Veterinarians hate talking about declawing.
For us, it’s like talking about abortion, religion or politics in a hostile environment. Opinions are strong, and most of us who still perform declaws readily admit that we hate to do them. But our main reason for performing them is to provide great homes for more cats, even if those great homes insist on declawing.
I’ve been in rescue and shelter situations where unwanted cats sit in cages for years or wind up in kill shelters. I would rather perform a few declaws a year and have those kitties in safe homes than think about the alternative. But many other veterinarians, particularly newer grads, simply refuse to do declaws. The procedure is outlawed in the United Kingdom, so many English veterinarians here in the United States think the idea of surgically removing a cats’ toes is absurd and inhumane.
Ten years ago, a small animal veterinarian would probably have been in the minority if he or she refused to declaw cats. Now it is commonplace for a veterinarian to refuse to do the procedure. The same is true for ear cropping and tail docking.
When I began practicing, back in the dark ages, declaw appointments were made routinely like spay, neuter or dental appointments. No questions asked. Spay/declaw and neuter/declaw combinations were commonplace for young cats. Urban practices always did more declaws than suburban/rural practices, and still do since these cats are 100% indoor (we hope).
Now many veterinarians put the client requesting a declaw through a rigorous crash education course on the nature of the surgery, and the pros and cons associated with it, making sure the client knows what declawing means. Here’s what it means:
- We actually surgically amputate 10 toes.
- There is always some degree of pain and discomfort despite pain medication.
- There is a relatively high complication rate as compared with other “routine” procedures.
Finally, we educate the client on trying to retrain the cat to use various types of scratching posts, trimming nails, Soft Paws, etc.
Clients fall into three categories:
- Those adamantly against declawing, believing it is cruel (the majority);
- Those having second thoughts about declawing but extremely worried about an issue they believe is legitimate (like their furniture or their toddler’s face);
- Finally, there are clients who believe a house cat is an acceptable pet only if it doesn’t have its front claws (the minority). Some vets still declaw all four paws. I believe this is wrong. Nobody can make an argument for serious damage done by rear claws.
Public awareness of the controversial nature of declawing has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, all for the better. When we began “counseling” clients who requested a declaw a decade ago, we were usually met with anger and resentment. I’m quite sure I lost a handful of clients because we tried to “talk them out of it.” That’s okay. If they are not willing to discuss important ethical issues with me, they don’t belong at my practice.
Now, for the most part, cat owners either know cats are not routinely declawed or are very receptive to hearing about the pros and cons of the procedure. They are still surprised to learn that many veterinarians refuse to do the procedure. That makes my job easier. They realize that this is a serious matter that deserves a lot of thought.
So You Want to Declaw Your Cat?
Yeah? Let me put you on hold for a moment…
When clients call my office to make an appointment for a declaw, they are told that they will have to speak with a technician first, and a doctor second, before the surgery. Some people are surprised but usually receptive. One of my very knowledgeable and seasoned technicians discusses declawing with the owner, and, happily, many owners change their mind right away. Caveat: It is important to let owners know that we declaw only young cats so, in my practice at least, they cannot come back in a year or two and request a declaw unless there are extreme circumstances.
Declawing is much easier on a young cat than an older or overweight cat. In a young cat (4-5 months), there is much less bleeding and much less pain. The kitten is usually carefully walking around the next morning after surgery, eating and attempting to play. But why have many veterinarians simply decided to stop declawing? Imagine the adorable little kitten sitting in that cage looking at you after its declaw, both feet possibly bandaged up to the elbows, afraid to put either foot on the ground. That is not a good feeling. The veterinarian takes an oath to save animals from suffering. Is that what we just did by declawing that kitten?
So why do it, you ask? Great question. My answer? I do it to save cat lives.
The most compelling reason for declawing is to get more cats in happy homes so we have fewer homeless cats, fewer cats in shelters and fewer cats needlessly euthanized. Plain and simple. Declaw or be homeless. Or dead. Which is better? In the cases where the client is aware of the declaw controversy, is still set on doing it, but, in my opinion, will be a very good owner, I will do the procedure. Thankfully, I am put in this position only a few times a year. Ironically, most people who insist on a declaw are great owners; they just have a blind spot: They love perfect furniture.
That’s My New Leather Couch!
Clearly, the majority of owners wanting to declaw their cats are worried about damage to their furniture, rugs, woodwork, etc. When it comes right down to it, I don’t have the same value system about my house furnishings, but I can understand it. Many owners adore their cats but also adore their leather chairs, Brazilian floors and oriental rugs. If the cat is going to live in the lap of luxury in an adoring home without claws, I have to say okay.
