Why You Should Never Declaw Your Cats
Why Cats Have Claws
Many people make the mistake in thinking that the only reason a cat will scratch is to sharpen its claws. While that is a reason, it’s not the only reason. A cat’s claws are used for balance, exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs.
The structure of a cats’ body is naturally designed to evenly distribute the weight across its toes, so that the cat has a good balance when walking, running, and climbing. By declawing a cat you are altering this balance and also taking away his ability to properly stretch and, in turn, will cause him to become weak and lose a lot of muscle.
Declawing Isn't a Nail Trim … It's Amputation
Declawing isn't a nail trim or even nail removal. First, you must understand that a cat’s claw is not like a human’s fingernail, which is what a lot of people tend to think. Instead, Declawing is a series of bone amputations. Declawing is more accurately described by the term de-knuckling and is not merely the removal of the claws, as the term "declawing" implies. In humans, fingernails grow from the skin, but in animals that hunt prey, the claws grow from the bone; therefore, the last bone is amputated so the claw cannot re-grow. The last bone of each of the ten front toes of a cat's paw is amputated. Also, the tendons, nerves, and ligaments that enable normal function and movement of the paw are severed. An analogous procedure applied to humans would be cutting off each finger at the last joint.
Declawing is not a single, simple surgery but 10 separate amputations. You can think of it like cutting off a human’s finger at the last joint in each finger. Many vets fail to tell pet owners this because they are afraid the owners will back out of the procedure, and with good reason.
There are Only Risks – No Benefits
Cats are in pain when they awake from the surgery, and the pain continues afterward. Nails can grow back inside the paw, causing extreme pain that you can’t see. Lameness, abscesses, and paw pad atrophy can occur after surgery as well as joint stiffness and arthritis.
Our toes are crucial to our balance, and it’s no different for cats! Because of impaired balance after the procedure, declawed cats have to relearn how to walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.
Declawing contributes to behavioral problems such as litter box avoidance and/or biting.
Without claws, even house-trained cats might start “doing their business” outside the litter box in an attempt to mark their territory.
Declawing deprives cats of their primary means of defense—their claws. Non-declawed cats will use their front paw claws to stave off a threat by swiping. Without these claws, declawed cats have to resort to biting to protect themselves. Many people mistakenly believe that a cat can protect itself by kicking with its back feet claws. What they do not realize is that in order to use the back claws the cat has to be in the very vulnerable position of laying on its back, which is a disadvantage that can easily lead to losing the battle.
Alternatives to Declawing
Trim your cat’s nails regularly. When the cat is relaxed and unafraid, gently press on his or her toes until the claws extends. Use a pair of nail clippers, and cut only the tip of the nail, taking care not to damage the vein, or “quick.” The nail hook is what tears upholstery, so removing it virtually eliminates the potential for damage.
A cat can be trained to use scratching posts to sharpen its claws without damaging furniture. Provide stable scratching posts and boards around your home. Offer different materials like carpet, sisal, wood, and cardboard, as well as different styles (vertical and horizontal). Use toys and catnip to entice your cat to use the posts and boards.
Teach your cat where to scratch and where not to scratch. You can use aluminum foil or double-sided tape to discourage your cat. Using a water bottle is also an effective method of training and discipline.
Nail caps called Soft Paws® or Soft Claws® can be glued painlessly to a cat's claws to prevent damage due to scratching. These items can be purchased at pet supply stores or through your veterinarian.
Double-sided Sticky tape like Sticky Paws® can be applied to furniture help deter a cat from scratching that surface. When the cat goes to scratch there, the tape feels funny to their paws and they learn not to use that surface anymore.
Note: Rebels Rescue will not adopt a cat or kitten if the potential adopter intends to declaw the animal.