“Cat scratching is a natural form of self-expression for felines that satisfies multiple needs associated with health and well-being. Scratching provides a natural manicure that strips the outer sheath or layer of the claw for hygienic purposes; allows stretching of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons for health and vitality; provides an outlet for responding to stress and crisis; and provides an enjoyable species-specific activity associated with excitement and play.”
This list was created to assist those who need solutions to cat scratching behavior and alternatives to declawing. Our goal is to create an exhaustive list so that people have the information necessary to understand natural healthy cat scratch behavior and practice while feeling empowered and adept at redirecting it to designated scratch surfaces.
NOTE: This list is long and varied in recognition of cat’s individual purrsonalities, pawticular purreferences, and unique cat scratch expressions and impressions. Another words, some of these solutions will work with your cat while others will not. The purrpose is to offer sufficient pawsibilities that can be chosen and implemented based on your specific needs, the needs of your cat, and the needs of your interspecies household. Although we’re wanting to collect 100 pawsibilities, we want people to understand that we’re not suggesting that you use all of these with one cat. We do suggest that people observe their feline family members behavior for cues and clues in order to determine the solutions that will be most effective and functional in their particular cohabitation situation. Although it won’t be necessary for a person to employ every option, solution, or intervention mentioned in the list…more pawsibilities ensure that some solution can be found for any cat, any purrson, and any household.
- Have you created a space or area in the home where your feline family member can feel safe, secure, and comfortable? A cat at ease is less likely to engage in what appears to be random, indiscriminate scratching.
- Have you provided a scratch surface with a texture that your feline prefers or multi-textured options? (fabric; wood; window screen; upholstery; rugs/carpet; mattress ticking; sisal, basket weave; cardboard; cork)
- Have you provided a scratch surface that provides a variety of scratch directions? (horizontal, vertical, angled)
- Have you provided a scratch surface that remains stationary and stable in response to your feline family member’s scratching behavior?
- Does your scratching post or scratching surface provide a 28 inch to 36 inch vertical height so your cat can reach, pull, and get a full stretch of the body?
- Have you placed the scratch surface in an area where you’ve observed the scratching behavior? (where sleeping quarters are located; where food & water bowls are located; at entrances/exits/doorways/window sills; near home furnishings; common living areas shared by the rest of the family)
- Have you placed several scratching posts/surfaces in multiple areas around the home so your cat has opportunities to land the right scratch in the right place at the right time?
- Have you provided enough scratch outlets to accommodate a multi-cat household?
- Have you placed scratching posts/surfaces in communal areas where the family spends the majority of their time? (Your feline family member will want to be near you, not stuck in a corner away from all the action)
- Have you considered buying a perch-scratching surface combination like the CatAWhack Unit? Cats like to look out over the area that they share with you and the rest of the family; a perch provides a great platform for spying interesting things, staying entertained, and seeing “eye-to-eye” with the rest of the family… and like any member of the family who wants to communicate or share their discoveries, they need a way to communicate it to you…that’s where the scratch surface (aka: writing pad) comes into play providing a conveniently located means of expression.
- Does scratch behavior happen before, during, or after exposure to particular experiences or activities? (eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, looking out the window, spending time on the screened in porch, visiting the vet, engaging with other residents in the home)
- Does the scratch behavior occur at pawticular times of the day (dawn, dusk, middle of the night); after specific activities (waking from sleep, eating, playing); or after seeing other felines, birds, squirrels or interacting with the family dog or other felines (within the home, seen through windows, scent detection through window screens or under doors)?
- Have you integrated the meeting of multiple daily needs with the placement of scratch surfaces? For example, creating a space where feeding, drinking, sleeping, playing, exercising, stretching, and scratching occurs. Designated purrsonalized spaces that fulfill multiple needs associated with feline health, well-being, and activities of daily living make natural recurrent scent placement a reinforcer for return visits and repeat scratch purrformances.
- Have you rewarded scratching behavior placed on designated “claws on” surfaces with treats, catnip, affection, pawsitive praise, and/or play time?
- Have you tried placing your cat on or near the scratch surface while you pet her? This often inspires “kneading” movements with the paws that retract and extend the claws into and out of the scratch surface leading to pleasurable sensations and a desire to return and repeat.
