Claws are an important part of the cat’s design. Not only are they used for hunting, but also for exercise and marking territory. Cats scratch to help them exercise and stretch muscles, and to aid with grooming; scratching removes old nail sheaths. Cats also scratch to communicate their presence, by leaving both physical and scent marks. Cats have scent glands between their toes that leave pheromones behind to communicate with other animals. Additionally, cats use their claws to express emotion – when Morris scratches at your leg around dinner time with increased excitement – and for defense if threatened.
Declawing a cat has no health benefits and comes with lots of potential and serious complications.
- Bone chips that prevent healing
- Regrowth of a deformed claw
Long-term, chronic conditions:
- Chronic pain syndrome
- Back and joint stiffness
- Paw pad atrophy
In addition to serious health problems, many cats who have been declawed suffer from psychological trauma that manifests as negative behavioral changes.
- Aversion to the litter box is a common problem after a cat has been declawed because it is very painful to dig in the litter.
- Biting is another common behavioral issue; because a cat has lost his primary defense, he turns to biting as a way to defend himself.
- Cats who have been declawed and suffer from litter box aversion and/or biting are likely to be dumped at shelters (who’s going to adopt a cat who pees outside the box or one who is a biter?) or abandoned to the streets (with no claws for defense); subsequently, these cats face being euthanized or succumbing to severe injury.
As anyone can see, declawing a cat is a drastic and cruel response to protecting furniture. The good news is there’s plenty of humane solutions to prevent Tigger from tearing up the couch.
- Provide lots of scratch posts with different materials and different shapes, located in different parts of the house. Vertical sisal posts are highly preferred by cats.
- Trim the cat’s nails on a regular basis. You can do this at home or make a quick trip to the groomer or vet.
- A cat’s claws can be covered with Soft Paws, lightweight vinyl caps.
- Apply clear packing tape to any surface you don’t want Tigger to claw; this creates an undesirable surface to scratch.
Keep in mind, nail trimming and Soft Paws should only be used on indoor cats; if cats are permitted to go outside, they will need their claws for defense.
In 2002, West Hollywood, California became the first U.S. city to ban declawing, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Culver City all following suit in making declawing illegal. Later in 2012, California became the first state prohibiting landlords from requiring tenants to declaw or devocalize their animals, with Rhode Island following suit in 2014. And in January of 2015, a law was introduced that would make New York the first state to ban declawing; the bill is awaiting a committee hearing. For more information on declaw legislation visit (ThePawProject.org).
SoftPawsWiki photo: myllissa from Seoul, S. Korea (Red Nails Uploaded by Caspian blue) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
DeclawWiki photo: Turn685 (Own work Turn685) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons