Should You Declaw Your Cat?

Declawing a cat involves the surgical removal of all or part of the last toe bone. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Declawing a cat involves the surgical removal of all or part of the last toe bone. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Not that many years ago, the decision about whether to have the family cat declawed focused more on the couch than the cat. These days, however, more veterinarians encourage cat owners to consider nonsurgical strategies to prevent flayed furniture and flesh.

Declawing cats has become increasingly controversial, with some animal advocates decrying the practice as the cruel and unnecessary partial amputation of a cat’s toes. Meanwhile, vet organizations say declawing of feline forefeet should occur only after cat owners have tried scratching posts, nail trimming and other ways to manage a cat’s need to scratch.

“There are some clients who are under the false assumption that declawing is just something you do, like you would get oil changed in your car,” says Dr. Greg Magnusson, owner of Leo’s Pet Care in Carmel, Indiana. “That is not the case.”

cat declawing procedure
Dr. Jenifer Waggoner Clarke of Hillview Vet Clinic in Franklin, Ind., performs a declawing procedure on an anesthetized cat. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Like Magnusson, Dr. Wendy Simpson, owner of Morrisville Cat Hospital in Morrisville, North Carolina, makes sure that clients inquiring about declawing understand that it’s a painful procedure involving surgical removal of all or part of the last toe bone, to which the claw is attached. The surgery requires general anesthesia and, in Simpson's opinion, pain medication during recuperation, which may take about two weeks. Problems, while rare, can include anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection, pain and side effects of pain medication.

RELATED: Am I ready to be a cat owner? 5 questions to ask yourself

Both vets inform pet owners that surgery isn't the only way to prevent scratching problems. They suggest the alternative of training a cat, especially during kittenhood, to use designated scratching pads and posts, and to trim claws every week or two.

What do veterinarians think about declawing?

cat on couch
Ringo has learned to use only cat scratching posts and pads, not the couch. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lynn Newbill of Alexandria, Va.)

“Declawing, in my opinion, should be a last resort after behavioral modification techniques are not working,” Simpson says. Her stance on declawing echoes the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association and several other vet and animal welfare organizations, but does not go so far as some groups that label declawing as an inhumane mutilation that should be outlawed in most cases, as it already is in some countries.

Magnusson says that when a client asks about declawing, he refers them to his blog post on the topic, which describes alternatives to surgically removing the claw, which is attached to the last bone of each toe. But he will provide the surgery if a cat owner wants it. “I make sure there’s a rational reason, but I don’t push ‘last resort’ as much as ‘informed choice,’" he says. "As long as my clients understand there might be complications and there are alternatives, and it’s not a requirement that every cat be declawed, I don’t add guilt.”

cat condo
Lily the cat, perched atop her kitty condo, has been trained to scratch only designated posts and pads. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lynn Newbill of Alexandria, Va.)

Magnusson says there are three main methods that vets use to remove claws, and many horror stories stem from what he considers the outmoded technique of using guillotine-style clippers. “Twenty years ago, when vets used those trimmers, there was mutilation and infection and (claw) regrowth,” Magnusson says. He and Simpson believe that steel-blade scalpel and laser scalpel techniques are better methods to, as Magnusson calls it, “dissect out the bone instead of going through it.” After he removes the claw, he closes the wounds with stitches or surgical glue and bandages the cat's feet.

How much does it cost to declaw cats?

Declawing cats costs on average $100 to $500. Simpson, as well as AVMA spokesman David Kirkpatrick, believe education efforts help to reduce demand for declawing. “While we don’t have actual quantitative data, it’s our impression, based on feedback from AVMA members, breeders, animal control and shelter personnel, and the public, that the number of declawing procedures being performed is in decline," Kirkpatrick says. "We believe this is because of increased awareness about viable alternatives.”

MORE: How do I know which cat is right for me?

Angie’s List members reflect the varying, and sometimes strong, opinions cat owners have about the procedure, which experts say should be limited to cats that stay indoors, since loss of front claws limits a cat’s ability to defend itself.

After declawing surgery, cats' tender paws require special kitty litter that won't irritate them. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

“I would never subject any animal in my care to this horrible, inhumane procedure,” says Lynn Newbill, an Angie’s List member in Alexandria, Virginia, who owns and fosters several cats. “I always clip claws, which isn't difficult with practice and patience. I keep scratching pads and posts throughout the house and near furniture targets. I bait these with catnip and reward appropriate scratching with treats and praise. I also have squirt guns available near target furniture, and I use them if needed.”

What if nothing else works?

Another Angie’s List member, Kimberly Armstrong of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says she resorted to surgery after trying to train her cat, Lucca, to use scratching posts. “I even bought a cat feeder that has a scratcher on it: you scratch on this and you get food. But he destroyed two leather chairs. He scratched my kids and there were infections.”

cat litter
While healing from declawing, cats need litter that doesn't clump or irritate tender paws. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

She says she paid about $300 to declaw Lucca, arranging online to have the procedure done as soon as she and her family returned to the U.S. from military assignment in Italy, where declawing is illegal. To her, the cost of declawing a cat wasn't as important as the risk to her family and property.

MORE: Which Vaccines Does My Cat Need?