- Have you used rewards or pawsitive reinforcement that YOUR cat is responsive to? (treats; interactive play time; solitary play time with a treat ball; praise; kitty massage; catnip; access to an area, room, closet, basement, etc. that is not always accessible)
- Have you enticed your feline family member with interactive play time around the scratching post/designated scratching surface or with sights, sounds, scents, tastes that encourage exploration around the unit? (dangle toys; chase toys; catnip; hidden treats; pre-recorded “prey” sounds that initiate at timed intervals; games of chase, tag, or hide-n-seek)
- Have you made efforts to change out positive rewards and reinforcers to make it more interesting for your cat? (For example, adding a cardboard box or some other addition that would encourage exploration and curiosity in the area where the scratching post is placed)
- Have you placed automatic treat dispensers around the scratching post/surface? (Make homemade treat dispensers or work-to-eat toys by cutting small holes in a brown paper bag, small cardboard box, or toilet paper roll that has the ends folded up; Try the Amazing Treat Machine Rollers)
- Have you been consistent in your efforts to redirect, reward and reinforce scratching behavior on designated “claws on” surfaces?
- Have you provided your cat with at least 14 days to change their scratch practice to approved surfaces? (After all, it takes at least 14 days to break or change a habit)
- Have you made old scratching haunts or “claws off” surfaces unappealing to your feline family member? (Covered with double sided tape or furniture protectors such as: Sticky Paws Furniture Strips; Sticky Paws on a Roll; Used safe scents or non-toxic repellents at the site of unwanted scratching such as orange rinds, natural citrus, lemon, or orange sprays, Pet Organics No Scratch!, bitter apple sprays or repellents; used Motion-Activated Deterrentswhich is a motion detector that senses your cat and releases a blast of air from a compressed aerosol can when the cat gets near old scratching haunts; Placed aluminum cans filled with something noisy like coins, pebbles, or dry beans (Remember to tape over the opening with a natural latex tape) teetering on the edge of unwanted scratch areas like the arm of a chair. The scratch action will cause the can to fall creating a noise that will deter a repeat purrformance.)
- Have you used a pet odor remover such as Nature’s Miracle Just for Cats Orange Oxy Power Stain & Odor Remover on old scratching haunts before covering with the above? (Scent glands in the paw pads accompany scratch placement. Remove the scent before covering so that when a new scratch practice is established and it’s time to uncover, they won’t have a desire to return)
- Have you considered using bananas as a scratch deterrent? Believe it or not, it has been reported that some cats do not like the smell of bananas. You can place a single banana or a bunch near the “claws-off” area or surface. Other options include natural banana extract or banana powder. NOTE: All cats are not the same and have different aversions to smells.
- Have you placed a smooth or satin type throw blanket over the furniture where the scratch is occurring? This texture combined with the blankets tendency to slip, slide and move will make it difficult for your feline family member to get a good “grab” and will therefor be less appealing than other surfaces or textures. NOTE: Although you want the blanket to move somewhat in response to scratch attempts, it will tend to adhere to the upholstery so it stays in place and doesn’t fall to the ground. If you have a leather or vinyl piece of furniture, tuck one end of the blanket into the cushions to anchor it.
- Have you positioned the CatAWhack Unit/ scratch surface next to former scratching haunts (aka: couch, kitchen table, doorway or window frames, carpets or rugs, draperies, shower curtain) to encourage transfer of the scratch practice from “claws-off” surfaces to “claws-on”?
- Have you gradually moved the CatAWhack Unit or another scratch surface away from former scratching haunts over the course of a 14 day period in order to establish your feline’s scratch practice on “claws-on” surfaces outside of regular foot traffic paths throughout the home or at the periphery of a room instead of the center?
- If you have kittens, are you getting them used to having their paws handled so they will be more comfortable with nail trimming?
- Are you trimming your cat’s claws at least once a month or having the veterinarian do it for you?
