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Declawing Cats


Submitted By maria1ku
Words 2123
Pages 9
The Harmful Effects of Declawing on Cats
Maria Stanley
Washburn University

This paper describes the ways in which declawing a cat does more harm mentally and physically for the cat than good. After describing the declawing procedure, this paper examines the mental and physical harm this procedure can cause to a cat and provides alternative solutions to declawing a cat. Many pet owners believe that declawing their cat is a harmless solution to their natural scratching behaviors, but it has been found that declawing a cat can actually cause more harm than good, as future life-threatening illnesses for the cat, mood swings, and a change in personality. Studies and researchers have tested this theory and found that instead of deciding to declaw their cat, pet owners should look for a safer and better method to prevent them from scratching things up.

It is often believed that there is no serious harm in declawing a cat. Declawing a cat is often seen as a quick fix to stop the scratching that a cat might be doing. It is seen as a way to prevent one’s furniture, and other belongings from being scratched up. What most proponents of declawing do not realize, however, is all of the physical and mental distress that the cat will now suffer for the rest of its life because of this one action. Many people do not realize all of the harm that can come from declawing their cat. Those who believe that it is a quick fix to prevent their cat from scratching things do not realize that declawing their cat can actually cause years of mental and physical problems for their cat. This can range from the cat becoming more aggressive, to being highly insecure. What most people do not understand is that cats need to use their claws as a basic everyday need. It is very common to mistake clawing as a behavior problem, but in reality a cat isn’t clawing because it is being vicious. Clawing is a natural activity, and a necessity for cats. The claws on a cat help them with many things. First off having claws helps cats groom themselves, since having claws helps prevent their fur from tangling, and it also removes dead skin and hair. Secondly, cats need to scratch and stretch out their muscles, since they require around 12-16 hours of sleep. Scratching tends to be part of a cat’s stretching routine. Clawing helps the cat stretch out the muscles in their toes. Thirdly it is important for cats to scratch or claw, because that helps them shed away the dead outer layer of their nail, so that the new healthy nail underneath can be exposed. Lastly a cat will use its claws for protection against potential enemies before using any other natural defense. So, when you declaw a cat, you are taking away their weapon, and so they will feel defenseless, especially if they are left outside. When someone decides to adopt a cat, they most likely are unaware of the cat’s basic needs for scratching. So, they are taken by surprise when they get the cat home, and the cat begins to scratch on things that it maybe should not be. According to Jen Swiderski (2002), author of an article that appeared in Clinical Techniques Small Animal Practice. In 2002, “Scratching is a normal behavior of cats, but destructive scratching represents approximately 15 to 42% of feline behavior complaints” (p.17) As she describes, scratching is a highly rated complaint for most cat owners, and at the end of the day most of them are just looking for a quick fix. In most cases, they will take their cat to the vet, and the vet will suggest getting the cat declawed. From personal experience, I took my cat to the vet for her checkup as soon as I adopted her from the shelter, and my veterinarian was recommending that I get her declawed. He did not explain to me the side effects that this could have on my cat, or just how serious the procedure truly is. He just wanted me to fork over a rather large sum of money, so he could perform a procedure on my cat that would have a serious long-term effect on her. Naturally, I declined, and I found a different veterinarian who explained to me the procedure, as well as giving me other methods to take that could reduce the amount of scratching that my cat was doing. One of the main reasons that people tend to get their cats declawed is because they are not properly educated on all of the negatives that stem from it; they are only focused on a short-term solution. Ultimately, they are tired of having their furniture scratched up, and they do not want to take the time to seek an alternative to getting their cats declawed. It is a common belief that when a cat is declawed it is similar to just humans trimming our fingernails. That belief, however, is, far from the actual truth. There are a few different techniques that are used when a cat is getting declawed. The one thing that all of these techniques have in common is that to remove the actual claw you have to remove the little bone that the claw grows from. This is to prevent the claw from growing back again. Jennifer Dougherty (2014), a writer for Partnership for Animal Welfare describes the human equivalent to this procedure by stating, “For a human, declawing a cat is equivalent to having the tips of the fingers cut off at the first joint below the fingernail.” Most cat owners are not aware of this fact. There are two surgical procedures through which a cat can be declawed. A “guillotine-type” nail trimmer, and this will be used to cut the joints between the last two bones of the toe. Or this procedure can be performed with a scalpel blade to dissect those two bones. When one of these procedures is complete then each of those toe wounds are filled with surgical glue, and held closed. When the procedure is done, and the cat is off of anesthesia, then there are several toes