If you live in Australia, you may be wondering what declawing is, because luckily it’s classed as animal cruelty and illegal here. However, there are places in the world (including the United States) where declawing cats, a surgery known as onychectomy, is legal and even commonplace. Today, we discuss what declawing involves, the risks associated with it, and the alternatives.
What is Declawing?
It’s a common misconception that declawing is similar to a kitty manicure – that would be when you trim your cat’s claws using the correct tools. If you’ve ever cut too far down when you’re trimming your cat’s nails and nicked the quick, you’ll know that it’s painful for your cat and causes bleeding. That’s because the quick is packed full of nerves and blood vessels.
Declawing is actual removal of the claws and each front toe from the last joint or knuckle. Look at your own hands, and imagine how you’d feel if your fingers were amputated at the first joint. It’s definitely, not just a manicure!
What’s Bad About Declawing?
Apart from the simple fact that it’s a process that involves amputating part of the cat’s toes, which must be immensely painful after the surgery, declawing also has other serious consequences:
- The usual risks associate with anaesthesia and surgery, and all for an elective (not medically necessary) surgery.
- The possibility of lifelong pain, nerve or tendon damage, lameness or dead tissue around the surgery site.
- A different way of walking that can lead to painful legs and impaired balance – think how you’d walk if you had your toes amputated from the first knuckle!
- Declawed cats should be kept as indoor cats, but if they get outside accidentally they have no way to protect themselves against predators.
- Psychological issues. Cats scratch for a number of reasons, including marking their territory, so to take this natural behaviour away from them can cause immense stress and psychological problems, leading to behavioural problems such as aggression, refusing to eat or inappropriate elimination.
- Litter tray problems in declawed cats can be caused by the pain and discomfort of digging certain types of litter when they’ve had the end of their toes amputated.
- Biting issues – if a cat can’t use their claws, (not just to attack/defend, but to hold onto things), they’ll often compensate by biting more.
Why Would Anyone Declaw Their Cat?
Although there is a growing movement to end the practice of declawing in the United States, it’s still legal in many places. The most common reason for people declawing their cat is, sadly, to stop them from scratching the furniture – a behaviour that’s very fixable.
Other reasons given for putting their cat through the amputation are fighting in a multi-cat household and owners that have suppressed immune systems due to certain illnesses so are more at risk of contracting cat scratch disease.
Alternatives to Declawing Cats
In countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, where declawing is classed as animal cruelty, pet owners are required to look at solutions that involve training and changing the cat’s environment.
Scratching the furniture is the most common reason cat owners seek to declaw their cats, but there are effective options to curb this behaviour without having to resort to declawing.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly.
- Provide lots of scratching posts, and use training to encourage your cat to use them instead of the furniture.
- Vinyl nail caps that cover your cat’s sharp claws will prevent them from damaging the furniture.
- Natural deterrents like double sided tape, and sprays made with citrus or eucalyptus oil diluted with water are also effective.
Do you have experience with a cat who has been declawed – how has it affected the cat?