Was YOUR Pet Food Recalled?
Check Now: Blue Buffalo • Science Diet • Purina • Wellness • 4health • Canine Carry Outs • Friskies • Taste of the Wild • See 200+ more brands…
Many people are willing to learn to clip claws, discuss Soft Paws (although this isn’t for everyone) and experiment with scratching posts. Also, many cats do less damage as they age. Most cats turn happily into couch potatoes after a few years. Damage to surfaces decreases as the cat ages.
Of course, most cats still have that favorite piece of something they claw on until it or the cat is no longer on this earth. Currently, my cat’s favorite claw-thing is a freestanding pine linen closet upstairs that looks naturally… distressed. Actually, so much wood has been scratched from one side, it looks like it might fall over. I love it. So do my cats. My Leaning Tower of Linens. And my living room furniture looks… tired. I keep my lighting low for guests!
If a client is extremely house proud and obsessive about his or her surroundings, none of the behavioral modifications and nail clipping will solve the problem. A veterinarian who refuses to declaw would ultimately have to admit that the people who love their furniture and drapes and rugs so much don’t deserve to have a cat. Maybe this is valid.
Cats With Attitude
Some owners are afraid of cat scratches and believe declawing will fix the problem. Most cats do not scratch their owners. If the cat is aggressive, a cat bite is often a bigger worry than a scratch. Really aggressive cats will use their claws to grab onto your hand, but it’s the bite they inflict while holding your arm that’s the real problem. Many owners eventually let these difficult cats outside to try and defray aggression. If the cat is declawed, letting it out is a real problem for self-defense.
If the owner has a serious medical concern, where a cat scratch poses a health risk to the owner, I will declaw the kitty. This is probably the only time I will make an exception and declaw an older cat. Say an owner has had a cat for five years but the owner’s diabetes has become severe. A casual cat scratch could cause a life-threatening infection and put the owner in the hospital. In order to keep that cat with the owner, I think declawing is a valid option.
The Complications of Declawing a Cat
Many of us who have performed a lot of declaws do it because our results are excellent. There are many possible complications with a declaw and, if it has to be done, I want it done right, taking the risk that any declaw can still result in a complication.
There are a few different ways to perform a declaw, and now we’ve added laser surgery to the mix. Carefully removing the nail and small bone attached to the nail (P3) is important. If the nail is not removed perfectly, it can grow back in a deformed and painful manner, causing infection and growing through the skin. Removing too much bone, or hurting the pad, also makes for an unhappy result. So it is important to find a veterinarian who is very proficient at declawing and has excellent results.
Even when everything is done perfectly, there can still be complications with healing. Cats may limp after surgery. They may hold up a paw for years. There are very upsetting and misunderstood complications such as neurologic pain, “phantom limb” pain and paralysis. It is thought that declawed cats may suffer from arthritis later in life because their natural gait has been altered. Some cats react to the suture material or glue if it is used. They develop horrible swellings or infections.
Unfortunately, there seem to be more complications with healing now that much more pain control is used! Why is this? The cats feel so good, they start using their feet without enough time to heal. The answer might be more cage rest for the first week, but remember I said we declaw only young cats. I’ve had kitties climbing up the cage door within hours of having their little bandages removed. So I’m happy they’re feeling so good, but worried about their healing! Ugh.
If they’re feeling that rambunctious and happy, I build a little “padded room” for them and always keep every declaw in the hospital for two days post-surgery. I never send them home unless the feet look great. Unfortunately, some cats can develop problems a year or more after the initial surgery. Anyone who chooses to declaw takes the chance of creating a complication. Any owner who chooses to declaw his or her cat should be fully aware of the possibility that the procedure may cause the animal harm.
Wow. What a depressing topic. My hope is that the overwhelming majority of cat owners will put their furniture in perspective and learn how to live with a cat with claws — THE WAY THE CAT WAS BORN! For the exceptions, those people who love their cats but can’t live with any damage to their home, may the declaw surgeries go smoothly and cause the least amount of pain. The mission: more homes for more cats. May they be homes with carefree furniture! Shop at Ikea. It’s disposable furniture!
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Feb. 4, 2019.
