8 Reasons Why Declawing Is Bad (And What to Do Instead)

by Monika
Why is declawing bad

Is your cat sharpening their nails on your well-kept furniture? Are you considering declawing your kitty to save precious table legs or a sofa? I hope I can convince you otherwise.

Many people aren’t aware of the negative consequences claw removal can have on their kitties. They believe it’s a routine procedure that doesn’t hurt the cat. But that’s far from the truth. Often enough, the vets whose job is to help pets, fail to educate cat owners on the dangers of this surgery and why they shouldn’t do it.

If you’re thinking of preserving your furniture by removing your feline’s claws, please research the negative sides first. I’m confident you’ll change your mind when you see what’s behind this barbaric procedure.

Keep on reading to learn about the many negative aftereffects of declawing.

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What is declawing?

Declawing is the surgical amputation of all or part of a cat’s toe bones and the attached claws, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. It is a painful surgery with long-term consequences.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is kitty’s natural behavior. Many people believe cats scratch only to sharpen their nails, but that is not the sole reason. Cats have scent glands on their paws so when they scratch something, they are marking it as their own. Scratching helps them remain in excellent form, get exercise, stretch their agile bodies, and relieve stress from their bodies.

8 reasons why declawing is bad

9 reasons why declawing is bad

Every surgery carries a risk

When the kitty is under surgery, they’re put under anesthesia. Even if it hardly happens (approximately 1 in 100,000 animals will have a reaction to an anesthetic agent), some cats never wake up after being put to sleep for the surgery. Anesthesia should only be used when it’s necessary for the cat’s health. Declawing kitties is an unnecessary procedure that brings a risk of not only a bad reaction to the anesthetic agent but also other health issues I’ll bring up.

The kitty is in pain, often for the rest of their life

Declawing is not nearly as harmless as cat manicure. As said above, the surgery includes claw amputation and the amputation of the toe bones.

How would you feel if someone removed your nails including fingers from the first knuckle? Declawed cats are living through this exact terror. It is a painful procedure with many potential negative effects on the kitty’s health, short term and long term.

Declawing often leads to:

  • paw pain
  • tissue death
  • nerve damage
  • bone spurs
  • infection
  • lameness
  • back pain
  • arthritis…

Because of the procedure, the cat’s paw is altered so it lies on the ground unnaturally. This causes constant pain for the cat while they are walking. Imagine walking in uncomfortable shoes your whole life. That’s how the kitty feels.

Behavioral issues

Cat owners remove feline’s claws to avoid one form of negative behavior – scratching. But this often brings even more unexpected negative behaviors.

A declawed feline might:

  • bite
  • get aggressive
  • stop using the litter box
  • be afraid of their own shadow

I saw a heartbreaking comment in a cat group on Facebook, written by a vet assistant. She wrote about a situation at her vet office when cat owners brought their wonderful kitty to get her declawed. Two weeks later, they returned to get the cat euthanized because, as they said: “The cat became mean.”. Luckily, the vet kept the poor feline as an office cat. Those people obviously don’t deserve a cat but I’m sure many situations such as that one could be prevented if people stopped declawing their cats.

People don’t expect their cat to change after declawing. When the kitty’s behavior changes, owners either can’t handle it and give the cat away, or live with their cat’s new health and behavior issues, regretting what they did. Some felines never get back to their old selves.

Declawed cats are also missing out on their favorite kitty activities. They can no longer enjoy scratching,  jumping smoothly as before, or stretching using their claws.

They avoid going to the potty

I know I already mentioned behavioral issues, but this one is the most problematic for cat owners so I want to rehash it once again.

If the mentioned reasons weren’t enough to convince you declawing is bad for the kitty, maybe the fact that your cat might stop using the litter box and pee all over the house will. When a declawed kitty tries to bury their waste, the litter hurts their paws. They associate the litter box with pain so they find alternative places to do their business. They might defecate on your laundry, the carpet, or any other place that doesn’t hurt their paws.

Feline needs to relearn how to walk

Cats rely on their toes that usually include claws too. When the claws and the bone are removed, it impairs their balance so they have a hard time walking right. Even when they relearn, they will never walk as unimpeded as they did.

Not being able to claw brings stress

Clawing is a natural and intuitive cat’s behavior. When the cat is unable to scratch, they become stressed and anxious.

Remember how nice it feels to scratch your nose when it tickles? What a relief! Thankfully, your nails and fingertips are always ready to scratch your nose. For cats, scratching is something as intuitive as scratching our nose is to us. I would hate not being able to scratch my nose when needed. I neither want to deny my cats the ability to scratch their claws when they have the need.

