Our position and response to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about declawing cats
As an animal welfare organization, we’re committed and proud to take a stand to NOT allow any new declawing of our shelter cats or kittens. We believe it’s an unnecessary, inhumane surgery that does NOT serve the best interest of the animal and, in fact, causes harm. It changes the personality and natural instincts of the cat often resulting in physical, emotional, and behavioral problems.
For adopters seeking declawed cats, we recommend adopting a cat who has already endured and adapted to being declawed. We offer education and guidance to help pet owners understand the basis for our policy and humane alternatives to declawing.
“When you know better… you do better.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
What is declawing?
- Declawing is NOT merely the removal of the claws. It’s an amputation, cutting off the last knuckles of a cat’s paw through bone, tendons, skin, and nerves. For a person, it’s equivalent to amputating each finger or toe at the last joint.
What are the risks of declawing?
- Declawing is one of the most painful procedures in veterinary medicine. Cats are exposed to risks of surgical complications including extensive bleeding, infection, lameness, nerve and tissue damage, and death.
- Post-surgical recovery is very painful and takes several weeks. Even after surgical wounds have healed, there are often long-term physical complications and negative psychological effects. Cats instinctively hide signs of pain which also makes it more difficult to assess and treat. A cat may curl up and go to sleep, so it may appear that they are comfortable when, in fact, they are in pain.
- Long term physical and/or behavioral problems occur for a high percentage of declawed cats including lameness, arthritis, bone or nail re-growth, and chronic pain which often results in avoiding the litter box, fearfulness, and increased biting or aggression.
Why are claws so important to a cat?
“Claws are a physically, socially, and emotionally vital part of every cat” ~ Jackson Galaxy, Cat Behaviorist
- Cats use their claws to climb, exercise, balance, hunt, and protect themselves. A declawed cat is less able to defend themselves or flee from danger – NEVER leave a declawed cat outdoors.
- Scratching is a natural instinct for cats to groom and condition their front claws and mark territories both visually and with scent.
- Cats stretch their bodies and tone their muscles by digging their claws into something and pulling back. Spreading their toes and claws when they stretch is a sign that a cat feels good!
Why has declawing been a common practice?
- Many people are simply NOT informed that declawing is an unnecessary, convenience amputation of their beloved cat’s bones.
- Many veterinarians provide this service on request or even recommend this costly procedure as part of a spay/neuter surgery package without disclosing details and potential complications to their clients.
The GOOD NEWS is…
Many veterinarians are changing their philosophy and discussing more humane alternatives. The REALLY GOOD NEWS is that the majority of pet owners decide NOT to declaw their cats once they understand the risks and alternatives. Declawing is now ILLEGAL in many countries and there is increasing support to ban declawing in the United States.
What are alternatives to declawing?
Accommodate the natural scratching instincts of your cat. Provide a few suitable options covered with carpet, rough fabric, sisal rope, wood, or cardboard in sturdy upright, flat, or angled positions in central areas of your home. A little catnip sprinkled on these surfaces, praise, and a treat will encourage your cat to use them! Always use positive reinforcement, never punishment, to encourage good behavior.
Learn more about nail trimming. Regular trimming of your cat’s claws can prevent injury and damage to household items. The frequency may depend on your cat’s age and lifestyle, but trimming every few weeks is usually recommended. Always trim claws in a calm environment and provide positive reinforcement to make it a pleasant experience. Consider having your veterinarian or pet groomer trim your cat’s nails.
Provide environmental enrichment to minimize stress. Your cat may be scratching because of stress or anxiety in their home. Learn about ways to comfort and minimize stress including interactive play sessions, quiet space away from other animals and children, and calming products such as Feliway.
What if I’m still undecided about declawing my cat?
If you are considering declawing a cat or kitten you already have…
Please talk to your vet about alternatives including finding a new home and owner who will NOT declaw.
If you are planning to adopt a cat or kitten…
Please consider adopting one that has already endured and adapted to being declawed.
Please take time to learn more and make an informed decision. Check out these helpful resources:
HSLC Declaw Position and FAQs – July 2017 [To add – download printable document]
Jacksongalaxy.com Cat Behaviorist – excellent videos and resources!
- Declawing: Jackson Galaxy Just Says NO!
- How to Stop Your Cats from Scratching Furniture
- Cats and claws living happily ever after
Little Big Cat – Resources on the declawing surgery, why it’s unnecessary, why landlords shouldn’t require it, how to help declawed cats, and more!