March 15, 2012
Forget Ikea and shop at Goodwill! You will be helping to save the environment by recycling used furniture and helping those less fortunate via the good work that Goodwill does. With that said, I have a story for you to tell clients who still want to declaw. I will try to keep it brief…
My stepfather adopted a cat as a Christmas surprise for my mother. He’s not a lover of cats but he likes dogs even less (which was what she REALLY wanted; can you tell yet that he’s not such a great guy?) Anyway, she loved the kitten and my stepfather felt like a hero. They are very proud of their furniture and love to host parties. As you can expect, the kitten grew into a rambunctious older kitten and since they wouldn’t consider having “ugly’ scratching posts or allowing the kitten to scratch anywhere at all, they began to have problems. My mother tried to cope by trimming claws and using soft paws but of course none of it worked. My stepfather took the kitten (then 9 months old and feeling very unloved) to the vet for declawing. While my mother was at work and without telling her. Needless to say, the cat was furious and so was my mother. Divorce was even threatened. The cat coped by using my stepfathers’ shoes as his new litterbox. ALL of his shoes. At least they were soft, right? Made his little mutilated feet feel a tiny bit better. When he no longer had access to the jerks’ shoes, he began peeing anywhere else but the litterbox. The brand new carpeting, stepfathers’ side of the bed (never Moms’ side), and occasionally he would poop on the floor on stepfathers’ side of the bed in the middle of the night. *Squish* first thing in the morning was the final straw. He chased the cat down and was going to “spank” him for his behavior but the cat bit him, leaving four deep punctures. Mom stepped in and saved the cat from serious harm and brought him to me. I kept Elvis until he lived to the ripe old age of 16. He never peed or pooped inappropriately again. He never bit me. He was the biggest love bug I ever met. But my stepfather was never allowed in my home again and Elvis would never go near my mother when she came to visit.
Moral of the story? Which do prefer? Shredded furniture or a urine soaked home? Because declawed cats CAN develop resistance to litter boxes. It hurts! They DON’T always forget what was done to them! And they might just hate you for the rest of their lives!
March 15, 2012
Goodwill! Outstanding suggestion.
“Spanking” the cat… unbelievable. Your stepfather may have been doing this previously, when your mother wasn’t looking.
Thanks for sharing your story — delighted to read a happy ending.
March 16, 2012
As a former veterinary technician, I am thrilled to see more vets writing articles like this one and being honest and forthcoming with the facts about declawing and its high rate of complications. Such honesty is a rare thing in my experience; in fact, it’s far more common for declaw surgeries to still be scheduled with no questions asked and no consultation given in the states I’ve worked in (Georgia, Louisiana, Florida). I was in fact fired from my last veterinary job for attempting to educate clients about risks and potential complications of declawing. Some vets still view declawing as a reliable revenue stream which they don’t want to jinx by educating their clients about the procedure or the possible lifetime of adverse effects their cats may experience as a result of it, so they adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Thank you to Dr. Lichtenberg for such a balanced and thorough discussion of what so many vets still will not discuss.
March 17, 2012
Fired for trying to teach pet owners about the (many) downsides of declawing — that’s sad. But you deserve better than to work at a place like that!
March 16, 2012
A comprehensive list of declaw alternatives and strategies for redirecting cats’ natural scratching behavior can be found at: http://cattressmattress.com/2011/08/01/the-declaw-intervention-checklist/#more-1146
March 16, 2012
This hogwash should be entitled “Don’t ask me to declaw your
cat, but I will do it anyway!” I am
surprised that you fell for it. This veterinarian is buttering up the
anti-declawers by saying all the right things but performing the same
butchering to a cat’s feet in the end.
She subliminally gets that same old message out that it is “easier for a
kitten” and “those people who love their cats but can’t live with any damage to
their home.” It is propaganda to get us
off of her back. I prefer the list of
veterinarians who will not declaw under any circumstances. Her visit to a
shelter and all the cats there without homes is really touching. What about the mutilated cats at the shelter
whose behaviors are so bad after the declaw that no one wants them. Her statement that more cats will have homes
is the most arguable one yet from people like Dr. Jennifer Conrad from the Paw
Project. On a personal note, I just helped a family member
rescue a declawed cat with scarred back paws that had been eating from a
dumpster in the back of a store. He didn’t get the luxury of being taken to a
shelter. He was just tossed out like yesterday garbage, just like his bloody
toes. He is a biter, he opens and closes
his mutilated feet constantly, and he has a very difficult time covering his
waste in the litter box and sometimes opts not to. I don’t know what the future
holds for him but I can’t imagine that his paws are going to get any
better. He can’t even grasp a feather
toy like my clawed cats do. All he can
do is gently bat at it until he just gives up.
