Risks Associated with Declawing

Orange and white tabby with green eyes giving a staff member its left paw.

Scratching is 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 not a quick fix, it is major surgery. Declawing removes the last bone of each toe to prevent the 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 the 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 develop an aversion to using their litter box.

Just because your cat still has its claws does not mean you have to let it destroy your house and furniture.

Inexpensive alternatives to declawing include:

  • Trimming your cat’s nails frequently (we offer this service)
  • Providing a stable scratching post or cardboard scratcher and sprinkle catnip on it to encourage use
  • Sticky Paws®, a double-sided tape that can be put on any surface, including plants, to discourage inappropriate scratching
  • Consider temporary glue on nail caps, like “Soft Paws”, that render the claws harmless by covering them with plastic

If you have read this information and still wish to declaw your cat, we recommend that you seek service at another clinic so that the procedures can be done at the same time instead of anesthetizing the cat twice.