5 Reasons Declawing Cats Is a Terrible Idea

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on October 27, 2017.

Cats are gods of chaos, with lots of sneaky ways to vex their human housemates. When your feline friend has been shredding her way through your favorite clothes or excavating holes in the back of your couch, it might be tempting to consider declawing your meowing monster.

But don’t do it! Here are five reasons why this practice is cruel, counterproductive and entirely unnecessary.

1. Declawing is actually amputation

Some might assume that declawing simply means removing the nails on a cat’s paws and preventing them from growing back. When framed in this way, the procedure seems harmless. But this is a misconception.

As veterinarian Dr. Christianne Schelling explains:

Declawing is not like a manicure. It is serious surgery. Your cat’s claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat’s claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s “toes”. When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act.

2. The pain lasts long after surgery

That’s right. Cats still have to walk after the declawing procedure, and — as any cat keeper well knows — cats do not understand the meaning of “take it easy” when they are in a feisty mood. So that means pain — and lots of it. Infection and possible necrosis, or tissue death, is also a real possibility. Additionally, back pain can become a problem following a declawing procedure, as cats struggle to compensate for their lack of claws.

The long recovery time — multiple weeks — can put a mental strain on a cat too.

3. Cats must learn how to perform basic tasks again

Following a declawing procedure, cats are essentially missing their toes. Imagine trying to balance without your toe joints flexing to give you extra stability. While cat physiology differs from that of humans, the same principle applies. Not only that, but cats use their claws for a variety of behaviors, from playing to marking their territory. Without claws, these two vital actions are impeded, which can add to your cat’s stress.

4. Cats may become more aggressive

There is limited evidence to show that some cats seem to become more aggressive after a declawing procedure. If we think of claws as a cat’s major line of defense — and also a tool for asserting dominance and marking territory — it’s understandable why some may feel threatened without this device. What’s more, the trauma of an unnecessary surgical procedure could exacerbate existing behaviors, making the cat more aggressive as a result.

And there’s always the chance that cats will turn from clawing to biting as their only option for physically displaying their displeasure.

5. Declawing is entirely unnecessary for most cats

While there are legitimate reasons for declawing cats in some circumstances, as part of emergency or life-extending medical care, the procedure is entirely unnecessary for most cats. In fact, in several U.S. states – and countries around the world — it’s actually illegal to declaw cats. In other places, veterinarians will not perform the procedure because they believe it is inhumane.

But the question remains: What should you do if you have concerns about your cat’s claws? Here are a few alternatives:

  • Trimming your cats nails regularly can prevent them from scratching you unintentionally and reduce risks if your cat is feeling aggressive. Trimming is relatively straightforward, but it will take a little bit of time for your cat to get used to it. Care2 offers this helpful guide on cat grooming and clipping.
  • Place several scratching posts and cardboard scratching boards around your home to give your cat places to exercise their claws without damaging furniture. Try taping furniture where cats like to scratch to deter this behavior.
  • Divert attention by giving cats lots of toys to play with.
  • If you have a major concern about your cat’s claws — for example, your child’s safety — it may be worth talking to your vet about claw caps as a last resort. Claw caps are small, individual sheaths that can be placed over your cats claws that dull their ability to slice. Opinions on this intervention are mixed, with some owners claiming it offered a good fix, while others stating that these caps are distressing for their cats to wear.

Lastly, accept that your cat is a semi-wild creature — and, unfortunately, some of your furniture may be forfeit. The choice to have a cat carries some downsides, but the benefits of having “fur kids” far outweigh any negatives — even when you do get the occasional playful scratch.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

198 comments

Past Member
Past Member 12 days ago

A friend of mine recently told me that her cat had been declawed. I would not be surprised if the cat kept licking its paws or showing other signs of sensitivity.

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Greta L
Greta L28 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Shae Lee
Shae Leeabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

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Leo C
Leo Cabout a month ago

Thank you for posting!

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Jeanne M
Jeanne Mabout a month ago

Vets in Nova Scotia have banned declawing, saying it is ethically unacceptable.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Rabout a month ago

very cruel and Vets should not be allowed to perform it.

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Daniel v
Daniel vabout a month ago

very simple ,should be outlawed .stay away from veterinarians that perform this procedure ,there in only in business of making money and not good caring for the animal veterinarians

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Lorraine A
Lorraine Andersenabout a month ago

Declawing is very cruel and should be outlawed.

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Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a month ago

Any vet willing to declaw a cat ought to lise their lucence and publicly shamed. Same goes for any pet owner. If it was up to me, both would be charged with animal cruelty

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Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a month ago

Um no, I would never consider declawing a cat. They need all the defense they can get. If someone is going to be cruel, it is invariably to a cat.

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