Declawing Cats - Good or Bad? - Cat Info Detective

Declawing Cats – Good or Bad?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings cat lovers! Skye Blake reporting in with what you need to know about declawing cats… YIKES!

In various parts of the world, including the USA, declawing has been used as a way to protect furniture and people’s skin from our sharp claws.

But declawing isn’t just removing claws… let’s discover more…

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or behaviorist) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping… 

What Is Declawing?

cat claws closeup

Declawing is a surgery called “onychectomy”. Most people think it just removes a cat’s claws permanently.

The reality is that it removes the entire end bones of all a cat’s front toes!

It’s just like removing all the ends of your toes from the first joints… ouch!

How well would you walk like that?

person's feet

Vets would do it hoping that this would at least keep cats in homes rather than given to shelters or dumped.

But since it’s an extreme and painful procedure, many people, including a growing number of vets, now consider it mutilation.

Declawing cats has become outlawed in some places, while in others it’s still legal but discouraged in all but extreme cases.

How Does Declawing Affect Cats?

kitten licking paw, toe beans

The question of whether declawing negatively affects cats is an ongoing debate.

It’s a hot topic because there’s nothing that scientifically proves or disproves anecdotal observations.

However, behaviorists have spent decades observing how declawed cats behave.

Dark tabby washing between toes - closeup

They’ve seen some cats who change and others who don’t after declawing.

Considering the fact that cats hide pain well, there’s the possibility that declawing affects all cats negatively, but some hide it better than others.

Here are some observations by vets and behaviorists…

vet checking cat's leg
  • Declawing causes quite a bit of pain for at least a few weeks.
  • Some cats have pain for the rest of their lives, especially when walking or using a litter box.
  • It’s more difficult to balance and climb, both necessary for a cat’s safety, especially outside. Any declawed cat is safer as an indoor-only pet.
ginger cat paw
  • Declawing cats makes it more difficult to satisfy their instinctive need to scratch
  • Removing a cat’s claws takes away his main defense, making him less secure and more likely to bite
  • Some cats won’t use litter boxes because the litter hurts their paws

Does Declawing Affect Whether People Keep Cats?

woman scratching cat's head - black, white photo

The province of British Columbia in Canada banned declawing in 2018, after which the SPCA decided to study surrender rates before and after the ban.

They did a peer-review study, publishing the results online in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, September 13, 2021.

Study

man holding maine coon cat

The questions they studied were…

  • Was there any increase in surrender of cats to the shelter system for “destructive scratching behavior”?
  • Did the “overall feline surrender intake and euthanasia” rate change?
  • Did the amount of time a cat stayed in the shelter system change?
cat in cage at shelter

They analyzed six years of data (three years before and after the ban) that represented the majority of animal shelters in the province of British Columbia… a total of 74,587 cats.

Orange, ginger tabby cat in cage - vet, shelter

Conclusions

cat at adoption fair-rescue

Their conclusion was mainly that keeping a cat intact and not declawing had no significant effect on people deciding to give up their cats.

It was, in fact, an uncommon reason anyway.

It’s not conclusive whether the decrease in number of cats surrendered to the shelters and being adopted faster has anything to do with keeping their claws intact.

woman, cat, finger in paw

The study was only for British Columbia and has not yet been done in other areas of the world.

It would be interesting to see if this conclusion holds true for large urban areas in the United States.

Other Options to Declawing

kitten scratching at tree trunk

So, what do you do about the problem of cats shredding furniture and scratching you?

You’re in luck! There are things you can do that work well for both you and your cats.

Discover them at “Why Do Cats Scratch Furniture?

Videos

This video explains declawing and why it’s almost universally rejected now…

“The Truth About Declawing Cats”, Jackson Galaxy, February 5, 2022

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Banning declawing doesn’t mean more cats end up in shelters“, University of Florida Shelter Medicine Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, September 16, 2021

“The Cat Whisperer”, by Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Bantam Books, The Random House Publishing Group, New York NY, 2013, www.bantamdell.com

“CatWise”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2016

“Claws Out”, Tiny But Mighty by Hannah Shaw, Plume, Penguin Random House LLC, penguinrandomhouse.com, p. 87

Effect of a provincial feline onychectomy ban on cat intake and euthanasia in a British Columbia animal shelter system” by Alexandre Ellis (alex.ellis05@gmail.com), Karen van Haaften, […], and Emilia Gordon, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, September 13, 2021

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011

“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017

Updated December 27, 2023

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