- Are you avoiding trimming your cat’s claws because you don’t know how to do it or are afraid of cutting into the quick of the nail? If so, here are a few resources to help: How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws; Trimming Your Cat’s Claws Video with Cat Henstridge, the PetStreet Vet
- If you’re having difficulty trimming your cat’s claws, have you tried the Klaw Kontrol Bag which restricts movement for the accomplishment of essential grooming?
- If your feline family member becomes anxious during nail trim sessions, have you tried a Cat Muzzle that will cover the eyes, minimize reactions to the environment, and produce a sense of calm? NOTE: A properly fitting kitty muzzle, as used by vet techs and groomers, has been found to be a safe and humane way to minimize or alleviate your cat’s stress during grooming and some types of medical intervention and treatment. If you decide to use this option, please be sure the muzzle fits properly so that your kitty’s nose is through the front opening before proceeding; if you can see the nose clearly, then kitty can breathe freely! Just as with anything else, not all cats will react to one the same way, and some will do better without one.
IMPORTANT: before attempting this option, provide your feline family member with some time to get familiar with the muzzle…put it on the floor, allow her to brush up against it, introduce gradually over a few days.
- Have you tried music specifically designed for the acute hearing sensitivities of your feline to inspire a sense of calm? Pet Acoustics have discovered that felines prefer long sustained tones and harmonies at a moderate to low volume to maintain their feline state of relaxation. Pet Acoustics music can help create an environment that minimizes stress and excessive scratch activity in response to a variety of things in the environment including grooming (nail trim sessions), separation anxiety, thunderstorms, car travel, or veterinary visits.
- Have you tried Soft Claws adhesive nail caps that cover the claw for a 4 to 6 week period? Here’s a video demonstration to help: How to Apply Soft Paws and Soft Claws Nail Caps with Veterinarian Dr. Christianne Schelling and Charlie the Cat
- Have you tried Feliway Comfort Zone Plug-In, a natural substance, odorless to humans, that mimics a cat’s facial pheromones to reduce overactive scratching in response to stressful environments?
- Have you tried Clicker Training where you pair a clicking sound with the desired behavior and reward delivery? Captivate their attention by clicking when they move in the direction of the desired area and engage in scratch behavior. Immediately follow the sound of the click with positive reinforcement until a new behavior occurs on a regular basis.
- Have you provided your feline family member with at least 15 minutes of playtime per day? (boredom can lead to more scratching behavior)
- Have you taken the time to observe your cat for clues and cues on how to inspire their cooperation? What curls your cat’s whiskers, produces a tail swish, gets that purr motor runnin’ or inspires a meow?
- Have you provided a stimulating environment that will keep your cat entertained? For example, have you opened curtains, blinds, and window shades; provided a perch high enough to see outside windows; and placed scratch outlets within close proximity?
- If you live in a basement apartment with few windows, have you considered playing DVD’s that feature footage of outdoor critters like birds, squirrels, rabbits, crickets, or mice to provide visual stimuli and environmental enrichment? Have you placed a scratch surface in the vicinity?
- Have you considered introducing enticing sounds or recordings around the designated scratch surface or area? The crinkle sound of a brown paper bag; The scratching sound that a fingernail makes on a textured surface; The sound of an index finger thumping underneath a blanket; Insect, rodent, bird, bat, frog sound clips produced by an electronic device that automatically plays at set intervals or begins in response to movement (You can get great sound clips here: Animal Acoustic Communication)
These sounds will stimulate predatory preparatory responses that encourage scratching in the area of the sound and reinforce scratching activity on and around the designated scratch surfaces where the sound originates. You can also enhance the effect by placing hidden treats and toys in the vicinity of the sound that have a similar appearance, texture, and quality of the prey associated with the sound.
- Have you considered placing cat puzzles or small cubby holes with hidden treats near the scratch surface or having a treat dispenser nearby to dispense treats?
- Another great lure is to use a light source at night to project moving shadows onto a floor, wall, or ceiling that is located near designated scratch areas to encourage the use of claws. Shadows can be created by placing a light source behind a moving, rotating, or rocking object and adjusting the intensity and positioning of the light source to achieve different levels and patterns of shadow.
- Consider using Calvin Klein Obsession for Men Cologne. It has been found to attract and illicit responses in once wild big cats now in captivity. Check out the video Big Cats Wild for Calvin Klein Cologne. A squirt or two on or around the scratch surface may be just what is needed to grab the attention of your feline.
