If you have ever had a cat, or thought about having a cat, you have probably heard about declawing. Many people grew up thinking that declawing is a normal or even necessary procedure for indoor cats – whether to protect their home from scratching behaviors, or simply because “that’s what you do.” However, the data has added up over the years, and vets and pet owners alike now understand that declawing is a painful elective surgery that often has major impacts on a cat’s quality of life.
The SPCA of Hancock County does not support the declawing of cats. Declawing causes more problems than it solves in nearly every circumstance, and we at the shelter are on the front lines in terms of observing this phenomenon. For instance, one of the most common reasons for cats to be surrendered to shelters is “trouble using the litter box.” How is this related to declawing? The chronic pain caused by declawing makes it very uncomfortable for cats to dig in the litter, so they don’t. This doesn’t happen to every declawed cat, but it is not unusual for someone to declaw their cat (to solve a scratching problem), then find that their cat no longer uses the litter box, then give up on the cat and surrender them to a shelter.
Other medical reasons that cause trouble with the litter box are often easily resolved – treat the underlying problem, and the cat begins to use the box again. Not so, with declawing. We can’t put their claws and associated bones back in their paws. It is very hard to find an adopter for a cat who does not use the box, and likely will continue to have trouble for life.
It’s not just that – a cat without claws is much more likely to resort to biting when they feel threatened. And a declawed cat, who is likely to suffer chronic pain at the amputation sites, is more likely to feel threatened, or what you may think of as “crabby” when being touched or having their personal space impinged upon. Many people can tolerate a cat who swats when provoked. Cat bites, however, are notoriously painful and prone to infection.
The list of challenges for declawed cats goes on, and is well documented. We won’t review everything here – and we’ve forgone sharing images that might be informative about this procedure and its results, which can be graphic and upsetting to view. We will point out, however, that the American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Animal Hospital Association, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and Alley Cat Allies (among many others) all oppose declawing and have statements available online. Declawing of cats is also illegal in the UK.
If you’re concerned about inappropriate scratching by a cat you’ve adopted or are thinking of adopting, please ask us for more information. Scratching is a natural behavior for cats – but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to choose between shredded furniture or chronic pain for your feline companion. We’ll be happy to help you find solutions that work for you and your cat.