What's the Scoop?
You may have seen the news that New York became the first US state to ban declawing. The response from the majority of cat lovers and rescuers has been overwhelming positive, but you may not know all the reasons why.
What is declawing? Declawing (or onychectomy) is not simply removing a cat’s nails or having the nails trimmed, it actually involves an amputation of the last toe bone. This would be equivalent of removing the tips of your fingers at the last knuckle. (OUCH!) The procedure can be done by scalpel, guillotine clipper or laser.
If that isn’t enough to dissuade you, there are some negative effects that declawing could have on your cat. In addition to the pain associated with the procedure, removing the first digit can cause medical issues such as lameless, difficulty walking, regrowth of improperly removed claws and more.
While declawing may ‘solve’ a behavior issue such as scratching, other behaviors could be affected. Imagine your fingers are covered in scar tissue. Then imagine digging in something as coarse as cat litter every time you needed to use the bathroom. Sounds uncomfortable, right? Wouldn’t you be more apt to stop going in that painful litter altogether? Maybe you would want to go to the bathroom somewhere more comfortable like…a carpet or rug? Litterbox issues and inappropriate elimination can arise as a side effect of a declaw procedure. Owners have also reported that their cat’s irritability had increased to a point where the cat was more likely to bite when annoyed or overstimulated since they could no longer use their claws.
Admiral Ackbar came to the Sacramento SPCA as a previously declawed cat. His family mentioned that “he has texture issues and is picky with litter type.” His new adopters found that yes, not only did he require a very specific type of litter and box set up to use the box consistently, but he also showed other adverse effects to his declaw procedure. Admiral has a strange gait in his front pads (which are declawed) that make it seem as if he is walking with uncomfortable shoes on. This also alters his ability to jump, causing him to avoid jumping on or off beds, cat trees, and even his favorite little sunny spot.
What are some alternatives to declawing? Trimming your cat’s nails on a consistent basis is a great place to start, but other options include Soft Paws nail caps and other nail ‘caps.’ Contact our behavior department to learn more about other ways to help with scratching!