- Have you considered purchasing one of many iPhone or iPad apps for cats to provide your feline family member with some play time in the vicinity of a scratch surface?
- Have you consulted with an animal behaviorist that specializes in cat behavior, a pro-claw rescue organization, or a pro-claw veterinarian?
- Have you used an Internet Search Engine like Google or Yahoo to discover more about feline behavior and scratch practice?
- Here are a few websites that may provide information, resources, tools, and products that can help: Cattress Mattress; Expert Cat Behaviorist Jackson Galaxy; Paws Need Claws Campaign; Veterinarian Dr. Christianne Schelling; Holistic veterinarian and author Dr. Jean Hovfe
- If your cat experiences a cat scratch relapse and begins scratching “claws-off” areas, explore what may have triggered the behavior: Is there anything new or different in the environment? Is there a new addition to the family or a recent absence of a family member? Are there changes in the external environment that are contributing to changes inside such as construction projects in the area, a neighbor with an affinity for loud music, or any loud noises that may have startled or spooked your feline family member when he was occupying his designated space or practicing his scratch behavior? Is kitten bored? Are there any new smells left over from a home improvement project, guests entering the home who may be carrying the scent of their feline family members that would only be detectable to the sensitive nostrils of your feline, or any other smell that could trigger a scratch reaction or need to place scent?
- If you’re not sure what is contributing to your cat’s abrupt change in scratch practice, do some detective work. Consider an appointment with your veterinarian to see if there is a physical or medical reason; Invest in a Motion Detection Camera to check-in with your feline family member at anytime throughout the day by wireless remote video viewing which could provide some clues of what happens when you’re not there.
- If you’re using a CatAWhack Unit or other cat furniture that incorporates a scratch panel, consider moving it occasionally (every 4-6 months) to another desirable location such as a new window view to keep Kitten engaged, curious, and stimulated OR reconfigure the CatAWhack Unit by moving the scratch panel, bed, or leaf toy ORintroduce a new component or accessory such as a box, a blanket over half of the unit, crinkle tube, or a new toy.
- Remember, don’t take the scratch purrsonally…put yourself in their paws and simply discover ways to inspire claws to designated surfaces.
Give your cats a scratchin’ chance! They are simply attempting to find their way; determine their area; discover where they belong; allocate space; map out a perimeter; define boundaries; let other home inhabitants know they’re there; communicate; practice activities of self-care that contribute to health, longevity and well-being; and establish an identity within the family unit.
Help us add to the list! Together we can reach 100 interventions and solutions.
So what do you say? Power to the Paw: Claws & All! We can do it!
The Cat’s Claws
Unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of the paws or feet, cats are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat’s weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat’s claws are used for balance, for exercising, and for stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws. They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold – similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment. Removal of the last digits of the toes drastically alters the conformation of their feet and causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.
Understanding Declawing (Onychectomy)
The anatomy of the feline claw must be understood before one can appreciate the severity of declawing. The cat’s claw is not a nail as is a human fingernail, it is part of the last bone (distal phalanx) in the cat’s toe. The cat’s claw arises from the unguicular crest and unguicular process in the distal phalanx of the paw (see above diagram). Most of the germinal cells that produce the claw are situated in the dorsal aspect of the ungual crest. This region must be removed completely, or regrowth of a vestigial claw and abcessation results. The only way to be sure all of the germinal cells are removed is to amputate the entire distal phalanx at the joint.
Contrary to most people’s understanding, declawing consists of amputating not just the claws, but the whole phalanx (up to the joint), including bones, ligaments, and tendons! To remove the claw, the bone, nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be amputated. Thus declawing is not a “simple”, single surgery but 10 separate, painful amputations of the third phalanx up to the last joint of each toe. A graphic comparison in human terms would be the cutting off of a person’s finger at the last joint of each finger.
