Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. Cats scratch to stretch muscles, mark territory, and remove broken and dead husks from their claws.
Many people believe that declawing a cat is the best way to prevent inappropriate scratching, but declawing is a not a quick fix, it is major surgery. Declawing removes the last bone of each toe to prevent regrowth of the claw. If this procedure was performed on humans it would be comparable to amputating the tips of each finger at the last knuckle. Even laser surgery involves removal of a cat’s last toe bones and carries the same risks as traditional declawing.
As declawing is major surgery it carries the traditional risks of pain, infection, and tissue necrosis. Additionally, declawing can have long term health effects like nerve damage, regrowth of improperly removed claws, bone spurs, lameness, and back pain related to changes in the way a cat’s paw meets the ground after claw removal.
Cats may also develop adverse behaviors after a declaw procedure. With their primary means of defense gone, their claws, cats may resort to biting when they feel threatened. In the days after declawing, paper litter is generally used in the litter box to prevent irritation of declawed paws. The unfamiliar litter coupled with the pain a cat experiences when scratching in a litter box after a declaw surgery can lead cats to developing an aversion to using their litter box.