This article sugar coats it all for the anti-declaw movement. Too bad
you are so gullible. When she stops
declawing altogether, then I will apologize. Don’t hold your breath.
March 17, 2012
To clarify a few points:
There should be nothing subliminal about my message that declawing a kitten is far superior to declawing an adult cat. It’s a fact. The recovery time and complication rate is LESS in a kitten than in an adult cat. Plain and simple fact.
Not trying to butter-up the opponents of declawing. Trying to convert more!
So far, NO controlled studies have been done on elimination problems and declawing. In countries where declawing is outlawed, elimination problems in cats are equal to countries where declawing is allowed.
I think difficult recoveries, inappropriate pain management, complications, and switching litters after declawing can certainly add to litterbox aversion.
Unfortunately, no matter how much training you do, there is a subset of cats that will scratch furniture and a subset of clients that have a 0 tolerance for damage. These people will probably continue to declaw their cats. On a happy note, however, thanks to the work of pet advocacy groups and veterinarians, we have worked to decrease the number of declaws substantially in the last 10-15 years, at least in certain parts of the country.
Twenty years ago, most practices I was associated with probably declawed 20% of their feline patients. Ten years ago, I would say this decreased to 10%. Today, I probably am asked to declaw 6 cats a year, and I have 1,000’s of feline patients. That’s less than 0.05%. That may not be perfect but it’s great progress and it’s largely due to the education of clients done by veterinarians like myself.
March 17, 2012
Thanks for responding, Dr. Deb. You said it yourself: “Opinions are strong” on this!
June 1, 2014
Saying “Do not ask me to declaw your cat” is a very strong statement coming from a veterinarian- and I applaud you for that. Wish many more would respond in that manner. Please do take it a step further and refuse to do it at all. You are ALMOST there- it would be wonderful to have another veterinarian who refuses to perform this surgery, educates clients about alternatives and saves cats’ paws.
March 18, 2012
I agree with you CatLover. I don’t praise or use vets that declaw, and I find this article disturbing despite the fact that this vet educates clients to the truth about the surgery and the many complications. She knows how bad it is and does it anyway. This sure sounds to me like an vet with a guilty conscience trying to convince herself and readers that crippling a cat & inflicting a lifetime of musculoskeletal & arthritis pain is OK if she only mutilates a few of them a year for the sake of her clients’ luxurious furniture.
If she tracked the cats after surgery, she’d see for herself that declawing does not keep cats in home, and in fact increases a cat’s risk of losing its home because of the bad behaviors that happen as a result of the surgery (the two leading reasons for cat relinquishment in the US are litterbox avoidance and biting, the two negative behaviors most associated with declawed cats).
The vet studies & surveys confirm this as well (http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/declawing-and-science/ ), but many vets ignore the evidence and turn a blind eye to the millions of declawed cats relinquished, abandoned, and killed in shelters every year.
Also, the CDC does not recommend declawing cats for people with immune or blood diseases (because it causes cats to become biters, and cat bites are far more dangerous and infectious than a cat scratches).
March 9, 2015
That is what I was going to say. I think she means well but I wonder how many declawed cats with behavioral issues she has worked with? The cats she is saving by putting into homes have a pretty high chance of finding themselves homeless again in the future (if they are worried more about furniture than the cat, they are in my experience pretty intolerant of other cat issues that declawing might cause down the road). When I was was with a rescue group (one that took in cats other groups would not take or would outright euthanize) I handled the cats with behavioral issues (aka: ones we could not safely put in homes). The two groups I usually got were ferals and declawed cats. Let me tell you, the ferals are much easier to turn around because it’s usually just psychological with them. The declaws had pain on top of their psychological issues. I did have two cats that were my most aggressive. One was a little feral guy. He would latch onto my hand (I wear thick gloves), claw at me with his back feet, and try to finally bite if I pushed him too far. However, it was always brief as he was more anxious just to get me away. He was just a bit quicker to attack than other ferals I had worked with but not by much. Now he is a wonderful, extroverted, talkative boy that actually enjoys clicker training. The declaw was only 9 months (the youngest I’d ever dealt with as most were elderly cats). His first instinct was to bite. No warning swipes or anything. Even if you were just walking by, he would bite and deeply. He also would not let go and actually managed to bite through my gloves. He took a lot longer to rehab. His paws were tender but we found no noticeable issues (couldn’t find any evidence of a hack job needing repair), so there wasn’t much we could do on that front. We just had to teach him that it was unacceptable to attack people and that he would just have to live with the pain. Pretty sad but the only way he would ever have a home. He did get adopted after a lot of careful screening for homes that would be prepared in the future for anymore resulting issues from the declaw he might have. This is usually not an issues as most of the declaws we got were old cats with only a handful of years left to live. Honestly, I’ve found most people who say their declawed cats were fine their whole lives until they suddenly declined and we’re euthanized are pretty blind to the fact that the sudden decline was usually caused by declawing related issues finally catching up with the cat. There are exceptions to every rule though before someone starts going on about their declawed cat that never had issues. Just like eating a whole bunch of sugary junk food, not flossing and occasionally forgetting to brush your teeth will give most people cavities. I’ve never had a cavity but I’m not about to tell people to do what I do as they will most likely get a mouthful of cavities. Sometimes, things just fly in the face of reason (like my teeth and a small minority of declawed cats). And no, they are probably not many studies backing up either side and there probably won’t ever be. Funding for that stuff is a bit hard to get (coming from a scientist trying to get grants) and we are moving to non-declawing everyday without such studies. So really, probably not much of a point if we are moving in that direction anyway. Just seems like common sense.