“It’s a very personal decision and I would not recommend it automatically,” Armstrong says. “It’s well worth it to try to train the animal. If you do it, don’t feel guilty because you love your pet and you’re not going to get rid of your pet. But I’m not willing to live with destroyed furniture.”


Me-ow! 7 cat owners speak out on declawing

A sample of opinions from an informal survey of Angie’s List members, in which 70 of 190 cat owners said they’d had a cat declawed:

  • “I believe providing well-made, sturdy scratching posts, and giving weekly nail trims is a much more humane way to go. No piece of furniture is worth the cruelty of declawing.”
  • “I have seven indoor cats and they all have their front paws declawed for our safety. I have an awesome vet who gives them pain meds mixed with antibiotic for a week after the surgery.”
  • “I feel it’s cruel and not necessary. I have two cats and they both have claws. I just provide them with cardboard-type scratching pads, put some catnip on them and that's it.”
  • “For a feral kitten like ours, (declawing) was necessary because she started out so mean and was quite the climber. The damage to small children, furniture, flooring, etc., is worth the precaution.”
  • “Prior to having my cat declawed, I was unaware that amputation was involved. I did not declaw my second cat.”
  • “I chose not to declaw my indoor cat because I thought it was cruel; after hundreds of dollars in damage to my furniture and bedding … I'm rethinking things.”
  • “I would adopt a cat that is already declawed, but I refuse to declaw any future cat pets.”

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Nov. 26, 2012.


More Like This

How to Train a Cat Not to Scratch the Furniture

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cat scratching post
Bodie the cat uses his scratching post. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Lynn Newbill of Alexandria, Va.)

Sick of seeing shredded pieces of chair around your home, but don't want to declaw your cat? These tips will help you train a cat not to scratch.

Comments

If you do or were to have a dog that ruined your shoes for biting and tearing them up would you take out their teeth or solve the problem? Or would you train them? A cat is exactly the same way and should be given proper training, otherwise they could have more behavioral problems! Its only fair to the cat, if you can't handle them and give them proper attention and care over your couches then you shouldn't own a cat!

I have always sought to adopt cats that were already declawed. Recently I rescued a Russian Blue from a difficult situation. She was in a free roam shelter that was overcrowded and had just had knee surgery. Once I got her home she discovered she could walk for the first time in her short 4 year life. She is so loving and thrilled with her new life. She does not purposely claw furniture but as she stretches out to say "I LOVE you!" her claws catch my face, my cheek, the chair, whatever is there. Because of this I have had to close the door so I can sleep at night or her claws will awaken me most painfully. Once I had a siamese who owned me declawed and she was fine, the few times she got out of the house, she would climb the tree in the yard 3 or 4 feet. She would catch mice and birds and bring them home. She was so proud. She has since gone to a better place, but not to the declaw procedure. I want to have Petra with me, but the claws make it a painful experience and she cannot understand what she has done wrong. If you have an alternative to declaw - my vet is wonderful, caring, and very expert at what he does or he sends you to a specialist - I want to hear it. I want to be with my baby again and have it a great time. You should she how she buries her heat under my chin or into my chest. She is a wonderful love bug and I do not want to hurt her but enjoy her!

As a certified veterinary technician I have watched this procedure many times in our clinic after the request of many of clients. Reasons included mostly, the cat was ruining something in the house. I can adamantly say, "Don't do this to an animal!" Cats are famous for hiding pain because that is how they survived in the wild. Nerve endings are cut. Much later on arthritis sets in. The constant pain of this wears on the entire system. Litter can hurt the paws, so urinating outside the litter box may happen. Constant minor pain can turn a gentle cat cranky and even aggressive. They will not like their paws touched and may strike out or start hiding. If you respect an animal with the anatomy God gave them, then respect them for using their claws in the first place. Learn to trim them safely, often, and provide areas for them to scratch and exercise properly. If you really like cats, then treat them like you really do!

Declaw your cat and call it a day. Cats do not even know their claws are missing. They do change at all. She/He will still be the fun cat you have always known. My old cat(She passed away over 10 years ago) was more angry at being spayed than being declawed. I believe in that, too. My cat was declawed 8 years ago and he's still a happy cat.

"Declaw your cat and call it a day." People like you should not be allowed to own animals. Or have children. Period.

If the declaw surgery actually kept cats in homes, I wouldn't have my declawed cat, Izzy. She was declawed by her original owners and after the fact she developed troublesome behavioral problems so they just got rid of her. I heard her story and couldn't let her sit in a shelter where she most likely would have been euthanized due to being aggressive and a bit of a biter. (Hint: some declawed cats bite more since they no longer have claws...any doctor can tell you a cat bite is WAY WORSE than a cat scratch.) I took Izzy home with me and only after being with us for over 2 years has she learned to trust people again. She still will hold one of her paws in the air and shake it or lick it because it bothers her. She bites less, unless you touch her paws...DO NOT touch her paws. She's also timid and is very easily startled...she tolerates my other cats (who have their claws) but she remains wary. If I hadn't stepped in, Izzy would most likely have been put to sleep by now...all because some person declawed their pet without thinking of the potential consequences. Declawing is still legal in the U.S. (it's illegal in MANY countries) so technically, it's your choice, but don't be fooled into thinking your cat will be just fine. Some cats turn out better than others after the amputation (and it IS an amputation of the last bone in the toe) but some, like my Izzy, do not. Do you really want to risk it? If you do...don't say you weren't warned...and don't be a jerk and get rid of the cat you just maimed if it develops behavior problems. You caused them so they're your responsibility.

