Should I Declaw My Cat?

Here's what a vet says.

Got a cat and wondering if you should get her declawed?

Don’t — and here’s why you should get that thought out of your mind ASAP.

What does it mean to declaw a cat?

Declawing is exactly what it sounds like: Removing the claws from your cat, whether by surgically amputating them or using a laser method.

Not to be confused with just cutting a dog's nails, the surgical method actually amputates the end of a cat’s toes, leaving open wounds that need to be stitched up and healed for weeks.

The laser method, on the other hand, uses a small, intense beam of light to cut through tissue by heating and vaporizing it. While it might sound better than the original method, the laser method still amputates a cat’s last toe bone.

Neither sounds like a good time.

Why do some people declaw their cats?

Declawing only has one real purpose, which is to stop cats from destroying furniture with their scratching.

Since scratching is a very natural cat behavior, and there are lots of other things you can try to stop your cat from scratching up the couch, it’s a pretty extreme surgical response to a minor inconvenience.

While you might think declawing would stop a cat from scratching you, in many cases they start biting more to make up for it, so it’s not a great trade-off.

Are there any benefits to declawing?

Nope. In fact, many (if not most) vets will now refuse to do the procedure altogether.

Are there benefits to keeping cat claws intact?

Yes, so many. Declawing is a pretty extreme surgical procedure, and it can cause lifelong health issues for your cat — both mental and physical. After all, claws are an important body part for your cat!

“Cats use their claws for balance, defense and stress relief,” Dr. Zay Satchu, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet in New York City, told The Dodo.

So when your cat scratches things like cat scratching posts, they’re releasing stress. And when they’re walking across the back of the couch, they’re using their claws for balance.

“Not only is declawing painful, it negatively impacts their quality of life,” Dr. Satchu said. “And not just for the two-week recovery period. Declawing leads to arthritis in the paws as well.”

There are a ton of other potential side effects from the procedure — from nerve damage to chronic pain to joint issues to lameness — that can change your cat’s entire life.

Not to mention it’s also dangerous if for any reason your cat were to get outside — or even get lost — because she’d then have no defense against danger.

So to sum it up: Don’t declaw your cat. It’s a whole lot of pain for very little gain. (And if you have a cat who's just really too scratch-happy, check out some cat-friendly alternatives like these soft nail caps.)

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