that will need to be cleaned again, and re-glued, and this is said to be extremely painful for the cat, and the cat is no longer on anesthesia, and can feel all of the pain. Once the owner of the cat gets to take him or her home, then they will have to buy special liter to use for a few weeks to prevent infection. The cat will also have a hard time being able to walk for a few days after the surgery. Furthermore, there are many more complications that come with declawing a cat, including long-term mental and physical distress for the cat. While the surgery in general for declawing a cat is extremely painful, it is often forgotten that your cat won’t only be going through a couple days of pain, but rather a lifetime of mental and physical hardships. Cats experience pain in a few different ways than humans. For example, they will get an elevated blood pressure, have an increased pulse rate, fever, and often times limping. There are a few post-surgery complications such as bleeding, swelling, and infections. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine did a study in 1998 on 163 cats (that were declawed) and reported that 50% of the cats experienced one or more of the complications. Since the litter can be sensitive to the cat’s paws, the cat will resort to going to the bathroom in other areas of the house. It is also very common that after a declawing surgery the entire personality of the cat will be altered. Due to the fact that your cat has lost its claws, it is common for them to result to biting more. This is because they lost their main defense mechanism, and so they are resorting to the other weapon they have. It is common for cats to become a lot more aggressive, shy, and anxious after they go through a declawing procedure. Karen Tobias, a scholarly writer for a feline teaching institution, describes some of the surgical complications and diseases that can arise from this procedure, such as “Hemorrhage, claw regrowth, and paralysis.” Needless to say, there are different methods to control a cat’s scratching that don’t cause any mental or physical harm to them. There is a popular notion that says that cats can’t be trained and they are not very smart, but this is in fact a myth. Due to this myth many people do not take the time and effort to even try and train their cats; instead they just look for the quick fix solution. First of all, there are many different scratching tools such as scratching posts, toys, scratching houses, etc. It is not that hard to find a tool that will fit your cat’s desire. Most of the cat scratching devices on the market today are quite inexpensive, and so you can own multiple of them. The easiest way to teach your cat to use a scratching post is to place it near a piece of furniture that they are attracted to, and then begin scratching it with your own hands. When the cat watches you scratch it, then they will begin to mimic you. It will take a lot of kind words and praising to get your cat to cooperate. Contrary to popular belief, you should not take the cat’s paws and begin scratching them on the post for them. The paws of a cat are a sensitive spot, and so they don’t like to have them grabbed in such a manner. If you choose to try and train your cat like this, then they might start to avoid the scratching post. It is important to never get physical with your cat when they are misbehaving, especially when you are trying to train them. Using a firm “No” has proven to work much more effectively. You can also try a spray bottle of lukewarm water when your cat is misbehaving. PetsWebMD also provides another alternative to getting your cat declawed they state, “here are also those vinyl nail caps for cats (aka soft claws). They can be used successfully. The caps are put on with surgical adhesive and the cats usually get used to them within a day or two.” This another-non harmful way to prevent scratching. As the evidence complied in this research paper shows, declawing your cat is not a quick fix to prevent them from scratching. It is an extremely painful procedure that will leave your cat with long-term mental and physical distress for their life, while potentially causing even more problems for the cat owner. There are many other safer, cheaper, and educated ways to deal with the scratching from your cat. As an owner of a pet, you should want only the best for your pet, and never want them in pain. You should educate yourself on ways to help your cat lead a happier life, and if your cat has a scratching problem, then you should look for a more effective solution.
Dougherty, J. (2014, April). PAW Home. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from

Eckstein, S. (2012, April). Declawing Cats Q&A: Positives, Negatives, and Alternatives. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from

Marder, A. 1999. To Declaw...or Not to Declaw?, Prevention 51(6): 183. Retrived from

Swiderski, J. 2002. Onychectomy and its alternatives in the feline patient. Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice” 17(4):158-61. Retrieved from

Tobias, K. S. 1994. Feline onychectomy at a teaching institution: A retrospective study of 163 cases.” Veterinary Surgery, 23: 274–280. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.1994.tb00482.x

Author’s Note I realized that one of the biggest issues with my paper was that it was hard to tell whether it was a persuasive paper, or a research paper, at times. I went back through and changed or deleted some of the statements that sounded more like a persuasive paper, and put in sentences that were more factual and fit with a research paper. I also went back through, and instead of saying things like “your cat”, I changed it to “a cat”. I also went back through and changed the grammar or spelling errors that I had, and deleted unnecessary words.

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