If you think your cat was "angry at being spayed" and that declawing is carefree and painless you are sadly mistaken. Try watching a video of what is exactly done during the procedure. Also--cats don't get angry because you spay or neuter them. Do you really think that an animal can think like that? "man I am so pissed my owner took out my reproductive organs" LOL

I have six rescued previously feral cats, none declawed. I've read several comments here by people saying they needed to get their cats declawed for safety reasons. Seriously? Is your cat a panther? Cats scratch -- sometimes to get your attention, sometimes for comfort, sometimes because they really don't want to swallow an antibiotic tablet. No matter what the reason, even if they do it exceptionally well, you'll lose about five drops of blood at most, and have a mild stinging sensation from superficial scratch marks when you shower for a couple days. But it's hardly a safety issue -- this is a more of an "I'm a giant wuss" issue by people who have no business being around cats. And yes, there's no better way to teach your special flower of a toddler to respect the autonomy and integrity of animals, than to let it get scratched by a cat when it does something insensitive, like yanking on a cat's tail. In sum, unless you're talking about scratches that could literally eviscerate you, and for that you'd need a leopard or something way beyond housecat size, it is NOT a safety issue. It's a: you have no business having a cat issue. Get a goldfish.

I have had my cat for 4 years. I was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetics don't heal. A scratch could kill me. I had my cat declawed to keep her with me in her happy home. Shelters kill 80% of the cats they take in. Shelters and rescues are overflowing. I asked around - friends and family-no one wanted her. I did. She has shown no ill effects from the surgery. She still sleeps with me every night. As for the kid getting a scratch from a cat to teach it a lesson- I am a teacher one of my 5 year old students is blind in one eye from a "harmless" cat scratch.

I agree with you, that some people declaw cats for unneccesary reasons. Normally I would never consider declawing my cat. And I'm still on the fence about it. My dilemma is that my husband has a fistula in his arm for dialysis. He can't even get an insulin shot or take his blood pressure in his arm. If he was scratched on his fistula it would be horrific. And possibly land him in the hospital. But I'm very willing to give our kitten everything she needs. A scratching post etc. So I definately think there could be safety reasons out there but I will only use this as a last resort. I love my animals and I don't want to put them through that kind of pain or stress if its nit neccesary. Keep your fingers crossed that we work things out and my kitten only needs to be spayed.

DO NOT DECLAW YOUR CAT. IT IS MUTILATION AND VERY PAINFUL. GO GET YOUR TOES CUT OFF AT THE FIRST JOINT AND TRY TO WALK ON THEM, THEN TELL ME YOU THINK IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO SUBJECT YOUR CAT TO THE SAME TORTURE. IF YOU CARE MORE FOR YOUR POSSESSIONS THAN A LIVING, FEELING ANIMAL, THEN DON'T GET A CAT. THEY ARE NOT A THING THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO CRUEL THINGS TO FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. (FOR THAT MATTER, DON'T GET A DOG EITHER, SOMEONE THAT THINKS LIKE YOU WILL PROBABLY HAVE IT SURGICALLY DE-BARKED) MANY COUNTRIES, INCLUDING MOST OF WESTERN EUROPE, OUTLAW THE PRACTICE AND THINK WE ARE BARBARIC FOR NOT DOING THE SAME. THERE IS NO ACCEPTIBLE JUSTIFICATION FOR DECLAWING A CAT.

My vet told me that (when I had my kittens front paws declawed after trying everything to get her to stop tearing up furniture) age has to do with changing behaviors and coping with the surgury. My kitten has had no complications from her declawing (other than being spoilt from all the extra attention I doled out on herwhen she was recuperating ;D) if you do it young, its not as bad as an older cat.

I got my cat from a shelter. She is a beautiful tortoise shell Persian and I felt since I always had Persians and made sure they were groomed professionally, given lots of affection, top grade food etc that I was the perfect candidate. Declawing was always taboo. Well this cat has been a huge challenge. While at the shelter, she was affectionate and very perky but her personality changed when brought home. Turns out she is only affectionate in short intervals far apart and ready to strike out with the claws if you try to be close and haven't read her mind. In a relatively short time she had wrecked my living-room furniture, carpets and even a beloved antique chaise-lounge that I received when my mother died. Found out she was twice given back to the same shelter we believe for the same reason. We have bought numerous large scratching posts, used numerous sprays (even essential oils) on the furniture and covered the furniture with plastic wrap, towels, blankets but nothing worked. She would always find the one spot not covered and do a number on it. Forget about clipping her nails, she will rip you to pieces. Groomers all get scratched and I usually have to help hold her because she is wild if any one touches her. I moved to another country where I have a beautiful courtyard that she loves but she has already started on my new furniture and I feel I have to get her declawed for better or worse. I love the cat but someone would have had her put down ages ago if it weren't for me.