They need their claws to stretch

I’m sure you often saw your cat sticking their claws into something and stretching as much as they can. According to Livescience, this helps them increase blood flow and activates their muscles which removes toxins and waste byproducts from their body. Without their claws, they are not able to stretch as effectively, and their body doesn’t get a full benefit of a good stretch.

The kitty can’t defend themselves

Cat’s nails are their primary defense mechanism. Without them, the feline is constantly scared, frustrated, and anxious because they have no way to defend from the threats. They use teeth for protection instead. It’s not uncommon for a declawed cat to become a biter.

If your declawed indoor kitty ever escapes from the house and gets into a fight with other cats, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Other cats with full on claw equipment would hurt your precious kitty and she could not do a thing.

Still not convinced? See the Paw Project movie about the bad sides of declawing. I didn’t see it myself because it’s quite graphic as I heard, but it gets the message out.

What to do instead? A few alternatives to declawing

  • Use different types of scratching posts until you find the one your cat approves and likes to use. Try horizontal scratching post, vertical post, the tall one… One of them will get your cat’s attention.
  • Trim kitty’s nails.
  • Put Soft Paws nail caps on the cat’s claws if they allow you.
  • Feliway spray might help if scratching is stress related.
  • When you see your cat scratching the object they shouldn’t, move them to their scratching post.
  • When you see your cat using the scratching post, reward them with a treat and praise them.

Cats bring us joy, happiness, cuddles, and lots of love. The least we can do for them is treat them with respect, take good care of them, and love them back. Declawing is not any of those things. The procedure is already illegal in many states. Hopefully, it will be illegal everywhere soon enough. Until then, I hope this post opened your eyes to why declawing your cat is not a good idea. I believe you’ll make the wise decision not to get your cat through this painful procedure.

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30 comments

Amy Shojai, CABC March 14, 2018 - 2:21 pm

Thanks for shining alight on this practice of declawing. As you say, there are many alternatives that allow cats to keep claws while preserving your furniture. It’s the right thing to do!

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Sonja of Montecristo Travels March 14, 2018 - 3:10 pm

I am ashamed to say that before I knew better my 4 cats were. Now I would never but at the time I really did not know it was a bad thing or why. Today – if I had a cat – I would get those nail covers/caps. With so much delicate furniture in my home I think it’s the only real solution.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:43 am

The important thing is that you learned from your mistakes and changed your mind about it 🙂

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Rachel March 14, 2018 - 4:29 pm

Great post and so important for all cat parents to know! I’ve heard so many (who declawed) say that they just didn’t know what it actually entailed. Education is key! I see you mention Feliway, they also make a new product to apply to scratchers — encouraging them to use the scratcher.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:45 am

Oh really? I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for letting me know!

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Lola The Rescued Cat March 14, 2018 - 5:03 pm

Thank you for this post! Declawing is horrible and there are so many other alternatives, like the ones you mentioned. It’s so important that people know this information.

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Seville at Nerissa's Life March 14, 2018 - 7:52 pm

Barbaric is right. Declawin’ cats is simply unacceptable, ESPECIALLY once one knows what it really entails. MOUSES!

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Christine AnimalHealer March 14, 2018 - 11:10 pm

I’m so glad to see your post about this! Declawing is barbaric! I’ve seen pictures where the claw actually keeps growing but has no where to go so it grows back on itself into a corkscrew causing terrible pain and mobility problems for the poor cat. I’m glad more vets and pet parents are coming out against this horrible and unnecessary procedure! And instead of declawing people need to properly exercise, stimulate their cats and provide appropriate places for scratching. Thanks for sharing such important info.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:29 am

Oh my, that sounds so painful. Poor cats living with that kind of pain.

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Joely Smith March 15, 2018 - 12:47 am

I personally think declawing is one of the cruelest things one could do to a cat. I have never declawed a cat. I totally agree with what you said about inside cats if they get out can’t defend themselves. I don’t care how careful you are, cats can be sneaky and they love to get out!

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:31 am

Yes, there is always a chance of cat getting out, no matter how careful one might be.

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Beth March 15, 2018 - 1:10 am

Even before I had a cat (15 years ago), I heard that it was a really painful procedure with long-lasting effects. It surprises me that in a time when people are commonly choosing a plant-based diet and holistic healing, that some vets are STILL doing this surgery. I wish they would instead educate their clients the way you just did.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:27 am

Yeah, I don’t understand why some vets still do it. Maybe for the money, who knows.

