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Posted on 03-18-2016

Why We Don’t Declaw:

“Declawing”—a procedure that aims to completely and permanently remove a cat’s claws— is, in too many instances, a decision made on the basis of the following misconceptions:

  1. It is a medically minor procedure
  2. It is the only way to keep one's cat from scratching and harming its owner, family and friends, or damaging the household (carpets, furniture, etc.).

In fact, declawing is a traumatic and painful operation, with a host of potentially serious adverse consequences, and, is not the only way to deal with scratching concerns— owners have a variety of non-surgical avenues to repress or redirect the scratching impulse. 

  Consider what declawing entails. It is more than simply trimming or removing a cat's nails. To draw on a human analogy— a cat’s claws more resemble an entire fingertip, not just the finger nail; if performed on a human, the procedure would require amputation of the entire tip of the finger, bone and all, from the tip of the nail to the first joint or knuckle. Declawing a cat is, essentially, the removal of not just its nails, but the entire top portion of its toes.

As you might imagine, this is an extremely painful procedure, and one which fundamentally changes a cat's ability to navigate through its environment. In addition to being without its primary defense mechanism (cats instinctively rely on their claws to protect themselves), the cat must relearn to walk without the use of its toe tips— often producing leg and back pain, as the cat must redistribute its weight in an unnatural manner.  The procedure can also lead to chronic pain at the amputation site(s).  Finally, there is, in every declawing, the risk of post-surgery infection, as all of the cat’s front (and sometimes back) toes are opened and exposed.  

Cats scratch things as part of their natural behavior- it’s what they do.  Bringing a cat into your home means accepting this as part of the deal.  Luckily, veterinarians and owners have developed many ways to control cats’ natural desire to claw at their surroundings. Setting up scratching posts throughout the house and placing cat nip or treats on or near the posts can teach your cat to use its claws only on the posts. Frequent nail trimming blunts their claws, making them less likely to cause damage. Use of products such as “soft paws,” which act as little plastic caps that can be affixed to the tips of your cat’s nails, or using non-traumatic training methods to gently discourage scratching behavior, are additional humane alternatives to declawing.

At Montclair Veterinary Hospital, we believe that it is our obligation as veterinary professionals to be advocates for the health and wellbeing of our animals. For the reasons outlined above, and consistent with this professional obligation, we have made the decision not to perform the declawing procedure.

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