This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy was….. CUT OFF!

Photo Cred: Lindsey Turner

Photo Cred: Lindsey Turner

For some people declawing seems like a good option, you get the cat without the worry of scratched and tattered furniture. What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, a lot is wrong with that. Now I am going to tell you what is wrong with declawing and the problems it can lead to. That doesn’t mean that I think you are a bad person if you have gotten your cat declawed, there is obviously a good reason that you did it, or you didn’t know how extreme the surgery actually is.

Now, when most people think of declawing they think that the nail is just being removed from the cat. On humans if our nails were taken off it would hurt, yes, but we would eventually heal and our fingers would  be fully functional. Well that is not the case with declawing cats. This isn’t a matter of removing their nails from the nail beds. Declawing is a form of amputation. That is right. A doctor takes a knife and chops part of the cat’s paw off. Now, it is more technical than all that. And I will explain it all in a second. But first, let us learn a bit about how a cat works.

Cats are digitigrade, which means that they do not walk on the soles or pads of their feet, but instead walk on their toes. The whole structure of their legs, from shoulders to toes, is geared toward distributing their weight properly for this mode of walking. Now, as we all know, a cat’s claws are part of their toes. And their claws are not just for scratching you up or ripping up the furniture. Their claws are used for balancing, exercising, stretching muscles, climbing, and of course protection.

Declawing is the removal of the the last joint of the toe. This is because removing a cat’s claw is not at all the same as removing a human fingernail. A cat’s claw is part of their bone, so to remove the claw, that whole bone has to go. So just to be clear, in order to remove the claw, the bone, the nerves, the joint capsule, the collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be removed. Some vet’s will say, “No, no, no it’s just the claw I will be removing.” But the claw and the bone are so rigidly fused that there is no way to remove the claw without the bone. A good vet will inform you of this, and most will try to dissuade you from declawing your cat.


So let’s go back to what I mentioned earlier about cat’s walking on their toes… think how difficult that must be if part of their toe is CUT OFF! That would be like us trying to walking without the balls of our feet. Pretty difficult. So, after being  declawed, the cat literally has to relearn how to walk. It was biologically designed to walk a certain way, but because of the missing bones it can no longer move that way so it has to compensate and create a new way to walk. This puts strain on joints that are being used in a way that they are not supposed to be. Beyond that a cat can no longer stretch certain muscles, it can’t climb as it normally would, and it can no longer protect itself. So if a declawed cat gets out of the house and meets a feral cat, it is out of luck. It can’t climb a tree and it can’t fight back to the same degree it would have been able to before.

Declawing is like any other surgery and it carries risks, it is always risky to put your pet (of any kind) under sedation, but there is also the risk of infection as well, which can lead to all sorts of problems that could be fatal to your cat. Declawing can actually lead to cats being more aggressive. As they become more aware of the fact that they can’t defend themselves with their claws they begin to feel helpless, which is never a good situation for a cat to be in, and they can start acting out. But (though it shouldn’t be) this is one thing that I think bothers people the most. Declawing can make your cat go potty OUTSIDE the litter box. This isn’t revenge, it simply comes down to the fact that for a lot of declawed cats, litter hurts their feet.  Declawing can leave chronic pain in a cat’s paws and the rough litter can really irritate that, they can’t dig into the litter and so rather than risk the pain they will go outside the litter box instead. Now, there are finer litter formulas that can be used if your cat is experiencing this, but wouldn’t you just rather spare them the pain and not get them declawed at all?

Now there are alternatives to declawing!

1. Soft Paws-


Soft Paws are a good alternative to declawing, your cat gets to keep its toes and your furniture is safe. these are not toxic and you just use the adhesive to stick them right one. Some cats will chew on these, but most will ignore them. And how long they last depends on wear and tear, how often your cat scratches.

2. Nail Clippers


These clippers can really do wonders. Give your cats nails a trim every 10 days to 2 weeks, and a lot of scratching grief can be avoided.

3. Scratching Posts!


There are so many different styles of scratching posts, and there are really cute affordable cardboard ones now! Put these where your cat likes to scratch and redirect their attention to it, and they will learn to scratch the post instead and will feel happy warm feelings towards you for giving them a place to scratch.

There are so many different ways that you can redirect scratching behavior and not have to resort to declawing. If your cat has to be declawed for a medical reason, that is one thing, but if you care more about the appearance of your furniture than the health of your cat, then maybe you need to rethink being a cat owner.

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