Not too long ago, declawing was the go-to procedure for putting an end to destructive behavior. Now that we have a better understanding of what the procedure entails and the kinds of temporary and long term effects it can have on our feline friends, many veterinarians and behaviorists caution against it except in cases where it is medically necessary (to remove a tumor in the paw, for instance). Here are 7 reasons to choose a humane option.
#1 – It’s not simply the removal of claws. Many people don’t understand what the declawing procedure actually entails. Despite what the name suggests, declawing isn’t only the removal of a cat’s claws. Because of the way a cat’s claws grow, the procedure also involves the amputation of bone. If the procedure were being done on you, your fingers would be amputated at the first knuckle.
#2 – Clawing is a natural and healthy behavior. When you declaw a cat, you’re denying her of a behavior that’s instinctual, natural, and healthy. Clawing isn’t just for sharpening and removing dead layers from nails, it also helps your cat stretch and relieve stress.
#3 – Declawing leaves your cat defenseless. Even indoor cats can find their way outdoors sometimes. Door can be left open by well-meaning guests, faulty screens can pop out, and exceptionally stealthy cats can slip through your legs and out the door without you even noticing. Without claws, your cat is left with only her teeth to defend herself from predators.
#4 – Increased aggression. Claws are a cat’s main defense against predators and danger. Without them, some cats default to a more aggressive personality to intimidate before danger has a chance to strike. Many declawed cats will also begin to bite more.
#5 – Future litter box problems. Cats instinctually avoid repeating actions that have caused them pain in the past… but sometimes they don’t associate the pain with the correct thing. Has your cat ever started to avoid using the litter box because of a painful urinary tract infection? She associated the pain with the act of being in the litter box, not with the infection. So even after an infection is gone it can be hard to convince her to use the litter box again. The same is true for declawed cats. Many cats who have been declawed experience extreme pain or discomfort when digging or standing in litter and it can be hard to get them back into the box, even after wounds have healed.
#6 – Limited mobility. Cats walk on their toes and have to learn how to walk in a new way after being declawed (which removes the top of each toe). Re-learning to walk can be painful, not to mention depressing for an animal that relies on being well-coordinated and spry.
#7 – Long-term pain. When a cat is no longer able to walk on her toes, the change in her posture and how her body holds her weight can result in pain and stiffness to her hips, legs, and spine. Many declawed cats are also prone to developing arthritis.