We get it. You’re tired of finding lines and cat claws in your rug, your curtains, and the side of your couch.
Sure, having your best sweater snagged and showing up to work with fresh cat scratches on your body can be enough to push anyone to thinking about the dreaded D-word.
But before you actually take Fluffy in for a (gasp!) declawing, you should know exactly what you’re doing to your fur baby.
The Ugly Truth
We’ll cut right to it:
Declawing a cat is the equivalent of removing the first knuckles of all of your fingers.
Not pretty, right?
It’s sad, but true. The process of declawing a cat literally involves amputating the last bone of each toe from poor Fluffy’s adorable paws.
In recent years, the process of laser declawing has gained popularity because many cat parents believe it’s a less harmful and less invasive way to get rid of your cat’s pesky scratching habit.
While laser declawing is safer and leads to less bleeding, less swelling, and less post-op care, it’s still the same mutilating process of removing bones, length, and function from your cat’s paws.
The cost to declaw a cat is far more than just monetary, which is why the practice is banned in 22 countries.
First and foremost, declawing is an unnecessary, elective surgery that can lead to serious health complications. If not treated properly, post-operative wounds can become infected, especially as your cat tries to continue with his usual routine of kicking around in the litter box and cleaning himself.
Next, imagine you lost all of your toes. You’d have a much harder time walking, balancing yourself, and doing tasks that were once natural in your daily routine, like driving or riding a bike. That’s what your cat goes through post-op. Not only will your cat spend days recovering with painful wounds on each toe, but also he’ll have to relearn how to walk properly and find his balance as he navigates his world.
In addition to removing a vital, functional body part from your cat’s body, declawing also strips your cat of one of his most effective coping skills. Scratching is a way for cats to destress. Rather than robbing him of this innate tool, play with your cat, provide plenty of hiding places, and find ways to help your cat destress peacefully.
To top it all off, cat parents who declaw their cats to stop one bad behavior (scratching) often end up with a cat who develops several new bad behaviors. Declawed cats are more likely to be aggressive, go to the bathroom outside of the litter box, and find other, sometimes worse methods of dealing with stress and chronic pain.
Not only should declawing your cat be removed from the list of options due to the cruelty of the procedure itself, but also because declawing your cat prevents your fur baby from doing so many things that make his life complete.
Cats scratch surfaces for many reasons, including leaving their scent on surfaces (which makes them feel safe and at home), to stretch their bodies and joints, and to remove the outer layer of their claws once it’s ready to be shed.
Declawing your cat means he can no longer do any of those things that give him his true cat-ness. Rather than stripping your furry friend of a crucial part of his identity and feline functionality, here are some alternative options for preventing unwanted scratching around the house.
Training Healthy Habits
There are ways to show your cat what’s OK to scratch and what isn’t. Cats tend to scratch the same areas repeatedly. If the back of your couch is taking the brunt of Felix’s scratching wrath, place a scratching post in front of that favored spot.
Next, rub catnip all over your cat’s scratching post and any other surfaces that are safe for him to mangle (cardboard scratchers, a claw-safe bed, his favorite blanket, etc.). Giving your cat a variety of options will help him find a parent-approved scratching spot and avoid the one or two places you want to keep claw free.
Praise your cat and use positive attention (you know your cat best: what does he like most?) when he scratches the right places. When he scratches the wrong places, say “No!”, “Off!” or “Down!” in a loud, booming voice. This will startle your cat without harming him and deter him from getting that response again.
It will take time to train your cat not to scratch your precious belongings, but with consistency and patience, you both can avoid the unsightly and inhumane terror of declawing.
If your cat is stubborn or you want an extra buffer between your cat’s nails and your furniture until he gets the hang of the new scratching rules, try Soft Claws or a similar product.
Soft Claws are a set of silicone sheaths that can be safely glued onto your cat’s nails. As your cat’s nails grow and the outer layer sloughs off, Soft Claws fall off too. Replace each nail as it comes off, or do a full kitty manicure about once every six weeks. As an added bonus, there are dozens of fun colors to choose from.
In very rare cases - such as if a cat suffers from a deformed claw - declawing can be medically beneficial to a cat. However, in the vast majority of cases it’s only beneficial to the pet parent and leaves the cat without one of its most cherished and spectacular qualities.
Have questions about training or (not) declawing your cat? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll do our best to help.