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Ruth Epstein March 15, 2018 - 1:21 am

I am dead against it. When living in Israel and rescued a cat that had been declawed and it killed me inside to see her as I felt she had no protection if the got out. This is something that I have spoken out about a lot and will not keep quiet. Great post

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Kamira G. March 15, 2018 - 1:53 am

This is a great informative post. I think even today in 2018 many pet owners have no idea about the impact of declawing on cats. I know as a cat mom in the 1990s when I first adopted my first cat, she had major biting and scratching issues. We had taken her to the vet and luckily back then I had a compassionate vet that informed me about options and how standard declawing was very painful. At the time he suggested an alternative of clipping the nail at the very edge and supergluing the ends to stop the nails from regrowing. I have no idea how it worked but that’s how it was explained to me at the time. It was the best option at the time. Luckily for my cat, she lived a happy live and was a spoiled diva….well until her younger sister joined the family -sibling rivalry! Great post. Will share.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:26 am

That sounds like a great vet! Informing his clients about safer and healthier options.

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Sweet Purrfections March 15, 2018 - 2:34 am

Thank you for sharing this information. I never declawed any of my cats over the last 40 years. I didn’t know what it really was until a few years ago, so I’m so glad I never chose to do this to any of my cats. In this day, one would think everyone knows what declawing does to a cat, but unfortunately, this isn’t true. This is why your post is so important!

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:34 am

Unfortunately, there are still so many people not aware of the dangers of this procedure.

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Sherri March 15, 2018 - 2:58 am

Declawing is illegal in many countries and consider (rightfully so) animal abuse. I’ve heard the argument that if it means the cat gets a home or not then it’s the better of two options. Really? I think our culture needs to think about why they value material objects so much. Scratch the furniture? So what. It’s a couch. Maybe we’d all be healthier – including cats – if we coveted non-living stuff less.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:35 am

Completely agree. A piece of furniture should never be more important to us than our pet’s health and happiness.

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Sandy Kubillus March 15, 2018 - 3:33 am

I learned so much from your post. I’ve never owned a cat, so I never had to worry about declawing. I didn’t know it was such a ruff procedure. If I ever get a cat, I won’t get it declawed!

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Chirpy Cats March 15, 2018 - 4:14 am

Great post and cannot be shared enough. I hope someday we don’t have to have this discussion and declawing will be relegated to the history books as the horribly cruel practice that it is. It’s just so frustrating that some people around me still insist that their cat is fine after declawing and they would do it again, even after being told what it actually entails. Thanks for sharing this.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:38 am

Yeah, they insist the cat is fine but how can they know if they are really fine? Cats are wired to hide their pain, so even if they don’t seem to be in pain, that doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing it.

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Amelia Johnson March 15, 2018 - 4:19 am

As a former pet sitter, I saw the changes in a cat’s behavior after being declawed. Pet owners that have this done usually think only the nail is removed…remaining clueless because few vets actually show them what they do. They should be made to watch a video clip of the procedure before they opt to have their cats declawed. Defenseless cats do have a tendency to become biters…sad. Thanks for this post.

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Monika March 15, 2018 - 7:39 am

That’s true. So many people are not informed about what the procedure includes.

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Scylla, Fenris, Tuiren, YinYang & Chimera (ATCAD) March 17, 2018 - 1:37 pm

We are so lucky Mommy would never declaw us, although she does get a bit irate when we scratch HER.

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jd September 12, 2019 - 1:55 am

as a cat owner my entire life, from cats from the humane society to the ones saved off the streets, i have always had my cats nuetered and declawed with any problems. they have no problems walking and have no desire (like me) to allow them to go outside. my cats are strictly indoors cats and very happy indoor cats. my cats will never be put outside to fend for themselves as i know of some who got tired of their cat and just left them outside. my cats, some as much as 21 years old have NO problems and that is very obvious. who people can claim they know how a cat feels is self serving.

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Monika September 26, 2019 - 2:12 pm

You are entitled to your opinion. I still believe that it is cruel to make your cat go through that painful procedure just so the furniture would look good for a longer period of time.

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Max J. May 20, 2020 - 5:49 am

I covert the corners of my sofa with packaging tape that is slightly sticky at the outside, specially made for this purpose (Find it on Amazon).
I found an inexpensive scratch pad in the pet store. Two big rectangles made from “corrugated” cardboard on it’s edge and glued together. Inexpensive $8 for two rectangles which I taped together to form a 12×16 scratch pad (Pet store or Amazon)

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Monika June 3, 2020 - 2:51 pm

Good idea! Thanks.

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