Many vets and clinic staff deliberately misinform and mislead clients into believing that declawing removes only the claws in the hopes that clients are left with the impression that the procedure is a “minor” surgery comparable to spay/neuter procedures and certainly doesn’t involve amputation (partial or complete) of the terminal-toe bone, ligaments and tendons. Some vets rationalize the above description by saying that since the claw and the third phalanx (terminal toe bone) are so firmly connected, they simply use the expression “the claw” to make it simpler for clients to “understand”. Other vets are somewhat more honest and state that if they used the word “amputation”, most clients would not have the surgery performed! Onychectomy in the clinical definition involves either the partial or total amputation of the terminal bone. That is the only method. What differs from vet to vet is the type of cutting tool used (guillotine-type cutter, scalpel or laser).
Onychectomy (Declawing) Surgery
The below is a clinical description of the the declawing surgery taken from a leading veterinary surgical textbbook. Contrary to
misleading information, declawing is not a “minor” surgery comparable to spaying and neutering procedures, it is 10, seperate, painful amputations of the distal phalanx at the joint (disjointing).
“The claw is extended by pushing up under the footpad or by grasping it with Allis tissue forceps. A scalpel blade is used to sharply dissect between the second and third phalanx over the top of the ungual crest . The distal interphalangeal joint is disarticulated (disjointed), and the deep digital flexor tendon is incised (severed). The digital footpad, is not incised. If a nail trimmer is used, the ring of the instrument is placed in the groove between the second phalanx and the ungual crest. The blade is positioned just in front of the footpad. The blade is pushed through the soft tissues over the flexor process. With the ring of the nail trimmer in position behind the ungual crest, the blade is released just slightly so that traction applied to the claw causes the flexor process to slip out and above the blade. At this point, the flexor tendon can be incised and disarticulation of the joint (disjointing) completed. Both techniques effectively remove the entire third phalanx.” (Excerpted from: Slatter D; Textbook of Small Animal Surgery 2nd ed vol I, p.352 W.B. Saunders Company Philadelphia.)
Declawing is not without complication. The rate of complication is relatively high compared with other so-called routine procedures. Complications of this amputation can be excruciating pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone chips that prevent healing, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside of the paw which is not visible to the eye, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken.
Other complications include postoperative hemorrhage, either immediate or following bandage removal is a fairly frequent occurrence, paw ischemia, lameness due to wound infection or footpad laceration, exposure necrosis of the second phalanx, and abscess associated with retention of portions of the third phalanx. Abscess due to regrowth must be treated by surgical removal of the remnant of the third phalanx and wound debridement. During amputation of the distal phalanx, the bone may shatter and cause what is called a sequestrum, which serves as a focus for infection, causing continuous drainage from the toe. This necessitates a second anesthesia and surgery. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes. Infection will occasionally occur when all precautions have been taken.
“Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s “toes”. When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing.”
Christianne Schelling, DVM
General anesthesia is used for this surgery, which always has a certain degree of risk of disability or death associated with it. Because declawing provides no medical benefits to cats, even slight risk can be considered unacceptable. In addition, the recovery from declawing can be painful and lengthy and may involve postoperative complications such as infections, hemorrhage, and nail regrowth. The latter may subject the cat to additional surgery.” The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)
Two recent studies published in peer-reviewed veterinary journals (Vet Surg 1994 Jul-Aug;23(4):274-80) concluded “Fifty percent of the cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery…. 19.8% developed complications after release.” Another study (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Aug 1;213(3):370-3) comparing the complications of declawing with Tenectomy concluded “Owners should be aware of the high complication rate for both procedures.” Many cats also suffer a loss of balance because they can no longer achieve a secure foothold on their amputated stumps.
Vet Surg 1994 Jul-Aug;23(4):274-80
Feline Onychectomy at a Teaching Institution: A
Retrospective Study of 163 Cases.
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences,
Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine,
“One hundred sixty-three cats underwent onychectomy….. Fifty percent of the cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery. Early postoperative complications included pain…, hemorrhage…., lameness…., swelling…., or non-weight-bearing….. Follow-up was available in 121 cats; 19.8% developed complications after release. Late postoperative complications included infection…., regrowth…., P2 protrusion…., palmagrade stance…., and prolonged, intermittent lameness….”.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Aug 1;213(3):370-3
Comparison of Effects of Elective Tenectomy or Onychectomy in Cats.
