Declawing May Cause Aggression and Back Pain in Cats

While many cats continue to find themselves the victims of declawing, a new study has shed more light on the long-term consequences of the procedure. And hopefully the findings will convince more cat owners and veterinarians to stop supporting the cruel practice.

Declawing has remained a controversial topic among vets, animal advocates and cat owners, but the fact remains that it isn’t a simple procedure that merely removes a cat’s nails. Rather, the procedure, which is formally known as an onychectomy, involves surgically removing the last bone in a cat’s toe to which the nail is attached.

While many cats find themselves the victims of this procedure because they scratch furniture — or humans – their advocates point out that this is a natural behavior, whether we like it or not.

If cats are declawed, they might not be able to scratch anymore, but they may also turn to other unwanted behaviors — like avoiding the litter box and biting as a defense. Even worse, they may have to live with harmful side effects like chronic pain for the rest of their lives as a result of the procedure.

Most research on declawing has focused on issues directly following surgery, but there’s been virtually no examination of the long-term consequences.

Now, a new study just published in the “Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery” has brought to light serious problems for cats who have been declawed – and it’s added some major weight to arguments against the practice.

Researchers physically examined 137 declawed cats and 137 non-declawed cats, in addition to the animals’ medical histories. They found that avoiding the litter box, biting, aggression and excessive grooming occurred significantly more often in the declawed cats than the non-declawed cats.

Declawed cats were also three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain. Researchers believe the condition is caused by chronic pain in cats’ paws that causes them to shift their weight, and shortening of their joints, which changes the way they bear their weight.

Still more concerning was the number of botched surgeries they found — 63 percent — that had left P3 fragments, or pieces of the bone that are supposed to be removed, inside the paws of declawed cats. Even with the best surgical techniques, the problems associated with declawing still aren’t eliminated.

‘The result of this research reinforces my opinion that declawed cats with unwanted behaviors may not be “bad cats”, they may simply need pain management. We now have scientific evidence that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than we originally thought and I hope this study becomes one of many that will lead veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats,” said lead author Dr. Nicole Martell-Moran, a veterinary practitioner in a cat-only clinic in Houston, Texas.

While animal advocates are working to educate people about the inherent cruelty involved in declawing — as well as safe and effective alternatives, like Sticky Paws, scratching posts and nail caps – they also aim to end this practice entirely.

Hopefully this study will help support efforts to ban declawing in states currently considering related legislation, including New Jersey and New York.

How to Help

Please sign and share the petitions asking lawmakers in New York and New Jersey to stand up for the humane treatment of companion animals by supporting legislation that would make declawing illegal throughout their states.

You can also help by supporting compassionate vets who put their patients first by refusing to perform mutilating procedures like declawing and devocalization. If you’re looking for a new one, has a list of vets in the U.S. and Canada who have pledged not to declaw.

For more on declawing and efforts to stop it, check out the Paw Project.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for posting.

Amira R
Amira R1 years ago

Why not just get them a scratch tree or, I don't know, let them outside?

Michelle Spradley

Anyone who thinks declawing is an option should try living without the use of their fingers for a week or two.

william Miller
william Miller1 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B1 years ago


Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers1 years ago

We are petitioning for declawing to be made illegal.

earthism info
earthism info1 years ago

stop declawing

heather g
heather g1 years ago

Removing a human's nails is torture..... so is it for a cat.

Anne H
Anne H1 years ago

I have not heard this before. Horrible.