Do You Get Your Cat Declawed?
Around 25 percent of you are now quietly nodding because this is the percentage of U.S. cats that are declawed. Of course, one person might have several cats declawed whilst in some cities the procedure is illegal, so this skews the statistics. But you still get the point. Declawing is common.
Arguments for Declawing
OK, let’s get the main argument in favor of declawing out in the open where we can see it.
- Declawing saves lives because it’s either that or surrender a cat to the shelter.
There’s no denying a cat that claws furniture is destructive. Those sharp nails shred soft furnishings and splinter wood. If kitty damages an antique dresser this is may be the last straw for a house-proud pet parent. Given the choice between surrendering her to a shelter (and death row), then declawing can seem a benign option.
But is it?
To reach an educated conclusion, it helps to understand what declawing surgery involves.
Declawing Surgery: The Procedure
If you snap a nail, eventually it grows back. This is because the nail bed is not damaged and can still push out new growth.
Declawing is much more than nail clipping or they, too, would grow back. The nail bed has to go, and the only way to do this is to remove the whole “fingertip.” Declawing surgery is the equivalent of amputating (technical term here, not an emotive one) the P3 digit, or the final knuckle bone of each toe on the front paws.
Think about it. How would losing all your fingertips affect you?
This might sound far-fetched, but it isn’t. Cats walk on their toes, and you’ve just removed the toe tips. This changes the way kitty walks, and that’s without considering she can no longer grip with her claws in order to climb.
Also, declawing surgery is painful. It involves slicing the skin, joint capsule, ligaments, blood vessels, and muscles that bind one toe bone to another. How can that not hurt? Of course it does. It hurts a lot. Which leads us nicely onto the problems associated with declawing.
Argument Against Declawing
OK, time to declare an interest. I’m against declawing. But let’s set aside the emotional side of inflicting pain on a pet and look at the facts.
When Los Angeles Heights made declawing illegal, the number of cats surrendered to shelters fell by 22 percent. That’s right. Fewer cats were surrendered. This is because declawing creates behavioral issues rather than solving them.
Imagine the cat that comes home after declawing surgery desperate to relieve a full bladder. She goes to the litter box and starts to dig – only to be in excruciating pain. She links the pain to the litter box and avoids it in future, and so starts a whole new behavioral problem of inappropriate toileting in the house.
Another issue is that cats use their claws to send out the message to back off. If, for example, you are playing rough with kitty, she may swipe claws in, and if you ignore the warning swipe claws out. The declawed cat may feel defenseless and may up the ante by going straight in for a bite, rather than a soft warning swipe.
Alternatives to Declawing
Let’s see if we can reach a compromise where your cat keeps her claws but she doesn’t scratch the furniture.
The first thing to understand is that scratching is natural behavior. Asking a cat to stop scratching is like asking them to stop breathing. Cats claw to exercise the top part of their body, and crucially they do it to mark their territory.
Marking territory is a security thing that helps her to feel safe. This is why she chooses places that smell heavily of you, such as the coach or the bed. To stop this habit you need to employ a give and take strategy to help keep your cat happy.
The “giving” is to provide a good sturdy scratching post beside the object you want left alone, with additional tips mentioned in our post How to Stop your Cat from Scratching the Carpet. This means she still gets the satisfaction of scent-marking the spot but doesn’t damage the furniture.
The “taking” involves applying double-sided sticky tape on the furniture so it feels unpleasantly tacky when she tries to scratch.
Now let’s look at protecting the furniture. It may sound obvious, but regular nail clipping is great idea; once a month should do it. Pick a time when kitty is relaxed, and come armed with treats. Start by trimming one nail at a time, then give the reward. When she learns to associate a small snip with something tasty, she’ll soon cooperate.
Another option to consider is tipping the claws with a vinyl cover, such as Soft Paws. These allow the cat to behave normally but without doing the damage. The nail covers are widely available and relatively simple to apply.
So remember, declawing creates more problems than it solves. It makes your cat sore and stops her from expressing natural behaviors. So please, look at the alternatives.