March 16, 2012
And shredded furniture does not have to occur. There are proven ways to teach a cat to scratch on a ugly post, a large cat tree or whatever other material it prefers. I have done it with all of my cats, my son’s two cats and I have advised others to purchase a scratching post before bringing a cat into the home, just like you do a litter box or a food bowl. A cat is a very smart animal who loves to please its owner. A cat tree at the door where you enter when you come home from work or play will prove it to you. Your cat will meet you with excitement and start scratching away!
March 19, 2012
I just wanted to add that my point to my story is that if people are
more concerned about the way their house APPEARS, then perhaps they
aren’t really suited to being owned by a cat. If their human children
were destroying property, I seriously doubt they would resort to having
their fingers amputated. If vets made this suggestion to people who
wanted to do this to a cat…perhaps they would find a better way to
deal with the problem or find a new home for the cat instead?
March 20, 2012
“Many of us who have performed a lot of declaws do it because our results are excellent” does not sound like someone who does not want to declaw a kitten or cat. Of course there have been no studies done on declawing. It would result in a drastic reduction of income for most vets who, unlike you, implement it with no questions asked.
Although you would be shunned by your colleagues, I would urge you to be the first to conduct such a study. You can contact rescue shelters throughout the country and ask many of them why they require their adopters to sign a contract not to declaw a cat. They are the people who see the results years later.
There is enormous evidence that declawing causes tremendous problems for the cat whether it is done perfectly with a laser or the claws are axed off with a guillotine in a matter of seconds. The cat’s body is thrown into disarray the minute it takes its first steps as an amputee. Dr. Ron Gaskin from Minnesota would be a great source for your study as he repairs painful contracted declawed paws.
If I were a cat owner thinking of declawing a cat and I came across Dr. Deb’s article stating “Don’t ask me to declaw your cat,” I would take away subliminal messages that it is okay. Even though Dr. Deb says she hates it, she also says she has excellent results. I would also take away all the things I wanted to hear: it is easy for a kitten, it would make my toddler’s face safer and it will save my leather furniture.
Since you are only declawing 6 cats a year, why not refuse to declaw completely? This contradicts your statement that you do it to save lives.
April 7, 2013
I know someone who did not delcaw its cat, even if it destructed all the furniture and hated scratching posts. He has to replace the furnitures very often because they can’t be used anymore and are dangerous to make people or bjects fall down etc… which costed a lot to him. Eventually, the cat became very sick and he had no more money to pay the vet to save his cat life. Then he calculated all the money he spent in furniture and just with this money, he could have declawed it, but could have also saved his cat’s life more than once…
July 27, 2013
My sister just declawed her amazing little kitten and I’m so heart broken for it. I tried so hard to get her not too. She never even bought a cardboard scratcher or castle; the kitten had nothing to scratch on!!! They never even gave him a chance. Now he will have to deal with the horrible after affects of the surgery for the rest of his life. Because they thought the procedure was common and standard — it’s not!!!! It’s supposed to be last resort, but they used it as a first!
I have the same vet. He told me declawing should only be used as a last resort. He must of told my sister the same thing, but she didn’t even try! So obviously some of your customers are not being honest with you or listening to you.