Since all our cats are indoor ctas, we have had all of our cats declawed. Our vet does wonderful work and our cats were back walking around in less than a week and they can use there paws like little hands to grap lizards and other small objects. They grap and fight with each other like other cats and still have there back claws to defend themselves. I would reccomend this procedure for any responsible cat owner that will be keeping their cats indoors. The people who are complaining about this being cruel are the same owners who let there cats roam at night pooing in other peoples yards and killing all the small birds. I know because I have cat owners around me who don't care about other people. That to me is inhumane to never bring in your cats at night and let them fight and get sickly and die. My cats are more freidly now than when they were young and yes I can cuddle my cats and feel safe, plus young babies can be around my cat. Go for declawing!

Thanks Blake. That was very helpful and understanding of both possibilities.

My neighbor was outside the other day looking for his declawed cat that go away. You never know when your declawed cat will get loose! Don't allow anyone to chop off your cat's toes. You would not want someone to do that to you.

You also wouldn't want someone to chop your balls off, but we neuter for convenience... Interesting what humans try to justify. On a side note, some vets don't even remove the last digit, or "toe". They surgically remove the tissue that grows the claw so the cat can still balance normally.

I have had about 10 cats in my life, thus far, and they have all been dewclaw'd. They all lived (or living) long and happy lives and some even go outside occasionally. I have a fenced back yard with squirrels to chase; one of the cats even caught goldfish in the pond. They all show no signs of PTSD or missing the litter box. They are loving, good pets. They all play, grab, swat, even climb with no problems, one of the cats would follow up us up into our tree house, climbing the ladder, when I was a kid. We have had nice furniture, happy cats, clean house, all my life. I had problems with ingrown toenails when I was 10; Dr. went in and cut out the corner of my toenails, all fixed and he did it on the nails that didn't have the problem as preventive measures. It is ok to scoop out the balls and remove the ovaries, to prevent rapid population growth and the annoying behavior that goes with puberty, for cats.. I would argue that really effects your cats personality. Inhumane, is letting cats end up in the incinerator because there are more cats then people to care for them. Living in a nice home, food everyday, clean litter, fun people to play with, and missing a bit toe and nail; is better then living in a cage then getting off'ed after a few weeks. Providing a short life in cage then offing the animal is the most inhumane thing you could do to any living thing.

I have a cute little black cat and my parents

As someone who's had over 50 cats in her life--yes, you read right, 50, 6 of which came to me declawed at different times, I can tell you each one of the declawed cats had major issues. 4 of the 6 were to be euthanized for not using the litter box and aggressive behavioral issues ( I was a vet tech at the time and took them home instead), the other 2 were actually found as strays--yes, I am guessing that someone dumped them after declawing them because of the biting issues & general nastiness of their personality. This is a very serious issue that someone should never enter into lightly. Yes, a lot of vets refuse to do the procedure and do tell you the truth. Unfortunately, some are just in it for the $$$ and will lie and mislead you into believing that it's no big deal--until it's too late. Once it's done, you can't undo. Does every cat who gets declawed have issues? No, there are always exceptions to the rule. But more often than not, you are going to end up with a cat that has biting issues, major litter pan issues, can't be let outside unsupervised, starts to have issues walking and balancing properly, and a lot of times will not tolerate other cats (or dogs), and you will start to see there personality change for the worse. Is it really worth it?? Add to the fact that you may have to bring them to the vet more often for xrays for bone spurs forming, anti depression medication, evaluations & etc... and let's face it, pet care is a booming business and quite expensive. Again, ask yourself, is it really worth it? In my opion, no, it's not. Learn how to clip your cats nails--it's not that hard and gets easier as they get more use to it, invest in some good scraching posts and siskal and jute type rugs that they can use for this purpose. Also have a spray bottle of water handy and use it everytime they scratch were they are not supposed to. Believe me, they WILL LEARN. It just takes time & patience. As someone who rescues and rehabilitates feral and stray cats, I can tell you with out a doubt, declawing is one of the most inhumane things you can do to a cat. Get the facts, get educated, and get your self a good pair of clippers and take your time and just clip the nails. I'm telling you, do not declaw, you'll be sorry you did.

Get a small dog instead if you can not stand cat's claws. Cooping any animal up is not a solution. All animals need sunshine and fresh air sometimes. Air conditioning is not fresh air. And exercise really means extending the whole body as fast as it can move. Periodically. If you already have a cat or other pet and can not do these things for it, please keep it and care for it for it's life. But make better future plans.

Hey, it's no secret that cats come from the factory with claws as an integral part of their anatomy. Cats walk on their toes- so amputating the last joint on every toe (front) or (Back) makes it impossible for them to walk in the way they were intended. It's just cruel and inhumane is all. So I wonder why people get cats in the first place -planning to declaw them? It just baffles me. We have two Oriental shorthair kitties who use scratching posts, cat trees, and the huge variety of scratching resources we provide for them. Cats need LOTS of these resources because cats like to scratch. They mark their territory, stretch their bodies, and most of all it feels good to them. If given the RIGHT kind of cat scratching posts- rough textured and tall enough for them to stretch out their entire body- and are praised ike crazy when they are used- they soon forget about unacceptable scratching areas- at least unacceptable to their human companions. As far as preventing surrender, in a huge number of cases cats that are declawed develop other ways to "communicate" such as biting objects- and also becoming aggressive. Many cats stop using their litter boxes- so what happens? The cat is surrendered to a shelter, and since the cat has a label now "poorly behaved"- in the majority of cases they are euthanized. It is NOT true that declawing preserves homes. If you have a cat- as far as I am concerned, along with many, many feline behavioral experts, - learn to "think" like a cat- read about them, learn about their behavior. Never- ever punish a cat- it only confuses them. They don't know they are doing anything wrong and cats are NOT vindictive. Watch Jackson Galaxy's great show "My Cat from Hell" on the Animal Planet channel. Search his website for information about cats.. Learning about cats saves a whole lot of misery, "destruction" and upset.

I’ve owned cats all my life, or rather, my parents did when I was young and I still own them now as an adult. I’d never had a declawed cat before (my family never could have afforded it-so it was never an option we considered) so I never knew much about the procedure until Izzy came into my life. She was originally adopted by my husband’s cousin’s family and when they had her spayed, they also had her declawed (front paws only), which is apparently pretty normal. After physically healing from the procedure they said she never was the same. Where she was once very cute, fun, playful and kitten-like she was now timid, fearful and very prone to hissing and swatting at everything that dared to move near her. She never developed litter box avoidance issues, thank goodness, but she had also undeniably changed. They hoped her behavior would change as she adapted to life without claws, but it didn’t. About a year and a half after the declaw surgery they were fed up with her behavior and were going to dump her in a shelter, where she probably eventually would have been considered unadoptable and put to death for her behavioral problems, which weren’t even her fault! My mother-in-law, knowing I’m a sucker for cats, told me about the situation and appealed to me to save this cat from being dumped in a shelter. So she picked her up and brought Izzy to our house. I never knew Izzy before her surgery, but after talking with her original owners, she’s definitely changed and the only reason that could be is the declaw surgery. I’ve taken her to the vet for x-rays and there’s no apparent physical reason why she should act the way she does, i.e. there are no bone fragments or anything internal causing her pain we didn’t know about. While my other two cats enjoy sprawling out and enjoying a sunny spot on the floor, Izzy only tucks her feet under her and curls into tight little balls, which any cat behaviorist will tell you means she does not feel comfortable enough to stretch out. She often falls off things she’s trying to climb on-we’ve had to construct specific cat towers just for Izzy that allow her to jump easily without having to rely on claws for balance or grip. She also will often hold one of her front paws up, alternating with the other front paw, and she’ll shake it-kind of like when a person shakes a limb that’s fallen asleep-which none of my other cats do or have ever done, so I can only assume that’s also due to her being declawed. She hisses less than when she first arrived in our house, but she still hisses WAY more than any other cat I’ve ever known in my life, at least, the 30 years of it that I’ve lived so far. Any person who comes to my house can immediately tell which of my cats has been declawed, just from the way they act and comport themselves. Sadie and Julia act interested but still slightly wary of new people, whereas Izzy completely hides and hisses at them if they try to interact with her in any way. She just doesn’t act like a normal cat and my heart breaks for her every day because she never really seems very comfortable or happy and I know that she could if she didn’t feel so defenseless and vulnerable without her front claws. All that being said, after 2 years Izzy is VERY sweet to me and my husband (she seems to trust us finally) and loves to sit on our laps being petted, unless one of my other cats tries to join her on my lap, then she hisses and runs away. I LOVE cats, I’m a definite cat person and I tend to live by the motto, “If you wouldn’t do it to your child, you shouldn’t do it to your pet.” With the exception of neutering, of course, which has been proven to prolong a cat’s life as well as keeping the pet population down. Also, I do admit that some cats seem to come away just fine from being declawed. I know a family with a declawed cat that seems perfectly normal, but I also know of my personal experience with Izzy which tells me that even if some cats come out of it perfectly fine it’s undeniable that others do not, and it’s pretty much impossible to tell how your cat’s going to be until after it’s done, and by then it’s too late to change your mind. I say this a lot when someone asks me about my opinion on declawing, “While I can’t deny that some cats seem unaffected by declaw surgeries, my personal experience tells me that it can, in fact, change a cat for the rest of its life. You know, I have a friend that I’ve had since childhood and who is a totally normal, happy, functioning adult now BUT who was also physically abused horribly as a child…does the fact that she’s apparently happy and normal now justify the horrible pain she had to endure as a child?” I like to think most people would answer, heck no! But, that’s essentially the argument for declawing cats-as long as they come out of it fine, it’s ok. But you can’t deny that a declaw surgery causes the cat intense pain-it’s why they’ve actually used declawed cats recovering from surgery as test subjects for pain medication-that stuff hurts! And they aren’t humans, they can’t just stay off their feet and relax in a wheelchair while they recover, they have to use their feet to get around and dig in their litter box, which is why some declawed cats have litter box avoidance issues-they forever associate the pain in their feet with the litter box and refuse to use it. I know this is a very long comment, but I can’t help it! I’m a sucker for cats…I don’t have kids so my cats are my babies and I would never want to do anything to cause them pain unless absolutely necessary, and after owning a declawed cat myself, I believe declawing is rarely necessary, especially with all the other options there are to avoid scratching. I also believe I’ve stated my opinion well and without judgment, so I really hope you do post it so others can see and hopefully learn from my own experience. It’s a person’s own choice to declaw their cat or not, but are the potential problems that come from declawing (aggressiveness, biting, litter box avoidance, timidness, hissing, inability to balance, arthritis later in life, etc…) preferable to scratching, which most kittens grow out of and can be trained out of a cat with persistence and lots of cat trees/scratching posts? As they say, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” Will declawing permanently change your cat’s behavior for the worse? Maybe not…but is it a risk you want to take? AND, if the cat does have issues, will you keep it anyways, or just dump it in a shelter? This is a very serious surgery and it requires much thought and research on the part of the pet owner-please don’t make this decision lightly.

