Declawing is the surgical removal of a cat’s claws. The procedure involves amputating the last bone in a cat’s toe. It’s a major surgery that can have serious consequences for a cat’s health and welfare. We think it should be an illegal procedure. But as we have talked about it before, let’s hear about it from the cat’s point of view.
A Cat’s Opinion on Declawing
I am a cat. I have claws. They are a part of who I am. And, if you’re considering declawing me, I have one thing to say to you: please don’t do it!
Yes, those little nubs of mine can leave scratches on your furniture, and maybe even draw blood if they get tangled in your skin. But that’s no reason to declaw me. It’s painful, it’s unnecessary, and it’s just plain wrong.
What is Declawing?
First of all, let’s talk about what declawing is. Declawing is traditionally thought of as the removal of my claws—and not just the ones on my front paws. In many cases, all 18 of my claws will be removed if you choose to declaw me. But the removal doesn’t stop at my claws. Part of my bones are also removed. More on that later. But whether you only declaw my front paws, or all four, it is a painful and inhumane procedure that does nothing to improve the quality of my life. In fact, it often has the opposite effect.
The medical term for this procedure is “onychectomy,” and it’s actually quite a bit more complicated than just snipping off my nails. The last bone in each toe is fused to my nail, so in order to remove the nail, the veterinarian has to go in and amputate that bone. That means 18 bones in total will be surgically removed from my body if you declaw me—and that doesn’t even include the nerves, tissue, and blood vessels that are also cut during the surgery.
Why Do People Declaw Their Cats?
There are a couple of reasons why people choose to declaw their cats. First of all, some people think it will make me less likely to scratch furniture or skin. Others do it because they think it will make me less likely to run away or to fight with other animals—but there’s no evidence to support either of those claims. In fact, studies have shown that declawed cats are actually more likely to bite than cats who still have their claws because we feel defenseless without them.
The Truth About Declawing
The sad fact is that nearly 25% of my fellow pet cats in the United States have been declawed. In almost all cases, it was a totally medically unnecessary surgery. Again, there are really only two reasons why people choose to declaw their cats: because they’re worried about damage to their furniture or because they think it will make their cat more docile. But both of those reasons are based on misconceptions about us cats and our capabilities with our claws.
Is Declawing Cats Really Cruel and Inhumane?
As a cat, I have to say that yes, it is a cruel and inhumane practice. In addition to being painful, declawing can also have lasting negative effects on a cat’s health. The loss of our claws can cause joint problems and make it difficult and painful to walk properly. Some of us stop using our litterbox, because the gravel-like kitty litter is painful to stand on. It can also lead to cat behavior issues such as biting and hostility. In other words, declawing does more harm than good—both physically and mentally.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that 10% of cats who were declawed developed long-term complications like chronic back pain, tissue necrosis, neuropathy, changes in behavior, lameness, regrowth of the nail, and chewing at the digits. So yeah, I have to call it cruel and inhumane. And there are plenty of big organizations that agree with me:
Peta says: “Declawing is a violent, invasive, painful, and unnecessary mutilation that involves 10 separate amputations—not just of cats’ nails but of their joints as well. Its long-term effects include skin and bladder problems and the gradual weakening of cats’ legs, shoulders, and back muscles. “
CBS News reports: “An organization representing 3,800 U.S. veterinarians says it “strongly opposes” declawing for cats as an elective procedure.”
Humane Society: “The Humane Society of the United States opposes declawing and tendonectomies except for rare cases when it’s necessary for medical purposes, such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.”
The Legal Case Against Declawing
There are a number of reasons why I feel that declawing should be illegal. First and foremost, it is incredibly painful for the cat. The surgery involves cutting through bone, tendon, and muscle. It is so painful, in fact, that it is considered animal cruelty in many parts of the world. According to Peta, the declawing of cats is illegal in the following countries, states, and provinces.
Maryland (2022) and New York (2019) are the only two states that have passed laws that have made declawing cats illegal in the United States. But things are changing, and many states are moving through with legislation that would outlaw cat declawing. On the other paw, several US cities have made declawing illegal, including:
- Austin, Texas
- Berkeley, California
- Beverly Hills, California
- Burbank, California
- Denver, Colorado
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- St. Louis, Missouri
- San Francisco, California
- Santa Monica, California
- West Hollywood, California
Many Countries have Declawing Bans
Declawing is either prohibited or limited in many countries, unless the animal has a serious damage or disease of the claw, (like cancer) in which case the surgery would help the cat restore comfort in a handicapped paw and improve their health. This is the only time I could recommend declawing one of my feline friends. These forward thinking countries that have banned declawing include:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- The Czech Republic
- Denmark (does not apply to Greenland or the Faroe Islands)
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- Northern Ireland
Considering that eight of its ten provinces have outlawed the practice, Canada has achieved significant progress in this area.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Québec (will be effective February 2024)
It is my hope that the practice of declawing us cats will be made illegal in a growing number of nations, states, and provinces in the near future.
The thing about scratching is that it is a natural instinct for us cats, and we need to scratch to shed the outer layer of our nails, exercise our muscles, and mark our territory. In fact, even a declawed cat will continue going through the motions of scratching, or “sharpening our claws”, because it is such a natural instinct for us, and something we just feel the need to do. However, there are ways to redirect your cat’s scratching behavior so they’re not damaging your furniture.
The primary justification I often hear people use for declawing their cats is to prevent them from scratching and tearing up furniture. Many people think the only solution is to declaw their cat, but that’s not the case. There are other options.
You can invest in some scratching posts and put them around your house so that I have somewhere else to scratch besides your furniture. As I mentioned before, scratching is natural behavior for cats, and redirecting that behavior is much easier (and cheaper) than declawing me would be.
You can try using both scratching posts or boards. These offer a more natural surface for us to scratch and can be placed next to the furniture we’re attracted to. You can try vertical posts, horizontal posts, or even horizontal boards tipped at an angle. Find out which one your cat prefers and go with that.
You can also use double-sided tape, aluminum foil, or plastic sheeting on areas you don’t want us to scratch. The unpleasant sensation will deter us from scratching without causing any pain. And believe me, this stuff works. My owner (I call her that, but we really know who owns who, right?) put that double-sided tape on her desk, right where I always jump up on it, just because she didn’t like me walking behind her computer and knocking all those cords loose. It was so much fun, but I don’t jump up there anymore, because I hate that sticky stuff!
Nail Trimming and Soft Paws
Finally, there is no need to declaw cats when there are much safer and humane alternatives available—such as regular nail trimming and soft paws (plastic caps that are glued over the nails). These alternatives are much less expensive than declawing and do not put our health at risk.
You can trim my nails regularly so that they’re not as sharp—and there are lots of different nail trimmers designed specifically for cats that will make this task easy for you (and painless for me).
Image: KittyExpert.com Visit KittyExpert.com for Dillon’s review of SoftPaws and his tutorial on applying them.
My Final Thoughts
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to declaw me is up to you—but I hope you’ll choose not to do it. It’s unnecessary, it’s painful, and it takes away an important part of who I am as a cat. There are alternatives to declawing that won’t cause me any pain or discomfort, so please consider those options before making a decision that we’ll both regret later on down the road.
Well, there you have it, directly from the cat’s meowth. He has a valid cause for his adamant opposition to declawing. It hurts and could have long-term behavioral and health effects. And we are pleased to learn that so many jurisdictions have made it unlawful. Your thoughts?