I hope he doesn’t have issues, but since he lives in a house with two toddlers and a large dog, I believe he will become aggressive. (feeling defenseless) He might end up not using his litter box and all the other stuff. If an owner is so intolerant about a cat not scratching a post, he is going to get rid of it for failing to use the litter box!! Guaranteed!!! Then go out and ruin another kitten to toss in the shelter! So sad 🙁
My sister’s husband has had 5 different young cats in the past 8 years. All of them he had declawed as kittens. They have all either been aggressive or not used the litter-box, and were gotten rid of. One got outside and perished. The other was attacked by a friends dog and perished. All of them died directly or indirectly from being declawed.
It’s insane! You are not saving these animals by declawing them. You are bringing their short lives to horrible sad ends 🙁 ! It is never necessary to have a cat declawed to own it. It can certainly find a different home. Considering these cases only happen 6 times a year at your office, homes that require declaws are rare.
Those kittens could have gotten homes elsewhere. Especially since they were kittens! Now the huge majority of them will die early and they will suffer in their short lifetimes. I’m sure some will do okay, but never as good as it would have been otherwise. Someone can’t have a cat for medical reasons? Get them a dog or a bunny! Find the cat a home with a friend!
It’s wrong. My sister didn’t give her kitten a chance. They are so ignorant. When I tried to argue against them they said “All the cats I have ever owned were declawed”. They thought it was standard. Weird, because they have all died early or you gave them away to be killed! Seems like it’s not working out to well! I have owned 8 separate cats in my life. Only two from kittens the rest were all adopted, some were young ferals! None of them destroyed my furniture or acted aggressively towards me. And they got to live happy, healthy, FULL lives. There is no reason for this procedure. None at all.
July 28, 2013
The kitty should do just fine. Despite the declawing, hopefully he has a very loving home. Most kitties do not experience side effects, although I’m with you. I wish she had listened to your vet and not done the procedure.
August 22, 2013
I would never be able to declaw my cats or even a new kitten. I do not care about my furniture as much I guess but I do believe that cats can be trained and have actually been very successful. With the use of various scratching posts, nail trimming, and a few Carpet Scratch Stoppers; I now have no issues with my cats and their claws.
This article was a great read and you can tell it was written with great care and brings to light both sides of declawing in ways that I never expected from a veterinarian. I appreciate the care that went into this article and am glad to see that vets do care more about the well-being of their patients than monetary gains.
May 30, 2014
Declawing cats does not insure they will stay in homes!! In fact, many declawed cats are sitting in shelters, in danger of being put to sleep!
May 30, 2014
Yeah, if that was true I wouldn’t have my cat, Izzy. She was declawed (as a kitten) and developed behavior problems so her owners just got rid of her after a year or so. So much for keeping cat in their homes!
May 30, 2014
Well, I believe you have to be the change you want to see in the world, so if you really think people shouldn’t be declawing their cats, you shouldn’t do the procedure. If more vets actually stood up and said they wouldn’t do the procedure, maybe more people would realize just how serious it is. If a vet says they will perform the surgery, regardless of the counseling that goes with it, it essentially shows the person that even though it’s serious, it’s still ok…because if a vet will do the operation it must be ok. And I’ve actually heard people use this as an argument in favor of declawing; “Well if it was so bad the vet wouldn’t even do it!” I take this a little personally because I took in a declawed cat who was abandoned by her original owners (who had the declaw done when she was a kitten) after she developed behavior problems. Every day I have to watch Izzy struggle with her balance. She often holds one of her paws in the air and shakes it…like she’s trying to figure out where her claws went. She is also very timid and aggressive when approached without warning (I’ve got the bite marks to prove it). She also has moments of incredible sweetness, and I’m very dedicated to making her remaining years as happy as possible because I know none of her issues are her fault. They’re the fault of her first owners and the vet who declawed her. You make a lot of good points in your article, but also a lot of excuses for why you still offer to declaw. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words. You can talk all day about why declawing is wrong, but the fact that you will still DO a declaw tells people it isn’t that bad of a procedure.
May 30, 2014
Ok…there’s that ridiculous statement again…”Declawing keeps cats in homes.”……FALSE! Upward of 70% of cats in shelters are declawed.
June 2, 2014
Kelly! The problem is that people have their cats declawed to preserve furniture- etc…. but when the cat stops using the litter box and may become aggressive, then the cat is surrendered to a shelter so often. Unfortunately as a result, it’s hard to find homes for cats with behavioral problems. That is a huge concern – why would so many cats be surrendered to shelters? That is a huge number.
