they react badly to the anesthesia, then they could die on the operating table. All of these are completely unnecessary risks when you consider the lack of real benefits for declawing your cat.
2. Chronic pain or joint problems
Even if the surgery goes to plan, long-term problems can occur in the joint. It’s common for cats to feel pain for years after their declawing surgery, some of which may be phantom pains which will confuse your cat too. This can cause your cat to scratch without a claw, which can damage soft paws. Your cat will feel like their joints are permanently retracted, and will try to stretch them, which they can’t do. Declawing also means that a cat has to shift its weight, and support itself further back on its paws. This isn’t natural, and could cause arthritis in an older cat (or even when they’re younger) as well as spine and leg problems due to the extra stress placed on the joints, resulting in severe pain.
3. Litter box issues and urination problems
Cat’s claws have two important purposes when it comes to litter boxes. Firstly, the claws help to balance the cat properly. As above, if you declaw the cat then they have to walk on altered paws, and on litter that’ll hurt your cat even more. They’re designed to use their claws to walk and manage the litter surface. Otherwise, it’s just soft pad being dug into by litter. Then, once the cat has used their tray, they want to bury their waste. No claws means no digging, and therefore the waste isn’t buried. This will upset the cat. Ultimately, your cat will stop using the litter box because they’ll be reluctant to leave waste on show. And they will do this to the point of damaging their urinary tract.
4. Psychological and behavioral issues
Declawing can be traumatic for your cat, even if they’re young. You may find that a declawed cat is a much more aggressive cat – they’ll be dealing with pain and pent-up frustration, and may take to biting more. If you’re the sort of cat owner who has declawed your kitten to avoid unwanted scratching on your arms or legs, then you’ll soon find that biting is a lot more painful. It’s common for your cat to change once they’ve been declawed. Normal cat behavior includes scratching and digging, and when they can’t do that then their attitude and demeanor is bound to alter. Declawing cats has long-term psychological ramifications and it’s important for any cat lover to be aware of that.
Declawing cats alternatives
Scratching doesn’t have to be a dangerous or a destructive problem in your home. There are plenty of ways for your cat to fulfil that itch without it hurting you, your other pets or your furniture, and they are all so much better than declawing.
1. Scratching post
A scratching post is simple but effective when you want to find a good outlet for your cat’s scratching needs. There are lots of different varieties of scratching post available to buy, so take the time to find one that’s right for you and your cat. And then, you can train them to use their new scratching post through positive reinforcement.
2. Nail trimming
Your cat’s nails do need to be trimmed, and doing so regularly can help your cat to feel less of a need to scratch. For the best tools and methods for nail trimming, check out our post on ‘How to Cut Cat Nails’.
3. Soft Claws
If you’re still having problems with your kitty scratching, consider this humane alternative. Soft Claws (are nail caps that use a safe adhesive to cap-off and effectively blunt your cat’s claws. They’re not harmed in any way, and they still get the satisfaction of the scratching action. There’s just no damage left in their wake, so the scratching problem is solved. The dangers of declawing cats far outweigh any benefits, especially when there are so many simple alternatives available. Any pet owner should thoroughly research any procedure before putting their loved cat through it, including risks and potential alternatives. What experiences have you had with declawing? What alternatives would you recommend to tackle problematic scratching behavior?