Jankowski AJ, Brown DC, Duval J, Gregor TP, Strine LE, Ksiazek LM, Ott AH
Department of Clinical Studies, Veterinary Teaching Hospital,
School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia 19104, USA.
“Objective: To compare short- and long-term complications after Tenectomy of the deep digital flexor tendons or onychectomy.
Animals: 20 cats undergoing Tenectomy and 18 cats undergoing onychectomy.
Procedure: Cats undergoingTenectomy or onychectomy were monitored for a minimum of 5 months to enable comparison of type and frequency of complications.Type and frequency of complications did not differ between procedures.
Clinical Implications: Owners should be aware of the high complication rate for both procedures.”
Psychological & Behavioral Complications
Some cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change. Cats who were lively and friendly have become withdrawn and introverted after being declawed. Others, deprived of their primary means of defense, become nervous, fearful, and/or aggressive, often resorting to their only remaining means of defense, their teeth. In some cases, when declawed cats use the litterbox after surgery, their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box…permanently, resulting in a life-long adversion to using the litter box. Other declawed cats that can no longer mark with their claws, they mark with urine instead resulting in inappropriate elimination problems, which in many cases, results in relinquishment of the cats to shelters and ultimately euthanasia. Many of the cats surrendered to shelters are surrendered because of behavioral problems which developed after the cats were declawed.
Many declawed cats become so traumatized by this painful mutilation that they end up spending their maladjusted lives perched on top of doors and refrigerators, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against whom they no longer have any adequate defense.
A cat relies on its claws as its primary means of defense. Removing the claws makes a cat feel defenseless. The constant state of stress caused by a feeling of defenselessness may make some declawed cats more prone to disease. Stress leads to a myriad of physical and psychological disorders including supression of the immune system, cystitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)..
“The consequences of declawing are often pathetic. Changes in behavior can occur. A declawed cat frequently resorts to biting when confronted with even minor threats. Biting becomes an overcompensation for the insecurity of having no claws. Bungled surgery can result in the regrowth of deformed claws or in an infection leading to gangrene. Balance is affected by the inability to grasp with their claws. Chronic physical ailments such as cystitis or skin disorders can be manifestations of a declawed cat’s frustration and stress” David E. Hammett, DVM
Moral, Ethical and Humane Considerations
The veterinary justification for declawing is that the owner may otherwise dispose of the cat, perhaps cruelly. It is ethically inappropriate, in the long term, for veterinarians to submit to this form of moral blackmail from their clients.
“The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights is opposed to cosmetic surgeries and to those performed to correct ‘vices.’ Declawing generally is unacceptable because the suffering and disfigurement it causes is not offset by any benefits to the cat. Declawing is done strictly to provide convenience for people. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR)
Some veterinarians have argued that some people would have their cats killed if declawing was not an option. We should not, however, allow ourselves to taken ’emotional hostage’ like this. If a person really would kill her or his cat in this case, it is reasonable to question the suitability of that person as a feline guardian, especially when there are millions of non-declawed cats living in harmony with people.”
Most people are vehemently opposed to declawing due to a combination of reasons: 1) because the end (owner convenience) doesn’t justify the means (causing unnecessary pain to the cat); 2) because other, less harmful alternatives to declawing exist and 3) because claws are part of the nature or “catness” of cats. Overall, the view is that it is ethically inappropriate to remove parts of an animal’s anatomy, thereby causing the animal pain, merely to fit the owner’s lifestyle, aesthetics, or convenience without any benefit to the cat. It should be emphasized that “most people” includes virtually the entire adult population of Europe and many other countries around the world.
Many countries are particularly concerned about animal welfare and have banned declawing as abusive and causing unnecessary pain and suffering with no benefit to the cat.. One highly regarded veterinary textbook by Turner and Bateson on the biology of cat behavior concludes a short section on scratching behavior with the following statement: “The operative removal of the claws, as is sometimes practiced to protect furniture and curtains, is an act of abuse and should be forbidden by law in all, not just a few countries.”
