Declawing refers to the surgery performed on cats to remove their claws to prevent them from scratching. Contrary to popular belief, it is in no way comparable to removing a toenail. This is because a cat’s claws are closely attached to its toe bones. The surgery removes the last joint of the cat’s toe bone to ensure that the claw does not grow back. Many veterinarians are reluctant to offer declawing services, as it is not beneficial for cats. In fact, declawing can lead to many painful complications.
Firstly, even though the procedure is done under general anaesthesia, it is still an extremely painful surgery, followed by an extremely painful recovery period. Keep in mind that while they recover from the surgery, cats have to go about their regular activities like jumping, walking and using the litter box, despite the pain they are feeling.
Secondly, even after a cat has fully recovered, it will face many problems. For example, cats love climbing. Without their claws, cats no longer grip on to vertical surfaces like tree trunks to climb at all. Even simple activities like jumping on a chair or a window ledge will prove difficult and may result in the cat getting hurt. Imagine a situation in which a cat would need to jump to safety; it could easily lose its life because of its inability to grip on to surfaces while jumping.
Thirdly, cats are also known for their cleanliness. Although a cat uses its tongue a lot to groom itself, its claws also play an important role. Cats use their claws to scratch to help get rid of skin irritations, as well as remove loose hairs and dead skin. Without its claws, a cat will not be able to do the simplest thing, like scratch an itch. A cat may nibble at an itchy part of its body, but for areas around its head, neck and ears, it is pretty helpless.
Fourthly, a cat would not be able to defend itself against predators or abusive humans without its claws. Removing a cat’s claws takes away its reassurance that it can defend itself. This could cause the cat to be depressed or become easily frightened. Many cat owners who have declawed their cats report that their cats become withdrawn and less loving. A declawed cat will frequently resort to biting when confronted with even minor threats. Biting becomes an overcompensation for the insecurity of not having claws for self-defence.
Lastly, cats are digitigrades, which means they walk on their toes. Declawing drastically alters the structure of a cat’s toes and causes a change in the natural way they walk. This can eventually lead to stiffness and pain in their legs, hips, and spine.
Why do cat owners consider declawing their cats?
Cats do not scratch furniture out of anger or vengeance. They do so for practical and natural reasons. Scratching furniture and other objects helps cats to shed old claw sheaths from their front claws. This also allows cats to leave their personal scent on the object because of the sweat glands in their paw pads. This scent is unnoticeable by humans but it lets other cats know who “owns” that particular object.
Cats like to scratch naturally, but preventing them from scratching furniture and other household objects can be extremely frustrating to cat owners who do not know how to deal with the problem. However, there are many methods cat owners can use to deter cats from scratching furniture. One effective way is to install scratch posts or mats.
Cats are natural born predators and do enjoy “stalking” their human owners and pretending that their fingers or ankles are prey. Cats also scratch when they feel annoyed or irritated. Some cats are less tolerant than others and may scratch when they want people to stop petting them or holding them. Cats that feel threatened or that are in pain may use scratching as a self-defence mechanism.
However, unusual or aggressive scratching can be an indication of serious problems. Unprovoked, excessive scratching can be a sign of a neurological disease or even a painful medical problem, such as sore ears or abscesses. Cats that start scratching excessively when they have not done previously should be taken to a veterinarian to check if there is a medical reason for the scratching.
It is essential for cat owners to understand that scratching is part of normal cat behaviour. With some effort, cat owners will be able to direct a cat’s natural tendency to scratching away from themselves and their furniture. If a potential cat owner is not willing to put in this effort, he or she should not consider getting a cat.
Simple and humane alternatives to declawing
- Purchase a tall, sturdy scratching post. Sprinkling catnip on the scratching post is a good way to get your cat to use it. Try to play with your cat near the post to make your cat more comfortable around it. It is also important to note that most cats prefer scratching posts made out of sisal, which is a rough fabric that is most “comfortable” for cats to sink their claws into.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly. This will lessen the damage they can inflict on your expensive furniture and rugs. Inexpensive nail clippers designed for use on cats can be purchased at any pet store. Nail clipping should be done when the cat is in a calm and quiet mood. Be sure not to cut into the dark area on the underside of the tip, as this will hurt your cat and cause bleeding. If you are unsure how to go about safely clipping your cat’s nails, you should ask your veterinarian to show you the proper way.
- When your cat is scratching a piece of furniture, give him a firm warning such as “No!”. Next, call him to the scratching post with a food treat and praise him when he comes over and uses the post.
- Until your cat realises that the scratching post is the only place it should scratch, your furniture (especially table and chair legs) should be covered with some protective material such as thick aluminium foil or clear plastic sheets.