All 5 of my cats are declawed. They are indoor cats and extremely affectionate. I spend time with them fussing over them and encouraging them to get along with each other. I am a doctor and have my office in my home so when my patients come, they always want to see my cats. I've been told on a number of occasions that I have the most affectionate cats in town! The declaw never adversely affected any of my cats. So for those who think it's cruel and the cat suffers, all I have to say to you is you should have as good a life as my cats do!

Clawing is cruel and unnecessary. I have 2 cats that never scratch on anything I don't want them to. What's my secret? Two pretty big natural fiber rugs (Coir, Jute, Sisal). I have a 5x8 coir rug in the entry way, and an 8x8 jute rug in the dining room. They so prefer these to anything else that they specifically go to them to scratch, leaving my thick wool pile living room rug, the sofa and everything else untouched. The coir rug is indestructible. The jute is showing wear, but who cares? It's not expensive, and doesn't show it that badly. Sisal would be stronger than jute. But, they really like scratching this strong tough material. This is how they shed their nails. The other thing is having lots of cat beds, boxes and furniture around. Cats like to play, and NEED to scratch. So, just offer them plenty of appropriate things. If they prefer scratching upright, make or buy something to mount on the wall. But, seriously, I think the rugs are the answer. Another thing is to train them. I used to keep a squirt bottle with water on the coffee table in the living room, and if they started to scratch something, I'd give a little squirt. Pretty quickly all I'd have to do is shake the bottle and they'd stop the behavior. And, lastly, you might learn to clip their nails.

So people want to make declawing illegal? Those that are posting that, have no reason to continue to make more posts because you are doing cats more harm than good. In general speaking, someone reads this post about how bad it is to get cats declawed, then the time comes when they get new furniture, a new rug, or another new piece that they don't want to get ripped to shreads, given the benefit of the doubt, they tried scratching posts and other means of ways for cats to scratch on something less important. So after the happy cat owner reads posts about declawing, such as this one, they become convinced that it is too painful for a cat to be declawed. Not many people want house pets, so they figure that they take the cat to the shelter in hopes that someone will take the cat as a pet. Then this cat is in the shelter with other cats that were dumped off by their owners because they read posts like this how bad it is to declaw their cat, the no kill shelters are full, unfortunately, everytime they write how bad it is to get a cat declawed, they just put a cat to death at the shelter. It may be painful to get them declawed, but most importantly remember this, THEY DO RECOVER!!!!!!

My family has always been a cat family. Between my parents and now my own family, I have owned probably a dozen cats and have had all but one of them had their fronts claws removed (my wife did not have her cat declawed before she brought her into the marriage). None of the cats had any complications or expressed any suffering or frustration during recovery or after healing. In my experience, it didn't change them one bit. Cats with a loving personality enjoyed life more because they could now be held or cuddled without fear of accidental scratching and cats with an aggressive demeanor were still that way afterwards. In other words, I have never seen a negative personality change after declawing. Outdoor cats can even still climb trees to escape if need be (they hug with their front legs and jump up using their back claws). I do not advocate a full declawing of the animal but have no issue with removing their front claws. They may need to recover for a few days, at most a week, but after that you have a family pet that won't, accidentally or intentionally, hurt your family members or furniture and may actually be happier afterwards as they get more loving attention. Find a reputable vet who cares about the animals under their care and your pet will be fine.

So, because you've never personally seen a cat change after being declawed, that means it doesn't happen? What about ALL the comments here from people whose cats did change after being declawed? It clearly does happen, it just didn't happen to your cats, as far as you know. Don't be fooled by this comment people-cats can and do change after being declawed, I'll introduce you to my rescued, declawed cat if you want proof...she'll hiss at you, but don't take offense, she hisses at everyone. :) The problem is, it's impossible to tell how the surgery is going to go, and it's equally impossible to tell how your cat will react to having its claws removed until after the surgery is done, and by then it's too late to change your mind. Your pet trusts you to care for its best interests and its your responsibility to keep them happy and healthy-please research declaw surgeries thoroughly before making any rash decisions.

Your comment leads to the assumption that you when you rescued the cat she was already declawed. If that is true, how do you know that her personality was changed from before the surgery? And if that assumption is wrong, that means that you had her declawed and still raises the eyebrow as you are obviously against the surgery. I believe that if all other options are exhausted, all other methods given an honest attempt and failed, and you are to the point of getting rid of the cat, then yes declawing is a viable option.