May 31, 2014
Declawing is of course banned in the UK, but even before it was made illegal our vets refused to do it! I worked for many years as a vet nurse and only one client asked to have her cat declawed, she was told no vet in the UK would agree to perform such cruel surgery. Even people here who don’t particularly like cats react with shock and horror that little kittens are routinely crippled for life in the USA, that a supposedly last resort for serious scratching problems is even offered by some USA vets in a neuter/declaw package or with discount. There is no way to declaw a cat, it removes more than the claws, it should be called what it is…. AMPUTATION! We are watching from our country with great interest the progress the Paw Project are making, their scientific facts proving that many declaws are botched, that many cats have bone fragments left behind causing them to suffer. We know that declawing causes all cats to suffer, mentally and physically and are disgusted at the vets who do this! We know declawing doesn’t keep cats in their homes, because the sort of people who will only have a cat if he is declawed are the sort who relinquish that cat when the problems from declawing begin. We manage well with our cats with claws, we provide scratching posts and pads, our cats get the exercise they need by digging in their claws, they love working out their whole body and they have the right to do that. Vets who declaw break their sworn oath to cause no animal to suffer. so come on Dr Litchtenburg be BRAVE, step forward with the other American vets who have never declawed or who have stopped declawing, refuse to do even once more, ten amputations on an innocent creature! Join the Paw Project branch vets, help the cats already suffering, instead of causing more to suffer. Even a few cats a year is too many, each and every cat deserves to keep the claws they were born with because they need. Thank you from England…..’The International Coalition Against Declawing’ founder Ruth aka Kattaddorra
June 1, 2014
What about the research that Dr. Kirsten Doub, has been doing on declawed cats in Utah shelters? Her findings are quite stunning.
June 1, 2014
unfortunately there are no declaws that go perfectly. There is always damage to the cat- whether it be physical, emotional or both. Please do NOT declaw your cats.
June 7, 2014
While young cats may seem to have less complications in the short term, they are still prone to ALL the other long-term complications, including arthritis, chronic lameness, and claw regrowth (documented to occur up to 15 years…FIFTEEN YEARS) post-op. There simply is no way to do declawing “right” or even “better.” Research shows that up to one in three (33%, 1/3) of declawed cats will develop a behavior problem–sometimes months or even years later. Ever hear of phantom pain? Declawed cats have it!
But that’s not even the point–declawing is cruel and inhumane, period. It’s a violation of our oath as veterinarians.
C’mon, Dr. Deb–join us other vets who do not declaw no matter what! Just say no. Those aren’t your A-list clients anyway…
June 8, 2014
Well Dr. Jean, I’m not doing declaws anymore. Ethical or not, cruel or not, accepted or not by the AVMA, the good news is I’m not asked to do declaws anymore because of the great client education folks like you and many vets and vet staffs have done over the years. I think this is even better news than individual veterinarians refusing to do declaws. It means that the word is out there to many more cat owners: declawing is a terrible idea.
That being said, I must tell you I am lucky to practice in a non-urban area where the pressure to declaw cats has never been as high as when I was in the city. More education will convince ALL cat owners that there are great alternatives to declawing.
Last thing: I’ve adopted a number of declawed cats over the years who have been happy and well adjusted. The majority of declawed kitties I see lead good lives. If you have a cat that has been declawed, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just consider alternatives in the future.
June 9, 2014
That’s wonderful news! Thanks, and congratulations!! 🙂
January 12, 2015
wow this must be in Bad Dog! on animal planet x’)
March 5, 2015
Does anyone know of a Vet that could write me a letter for my landlord stating that declawing my cat would be cruel? Possibly email/mail that to me. Thanks
February 21, 2016
Absolutely sickens me that people still request this. Chopping off tails and ears too. Barbaric.
February 21, 2016
Soccermom, I agree I would never be able to declaw my cat. He’s completely indoor, but my thought on it is: “What if he ever did escape outside?” He’d never have a chance with the coyotes around here. It’s easy enough to maintain his claws, so why put him through an unnecessary procedure? I hate ear and tail docking too — I think animals are adorable just the way that they’re born!
January 4, 2017
Do you spay and neuter? They were born with those parts.
January 4, 2017
I do spay and neuter my pets. As I was told by my veterinarian, this ensures that they have a better quality of life and that I will not be responsible for puppies and kittens entering a world that has too many kill shelters still in operation.
January 3, 2017
Do you spay & neuter?
