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Should a House-Cat be Declawed?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

It’s no secret that house-cats have a reputation for scratching and clawing at just about everything. It’s in their nature: A cat’s claws are an evolutionary necessity for the animal’s ability to protect itself, it’s young, and to obtain resources necessary for survival outdoors. When it comes to domestic house-cats, however, there’s a lot you’ll want to know before you decide whether or not your kitty should keep her claws.

Even with all the scratch pads, posts, and mats cat owners provide, house cats still manage to damage carpet, curtains, clothing, walls, floors and furniture with their claws. And let’s not forget the last time your kitty scratched a bloody trail along your young nephew’s arm...All these reasons bring many cat owners to the vet’s office for declawing.

Let’s understand what happens during declawing and understand the pros and cons so you can make an informed choice before you call the vet to have your house-cat’s claws removed.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is a surgical process known as onychectomy. To prevent the claw from growing back, declawing surgery also includes removal of the cat’s entire nail bed, claw, and last knuckle of the toes. (Imagine someone slicing-off your finger tip from the point of the first knuckle-ouch!)

The onychectomy used to be performed using canine nail clippers to snap off the cat’s last knuckle. Now, the surgery is done using local anaesthetic and/or full anesthesia. The canine nail clipper method is no longer used. Instead, veterinarians remove cat claws using a “guillotine clipper, surgical blades or laser technology. These methods make the procedure more humane, not necessarily less painful for all kitties. There may be complications following declawing surgery, some short-term and others long-term. For example, declawing almost always results in cats having smaller feet with no claws.

When is it Necessary to Declaw a Cat?

If you live in the state of New York--never. New York has banned cat declawing. Elsewhere though, you have the option to declaw your cat. The crucial reasons for declawing are:

  • According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the primary reason that makes declawing a cat necessary is when a “cat’s excessive or inappropriate scratching behavior causes an unacceptable risk of injury or remains destructive despite conscientious attention to behavioral modification and alternatives.”

  • Another compelling reason to declaw a cat is when a person residing with the cat has a medical condition in which case getting scratched would pose a life-threatening risk. Similarly, if there is medical equipment in the house that, if damaged by a cat, would pose a similar risk to life or expense in replacing medical materials.

  • Lastly, if your cat has an infection in the paw or nail bed or another health condition that warrants removal of the claws.

Reasons You Should NOT Declaw a Cat

Don’t declaw a cat because you think it is better for the cat or for yourself (unless one of the above reasons applies). Provide your cat with the appropriate variety of cat enrichment toys and scratch objects so that they will be less interested in scratching things around the house. Also, really look at the objects your cat has damaged and try to determine the behavior pattern: Was the cat bored with their other toys? Is there something particularly attractive about the item that makes the cat scratch at it (e.g., scent, sound).

Consider the negative consequences of declawing your cat:

  • Declawing a cat eliminates their natural ability to climb, jump, fight, and ultimately, protect themselves. For this reason, outdoor cats should never be declawed. Likewise for cats that live with many other animals--no matter how “friendly” you think they may be.

  • If you do decide to declaw your cat, the veterinary consensus is that the cat should then be an indoor-only pet. A declawed cat will not be able to defend itself, acquire food, or maneuver itself out on the streets. Many declawed cats that escape their home dwellings do not survive.

Got Cat Questions?

While our compassionate cat sitters do a wonderful job keeping your kitty healthy and happy, we are not medical experts. The best resource for making important decisions about your cat’s health and well-being is a licensed veterinarian.

Cat Home Alone?

At Kitten Sittin’ of Delaware, our caring staff is available to chat with you about the best enrichment activities for your kitty; call us today at 302-304-8399.

When you contact Kitten Sittin’, you’ll have the opportunity to speak directly with one of the owners or our dedicated administrative coordinator. You’ll immediately realize why so many cat owners from the greater Wilmington area trust Kitten Sittin’ employees to take care of their cats.

Oh, you've got dogs, too! We have an amazing team of dog walkers and sitters in the Wilmington, DE region.


American Veterinary Medical Association

The Happy Cat Site: Should I Declaw My Cat

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