As a lifelong cat guardian (not owner - you can't own a living being!), I've never had a cat declawed - the love of a cat is more important than a stupid couch. Declawing is so inhumane, it is banned in many countries and there are many vets in the US who will not do the procedure. I've been an animal welfare volunteer for years and have worked with literally thousands of cats (and dogs) - some cats who have been declawed are in such pain (as it's the equivalent of removing a human knuckle) that they literally walk on their elbows. If you want perfect furniture, don't adopt a cat. Provide scratching posts, trim their nails regularly, learn to train the kitty to not scratch. Declawing is nothing more than butchery!

It's so easy to trim a cats nails regularly-takes just a few minutes. I can't believe that anyone can convince themselves that surgery to declaw is in the cat's best interest. If your child put up his fists to defend himself would we say"take away his fists" or would we teach him to use them appropriately? What I seem to be hearing is " I don't want to take the time to train my cat (to not scratch inappropriately or damage furniture) or care for them (nail clipping)." It's amazing what animals can learn if we take the time to teach them. Sometimes it can be time consuming but the payoff is big -a happy,healthy pet (dog or cat) and an owner who is not frustrated. Many times what we chalk up to as an aggressive cat (or dog),or an aloof pet is more often than not a pet that has not been well trained or understood. People are often amazed that my pets act so social. The cat that took me the longest time to train (6 mths-a scratching,biting cat) ended up being the most loving, grateful pet I've ever had. I give them no less attention than I give my children. If I make the commitment to have kids or pets they all deserve to be understood.

I have had numerous cats in my life.....I admit I was not "schooled" on the pros and cons or surgical removal. I did EXACTLY what the Vets office told me to do Post Surgery and one kitty got a massive infection. It was awful and he had to have his claw area lanced open and drained and antibiotics to boot. The others turned out fine....I just will NEVER see a kitty go through that again. So all I can say is Get information before you do it for Your own good and not the cats....

I don't like to declaw, but I have an immune system disorder. I have to think saving a cat from a high kill shelter and declawing it is better than being put to death. If someone told me I had to choose between having my pinky toes amputated or being killed, I would learn to live without my pinky toes! I have had two cats declawed and both are well adjusted happy animals who don't seem to miss their claws one bit. Neither have litter box issues or biting issues. They are lovey, cuddly cats. I don't like declawing but it's better than sending a cat to an overpopulated shelter where it will sit on 'death row'.

We have 3 cats and all 3 of them had their front claws lazered. It is not like a surgical declaw. Vet uses a lazer to bring claw down right by the nail bed. No major cuts ... each cat was perfectly fine and all came home the same day. Last one even came home a few hours after the procedure.

I actually did declaw my first cat, and I thought I was doing it for her own good. When she was young she would tear her head up when she had fleas, so I actually had her completely declawed as I was afraid she could hurt herself. However when I introduced another cat into the house that was not declawed that cat asserted itself as the dominant cat. I always believed my first cat would have been the dominant one if she had her claws because she was much larger. I grew to deeply regret that decision, because she was still able to tear herself up without claws, but she outgrew that anyway, so declawing her didn't accomplish anything.. And although she has passed on, if I think about it as I am now, I still feel deeply ashamed of myself and sad for the quality of life I took away from her. I have 2 young Ragdoll males now fully armed. For me a leather couch, scratching posts, and a cat tree make furniture scratching a non issue

I had a cat declawed without really researching it. It does seem cruel and really inhumane now that I realize what is done to the poor thing. Don't do it!

I've had many cats, only one of them declawed. She was already declawed when we adopted her from a shelter. She always had trouble with her feet, sometimes injuring herself and limping after jumping off furniture. The vet said her declawing was incomplete, and that she had bone growth like spurs which caused her extreme pain from time to time. We also found that she was far more inclined to be "bite-y" than cats who had their claws. She would use her mouth much more than normal when playing, or when warning us that she'd had enough. We worked very hard to teach her to be gentle, mostly by walking away if she got too excited or started biting. Cats with claws NEED nail trimming. You cannot let those nails grow needle-sharp and not expect scratches or furniture damage. Like with biting, you train your cat to leave their claws IN when playing by walking away when they get too vigorous. If they're getting pets and start using their claws to "get closer" or knead, put them down. They learn very quickly that claws = no petting. I also don't mind when people use water/squirt bottles for furniture training. Our current cat uses her scratching pads to destruction, but the furniture seems to be surviving just fine, after two years of her residence.

This article has been quite informative as well as the varied replies. After reading it, I am still torn. I love animals, although not necessarily a cat lover but I accept them into my home. I have a 10 month old male kitten and a 11 year old female cat. My eldest daugther brought them into the home against my wife's wishes but since they could not work it out, I accepted the new dwellers and spend time with them because I do not care (like I said, "I love animals"). The kitten is a scratch fein and I have bought an expensive scratching post but still find myself shushing him away from my couches. My other problem is getting him to stop biting my expensive King Charles Cavalier Spaniard. He is a jealous, agressive type. My daughter has thought about declawing them but I have mixed feelings on it and after this article I am still mixed about the idea. I lean towards no although I would prefer my furniture not have the scratches, etc. But I consider the claws as a natural part of who they are.

Your kitten sounds like he has a demanding personality! Have you considered that maybe he would be happier if he had another home, one where he would be the only pet? Just a thought... Also, I haven't seen this posted by anyone else, but strategically-placed double-sided tape is also a good scratch deterrent.

Have you considered that your kitten is unhappy with the situation in your home? He sounds like he has a demanding personality and would be happier if he found a new home where he could be the only pet. Just a thought... Also, I haven't seen anyone mention double-sided tape as a deterrent to unwanted scratching.

I had two cats declawed. The first one never seemed to have aproblem with it. The second cat has always shaken her paws after jumping down off things after being declawed, even 14 years later. When I read about what was done in declawing, I was very upset that I had the procedure done. My newest cat has not been declawed. I provide scratching posts and cat tower . Most of the time he uses them and my cat is of more importance than furniture

I have a Russian Blue that I had declawed as a kitty. He healed very quickly with no complications and has never missed them.. and neither have I. He has been a healthy and extremely happy cat for over 17 years and shows no signs of slowing down so all this alarm about declawing seems overblown to me. I don't miss my appendix either.

While I can’t deny that some cats seem unaffected by declaw surgeries, but my personal experience with my rescued, declawed cat tells me that it can, in fact, change a cat for the rest of its life. You know, I have a friend that I’ve had since childhood and who is a totally normal, happy, functioning adult now BUT who was also physically abused horribly as a child…does the fact that she’s apparently happy and normal now justify the horrible pain she had to endure as a child? I like to think most people would answer, heck no! But, that’s essentially the argument for declawing cats-as long as they come out of it fine, it’s ok. But you can’t deny that a declaw surgery causes the cat intense pain-it’s why they’ve actually used declawed cats recovering from surgery as test subjects for pain medication-that stuff hurts! So its great that your cat is fine, but it just means that your cat is lucky, because MANY cats are forever changed by this surgery and I have the anecdotal evidence to prove it. The fact is, no one knows how a cat is going to react until after the declaw surgery, and by then it's too late to change your mind. For anyone out there using this page to help you make your decision to declaw or not, PLEASE don't make this decision lightly. It's a very serious surgery (amputation of each digit on that animal's paw) and you should be sure to research the procedure thoroughly and talk to your vet as well as other vets for second opinions.

Declawing should be against the law. If you can't have a cat with claws then you don't need a cat.

Suppose someone posted, "my cat always tried to run out of the front door, but since I had his lower limbs removed he can't run and we're all better off as he's now safer"... I'm sorry, but amputation is a barbarism. Yes, I've had cats scratch carpets worth in the thousands, etc. But that's the price for having a cat.

Amputation is barbarism? So I guess you're against neutering?

I rescued a kitten from a watery grave 26 years ago. After she clawed 5 people in 1 week, we did have her declawed. Later, my daughter rescued a 12 year Siamese, that had been declawed, from euthanasia. He spent another 10 years with us, but seeing him suffer from arthritis due to the declaw, I would never declaw another cat. He was reduced to walking on his wrists, due to the pain in his dainty paws.

I spay and neuter my cats and dogs. Some would argue this is cruel and that for dogs, neutering has more negative effects than whatever perceived benefits there are (less humping strangers etc.). I also declaw my cats in front. They never go out and still do the scratching behavior, just without destroying things. I worry more about irresponsible owners letting their cats outside the house. Their life is cut in half, they get into fights and get worms from the animals they kill and eat. Cats outside the house are also the #1 killer of wildlife, both small mammals and especially birds. Some owners whine their cat "demands" they be let outside...very immature and irresponsible to allow their cat to use the neighbors yard as their bathroom...and they wonder why their cat never comes home (it's been run over or killed by a dog, coyote etc.)

Actually, every animal expert I know of says that, unless you're a responsible registered breeder, that all cats and dogs should be spayed/neutered by the age of 6 months. Not really sure where you're getting that people think this procedure is cruel. Most people think it's necessary, myself included. Cats and dogs tend to live happier, healthier, longer lives if they're spayed/neutered.

Growing up, my family had cats and I had no idea there was such a thing as declawing. When I was out of the house and rescued my first two cats, I learned that one of them had been declawed. I had no idea - at the rescue she was using the scratching pad. She's 11 now and has back problems - once the paw is mutilated, the weight cannot be carried as intended. My vet also says declawed pets can have litter box issues and tend to be "bitey" as a first defense (rather than swatting). I really learned about declawing when I started volunteering at an animal rescue 5 years ago to do cat adoptions. My rescue requires that pet parents sign a contract saying they won't declaw, and provides info about the inhumane procedure. Of course, some people lie to us and declaw anyway (we learn). Personally I get disgusted when people worry more about their furniture than their pet. I feel that if you are that in love with your furniture, you shouldn't have pets (aside from something in a cage). People can be incredibly selfish, as noted in some of the article comments. It is great to want to rescue a pet - but make sure it is a pet that fits your lifestyle. If you aren't willing to trim claws or have them trimmed or use plastic tips - or just train the cat and have lots of scratching posts around (which is what I recommend first) - then do not get a cat. Be honest with yourself and don't be selfish. Also, it amazes me that people who have no problem taking their dogs to the groomer for nail trims on a regular basis feel that it is perfectly fine to declaw a cat. When I explain that declawing isn't the same as trimming the nail - some people think it is - some people are shocked, as they should be. Declawing is a horrible selfish practice and I hope it is soon outlawed everywhere in the US, as it is in some areas and in other countries.

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