When someone wants to adopt a cat – one of the first thoughts that goes though their mind to stop them is this: “they will scratch up my furniture!” So the most common thing that most cat owners will do is to declaw their cats.
However, many people in this country are not educated on declawing really does to the cat.
To start off, the diagram to the left shows a basic cats paw – you can see the claw in blue, and the quick of the claw in red/pink. Behind the claw it’s self is an actual joint, this is one of the joints that allows cats to extract and retract their claws. Most people envision a cat’s claws to be like a humans fingernails – they get clipped and the grow back. However that is not the case, a cats claws is actually very closely connected to the last bone in the cat’s “toes”. To remove the claw, the vet must go in and amputate that last joint, completely removing it. That is right – you read that right – amputating the last joint. Now to put this into perspective in regards to a human hand. If you take your hand and hold it out in fount of you – imagine loosing the tips of each of your fingers at the joint – not just your nail bed.
This is a huge problem for cats, because as humans use their fingers to grab and hold various objects – cats use their claws to help them hold onto things when they climb and to balance. See, a cat’s body is perfectly designed to give them the grace and agility needed to climb and hunt in the wild. you are also depriving your cat of their only means of defense While the cat still need their claws for defense – our domesticated house cats are not going out to hunt for their food. Regardless the procedure can effect your cat in negative ways
While declawing may prevent the undesired behavioral scratching, it does give rise to other undesirable traits. One of the most common issues that owners who declaw their cats report is litter box issues. This is attributed to the fact that the litter is psychically hurting the cat when they attempt to cover there biological waste. Because of this, the cat will most likely begin urinating outside the box, on surfaces such as the bed, where the cover feels softer to the paws. Sometimes they will find a corner and use that as their “box”. Regardless, cats who have this behavior will avoid the litter box no matter what. Other problems resulting from the surgery could be aggressiveness due to the loss of defense mechanisms. Cats can also experience reoccurring pain from amputation last well after the surgery. Or worse, the surgery could not have been preformed properly and the claw could be growing behind the healed skin.
Overall, declawing is widely considered inhumane and is banned in many countries across the world. However, for some reason it is still a common practice here in the United States. there are many alternatives to declawing that could give your cat a happy healthy life, and still save your furniture. Below is a list of those alternatives:
Soft Paws – These are small caps that go over the cats claws, preventing them from scratching, but still giving them the ability to retain their balance and agility.
Multiple Scratching posts – There are many different types of scratching posts: rope, carpet, cardboard are the most common ones. Just keep in mind that all cats have different preferences on the material, if your cat does not like one, try another one.
Trim your cats claws often – Part of scratching for a cat is to “trim” their nails. By clipping them, you are helping that process and therefor the cat will have less urges to have unhealthy scratching habits. A regular nail clipper will do the trick!
These touch on some of the most basic alternatives to declawing. I urge you to do your own research and find what is best for you and for your cat, but please do not declaw. If you are interested more in learning about declawing and what it does to cats, or even to get involved to make a difference, I suggest The Paw Project. As always research before you make any decisions regarding your cats scratching habits.