Declawing: When to do it and when not to do it

Written By: Alex D. – TCR Volunteer.

If your attention span is very short, I will stick the main point of this article – there is never a right time to declaw your kitty. I know most of us already know the process and the risk undertaken with such surgery procedures, but for those of us that don’t or need a refresher here are some facts.

We cannot show you any relevant declawing pics here, so we have replaced them with happy kitty shots. (Note: they are happy because nobody cut off part of their bones). Seriously though, do not Google image search “declawing”… it’s not cool and once you see the images, you cannot un-see them.

Huey doesn't want to be declawed

Feel free to share this information with any other kitty owners. Umm, make that, as a TCR helper it is your duty to share this information with kitty owners out there. Ok, now to the facts:

• It hurts – a lot. It is a painful surgical procedure with a very lengthy recovery time. Period.

• Recovery time is longer than you think; sometimes the cat never fully recovers. Unlike humans who can reason and who are pretty much at the top of the food chain (as long as that Jurassic Park thing never materializes), cats on the other hand have somewhat limited brain power. They can’t, and won’t, understand what happened to them, and why their primary method of defense has been removed. It’s like someone chopping off your arms and throwing you in the middle of the jungle.. with a lobotomy to boot. Now you will be in the same situation as a freshly declawed kitty.

• It is NOT the same process as trimming a pets nails. If you have ever given your pet a mani/pedi then you probably observed that it doesn’t bleed as long as you don’t cut too short. Click here for steps on clipping cats nails.

• A cat’s claw is not a simple nail like you have on your fingers and toes (ideally 10 on each). A cat’s claw is part of the paw’s bone structure. When the vet declaws, part of the bone has to be cut off. Now, think of the feeling if someone cut off part of your bones.

• Recovery time is exacerbated by the cat’s need to walk, stand up, and pretty much live their daily life. Cats don’t have hospital beds, wheelchairs, nor rehabilitation centers. Although some cartoon cats are the exception.

• Cats don’t have an infinite supply of pain meds, muscle relaxants, sleeping aids etc. We don’t yet have the technology to translate the different tones of ‘meow’ into “something hurts”, “something hurts over here”, “I can’t sleep”, “I have a migraine” – last one applicable only to female kitties, after their life partner goes tomcatting around the neighborhood.

Austin playing with Pierre vs. scratching your couch

All of the above translate into tremendous psychological trauma for the kitty. And for the sake of time we’ll ignore all other problems that may also occur, such as post-op infections, litter box issues, hissing. If your sofa is that much more precious to you than your companion, then make a decision and only keep one: the kitty or the sofa. Try to find someone who will adopt your cat that won’t put him through so much hardship.

So, what can I do sir vs. declawing? Searching the internet can yield numerous solutions from special scratching posts to elastic claw caps. Kitties with a play-friend or sibling are also less prone to scratching furniture. Whatever option you try, it is most important that you actually spend time with your cat. Like all training, you need to dedicate time. It doesn’t take long and only your physical presence can ensure the best results.

Learn & Share:

1. Talking to your vet is strongly recommended. They will be able to confirm all the points above.

2. More Information: Read TCR’s one pager on DECLAWING CATS. Check out declawing.com, which has useful links for alternative solutions to declawing.

3. If you want a declawed companion, please adopt a cat that has already been declawed by their previous owner, see our Available Cats section.

Toronto Cat Rescue believes the practice of declawing is a form of mutilation. We DO NOT declaw ANY cat.

43 Comments on “Declawing: When to do it and when not to do it

  1. I’m from the UK, and I remember being incredibly shocked and upset the first time I met a declawed kitty here in Canada- it’s been illegal to declaw cats there for as long as I can remember- as it is across huge swathes of Europe, plus in Australia, New Zealand and Japan- so I’d never even heard of it, let alone seen a cat with such important bits mutilated!

    About 25 countries total worldwide have clued into the fact that- like tail docking and earcropping in dogs, declawing should not be performed without a very valid, justifiable, medical need- as the last resort when all other strategies to resolve problems arising from a defect or damage fail. Hopefully Canada will catch up soon.

    If a person can’t deal with having a cat because they have claws… honestly, in my opinion- they shouldn’t share their life and home with a cat. Declawing a perfectly healthy, functional little kitty because they might ‘scratch the walls’ or ‘hurt the baby’ or ‘wreck the leather couch’ is akin in my mind to cutting the fingers and toes off a perfectly healthy toddler because they might ‘draw on the wall with crayon’, or ‘poke granny in the eye when she comes to visit’ or ‘kick the neighbour kid’- something you just don’t even imagine doing!

    Bethany- I’m not a vet, but it seems apparent to me that you’re trying to do whats in the best interests of someone in your care, with absolutely the right intentions- to minimise suffering. That’s not something I’d look at with anything other than respect.

    Sometimes there are exceptions to almost every rule- a friend of mine has a young daughter with non-functioning polydactyl thumbs on both hands- they serve no purpose other than to cause her physical pain and mental distress, they’re not gonna get better with time or handling, and so together with specialists they’re working on a plan to get her the best level of function they can, with the least risk and potential trauma- which seems to be just like what you’re doing.

    That’s nothing like taking pruning shears to the little girls arms, for concern over doodles on wallpaper, or any other perceived misbehaviour- it’s an act of compassion and caring- and I’m sure you’ll succeed in finding the best solution you can for your kitty, just like my friend will for her child. Just educate yourself, and trust your caring instincts.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. Also, this claw isn’t attached to a toe, it’s just in the webbing between the thumb and the paw. It doesn’t touch the ground so there is no weight bearing on it. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would hurt him more than it would help him.

  3. I agree.. generally..

    My cat is a polydactyl and he has a claw in between his thumb and the rest of his paw on both front paws. One of the claws has been causing a lot of problems. It is very hard to cut because it grows extremely close to the skin and in sort of a circle. It takes 3 people to cut it. Literally. So my choices are to take him to the vet to get it cut every 4 weeks or so or to get it removed. My cat HATES going out in the carrier, especially to the vet. He shakes from fear. To put him through that every month I don’t think is a good idea. Other than the emotional effect of it, he has athsma and a possible heart murmur so I don’t like him getting too stressed.

    I don’t think that any reason other than a medical situation is a good enough reason for declawing, and I can’t think of a medical situation in which all the claws would need to be removed.

    I am interested to hear what you think about this particular situation. I would only be having the one claw removed and possibly the one on the other paw in anticipation of possible problems in the future. (I don’t like the idea of him going under anesthetic and would hate to have to do it twice).

    • Hi Bethany, You are the one that knows your cat the best and it is up to you to make an informed choice for him and what will be the best for his lifestyle in the long run. With this situation it sounds like it does come down a medical decision. One extra claw being removed is different than a full declaw where a cat needs to change their physiology to walk on their newly exposed bones. In this case it is an extra toe, so it is not a structural nor a mechanical change. We have heard of other medical situations, like a a cat whose tendons wouldn’t retract the claws, so in order for kitty to walk anywhere, they had to declaw her. It is your responsibility to do the best by your cat, and to be at peace with your decision.

    • I was glad to read this Bethany – have been feeling so guilty – I just had the exact same procedure done removing that one claw between the thumb and the other finger on my polydactyl cat on both paws. It was continually ingrown and she does not allow her feet touched and my vet felt it was best. She is acting fine though!!

      • It sounds like you made the right choice for your cat. My cat is very good with having his paws handled and eventually I figured out how to cut his difficult claw by myself. If he didn’t allow his feet to be touched I too would have had those claws removed for his sake.

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