The following is a partial list of countries in which declawing cats is either illegal or considered extremely inhumane and only performed under extreme medical circumstances:
England – Scotland – Wales – Northern Ireland – Germany – Austria – Switzerland – Norway – Sweden – Netherlands – Denmark – Finland – Brazil – Australia – New Zealand
Cat Fanciers Association
Declawing of Cats – CFA Guidance Statement: Approved by the CFA Board of Directors – October 1996
by Joan Miller, CFA Health Committee
“CFA’s Health Committee proposed the following guidance statement on the declawing of cats after review of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) position concerning declawing, and after research of scientific articles and
information from the Cornell Feline Health Center, from Joan Miller’s files of Cat Fancy and animal shelter materials and by
talking with veterinarians, feline behavioral specialists, The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the
President of the American College of Behaviorists and the Director of Ethical Studies at the San Francisco SPCA. At
the October 1996 meeting, the CFA Board unanimously approved this guidance statement on the declawing of cats:
CFA perceives the declawing of cats (onychectomy ) and the severing of digital tendons (tendonectomy) to be elective
surgical procedures which are without benefit to the cat. Because of post operative discomfort or pain, and potential
future behavioral or physical effects, CFA disapproves of declawing or tendonectomy surgery.”
World Small Animal Veterinary Association
Section 10-Non-therapeutic Surgical Operations on Pet Animals
i) Surgical operations for the purpose of modifying the appearance of a pet animal for non-therapeutic purposes should be actively discouraged.
ii) Where possible legislation should be enacted to prohibit the performance of non-therapeutic surgical procedures for purely cosmetic purposes, in particular;
d. Declawing and defanging.
iii) Exceptions to these prohibitions should be permitted only if a veterinarian considers that the particular surgical procedure is
necessary for veterinary medical reasons.”
The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) position on declawing cats:
“A major concern that the AVAR has about declawing is the attitude that is evident in this situation. The cat is treated as if he or she is an inanimate object who can be modified, even to the point of surgical mutilation, to suit a person’s perception of what a cat should be. It would seem more ethical and humane to accept that claws and scratching are inherent feline attributes, and to
adjust one’s life accordingly if a cat is desired as a companion. If this is unacceptable, then perhaps a different companion would be in order.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Behavioral Pharmacology and Director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and internationally known specialist in domestic animal behavioral research, explains declawing:
“The inhumanity of the procedure is clearly demonstrated by the nature of cats’ recovery from anesthesia following the surgery. Unlike routine recoveries, including recovery from neutering surgeries, which are fairly peaceful, declawing surgery results in cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain. Cats that are more stoic huddle in the corner of the recovery cage, immobilized in a state of helplessness, presumably by overwhelming pain. Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform,
disfigure, disjoint, and dismember all apply to this surgery. Partial digital amputation is so horrible that it has been employed for torture of prisoners of war, and in veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as model of severe pain for testing the efficacy of analgesic drugs. Even though analgesic drugs can be used postoperatively, they rarely are, and their effects are incomplete and transient anyway, so sooner or later the pain will emerge.” (Excerpted from The Cat Who Cried For Help, Dodman N, Bantam Books, New York).
Declawing robs a cat of an integral means of movement and defense. Because they cannot defend themselves adequately against attacks by other animals, declawed cats who are allowed outdoors may be at increased risk of injury or death. Scratching is a natural instinct for cats and declawing causes a significant degree of privation with respect to satisfying the instinctive impulses to climb, chase, exercise, and to mark territory by scratching. Cats simply enjoy scratching. The sensible and humane solution to undesirable scratching is to modify the cat’s conduct by making changes in the environment and direct the cat’s natural scratching behavior to an appropriate area (e.g., scratching post) rather than surgically altering the cat, thereby causing the animal pain, merely to fit the owner’s lifestyle, aesthetics, or convenience.
The fact that many cats recover from the hideous experience of declawing without untoward effects, and even though they may not hold grudges, that doesn’t seem sufficient justification for putting a family member through such a repugnant experience. In short, a declawed cat is a maimed, mutilated cat, and no excuse can justify the operation. Your cat should trust you, and depend upon you for protection. Don’t betray that trust by declawing your cat.
Compliments of:Max’s House & S.T.A.R.T II (Save The Animals Rescue Team)