Maddie's Pet Project

Declawing -- Why It’s Not Good for Your Cat

by Kimberly Wade

Kimberly and Newton

Maisey, one of my cats, rides around the house on my shoulders. She loves it and will happily do so as often as I let her—until I begin to feel her little claws kneading into my skin.

This is when we break out the nail trimmers. It happens every few weeks and we’ve got it down to a science. I hold; husband trims. It takes a matter of minutes and everyone is rewarded with treats. Some people find it easy to hold their cat and trim nails themselves. One person I know even waits until her kitty is snoozing and trims a few nails at a time that way.

Claws are an important part of what makes a cat a cat. They use them for climbing, balance and protection. It’s normal behavior for cats to scratch trees and other surfaces and a way for them to mark their territory visually and with their scent. If a cat is declawed, it takes away all of this, on top of often causing problems to their health and behavior. Below are a few tips and resources to help you minimize your cats’ desire to scratch where you don’t want them to.

Please know: Declawing is not a manicure. It’s a major surgery where the claw and end bone of each toe are amputated. It’s one of the most painful surgeries and provides no benefit to the cat.

Many cats who have been declawed live with chronic pain. Digging in the litter box can be so painful that they may stop using it altogether. They may have problems jumping or walking. Many even resort to biting because they no longer have claws as a means of defense. Declawed cats must be kept indoors because their ability to escape (climbing trees) and one of their primary means of self-defense are removed.

Declawed cats are often surrendered to animal shelters because their people are not able to cope with the resulting behavior problems. It’s especially tragic because there are so many solutions available to prevent damage to furniture.

Providing cat trees, cardboard scratchers or sisal cat scratching posts gives your cat an attractive alternative to furniture and allows them to exercise their natural instincts. Scratchers can be made even more effective when positioned near tempting places, such as couch corners. If you cat is going after the furniture, you can use double-sided tape products such as “Sticky Paws” – cats don’t like the sticky surface and leave it alone. Another option is Soft Paws, which are essentially little nail caps.

One of the easiest solutions for most cats is to learn to trim your cat’s nails at home using human nail clippers – YouTube provides several good instructional videos if you search for “how to trim my cat’s nails.” If you cat won’t cooperate, enlist a helper or take your cat to the vet for a nail trim.

With a little effort, you can find solutions that work for you and your cat so that you can live in harmony.

Kimberly Wade is the campaign manager for Maddie’s Pet Project in Nevada, a campaign to elevate the status of dogs and cats in Nevada. She lives with her husband and their cats, who have an Instagram account at maisey.newton.saia to promote foster and adoption programs. Reach Kimberly at kwade@humanenetwork.org.

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