April 7, 2016
I had my dogs ears and tail cropped. He is perfect. No problems whatsoever. I have also had one cat declawed for an older lady, she wanted a cat, but her skin was very fragile. So, we had it declawed! No problems whatsoever.
May 16, 2016
If we don’t want our Tom spraying everywhere and displaying aggressive, randy behavior, and if we don’t want our female to be dropping unwanted litters that we have to deal with at OUR inconvenience, we don’t hesitate for a minute to remove those parts that “cats were born with” — the testicles, ovaries and uterus. Not having been castrated I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing is isn’t painless….
So now if we don’t want to be constantly lunging for the squirt gun, yelling at our cats, replacing furniture and drapes, clipping and/or applying vinyl nail caps, and applying bandages to hands and forearms, we’re considered cruel and heinous beings for wanting to modify the cat’s anatomy to suit OUR wants and needs. How is this different than as relates to reproduction??
This “cats were born with them” argument seems to me to be completely duplicitous. I’ve had de-clawed cats for over 50 years with ABSOLUTELY NO adverse consequences. They are/were happy. We are/were happy. All is good and calm and peaceful. I find the discussion of it being ‘inhumane’ to be an insult.
May 17, 2016
Hi Bob! Thank you for sharing your viewpoint – I think it’s important to hear from both sides of the fence on every issue!
May 23, 2016
I’ve had a cat who developed problems because of declawing, and cats who are declawed are more likely to be given up because of the issues that arise because of it. You can have cats with claws and have furniture remain intact. I promise. Just takes some training and lots of scratch posts.
However, spaying and neutering is not only better for your pet’s health, but will prevent your animals from adding to the ever-growing list of homeless pets.
May 23, 2016
Great points here too, Smellanie! Thanks for sharing! It always baffles me that there are pets out there that aren’t spayed and neutered – especially since there are so many low cost and free programs available in many areas a couple times a year.
May 23, 2016
Declawing a cat actually increases it’s chances of developing behavioral problems and litter box avoidance, therefore more likely to be given up to a shelter.
I would hope that one day all vets opt out of doing any of those operations and educate rather than tolerate. If someone doesn’t have the time to teach a cat where to scratch, or the resources to provide LOTS of scratching areas for the cat, then perhaps they shouldn’t adopt one.
January 3, 2017
Please cite your journal-approved peer reviewed sources before making such a claim based on anecdotal evidence.
January 4, 2017
All links are automatically blocked until I have a chance to review them myself. Because I cannot be on hand all the time, sometimes, unfortunately, posts wait until I can review them.
January 5, 2017
Fair enough. The work was asked for, then blocked when I provided it. I needlessly responded out of irritation despite wholly supporting comment moderation.
January 5, 2017
Thank you! I really am sorry – I hate that some comments wait for hours until I can get home, but we get so many spammers that we had to make it necessary.
May 24, 2016
I don’t see the moral or surgical difference in declawing versus neutering a cat. Neutering involves surgery and some pain. We neutral primarily for our benefit, not the cat’s.
May 24, 2016
Hi John! I see where you are coming from, but neutering also spares any offspring from being unwanted or euthanized simply for not being able to be homed. At least, that’s my take on it 🙂
August 7, 2016
Well, if you really loved and “deserved” to have a cat, wouldn’t you just retrain it to not breed? Or just watch it all the time to keep it from breeding? Surgically removing it’s desire and ability to procreate is barbaric!! (Yes, I’m being sarcastic…but, I’m with John, the differences between neutering and declawing are not as great as anti-declawers want them to be).
Also, I think many of the complications people cite come from veterinarians who don’t execute the surgery properly. I’m on my fourth declawed cat that has no complications whatsoever and is happily living a perfectly spoiled life. Tired of being judged by people like others who have commented on this article–an article that just supports their reasoning to be so hateful.
August 8, 2016
I appreciate your viewpoint, MD, but I feel that it’s impossible to train an animal not to breed – it’s instinctive behavior. I do watch my cat but just like with children it’s impossible to have eyes on all the time. I gotta work to pay for his kibble! 🙂
I do apologize if you feel judged – that’s not my intention. In fact, I really like when people post their viewpoints that are in opposition to my own because it affords me the opportunity to see things from another perspective.
January 3, 2017
Go look up reputable veterinary advice, this garbage is only intended as a guilt trip. Filling an alleged “information” piece with this much misinformation, and outright lies, is unethical at best and criminal at worst.
January 3, 2017
I am happy to look up reputable veterinary advice; what peer-reviewed sources should I begin with?
Comments are closed.