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Are declawed cats happy?

Why I stopped declawing my cats

This week’s post comes from one of the women behind the scenes here at Dezi & Roo. Carrie has been working with us for a few years now, and she wanted to share with you a story about why she stopped declawing her cats.

When I first started working at Dezi & Roo with Dr. Bahr I knew she was staunchly anti-declawing. In fact, Dr. Bahr is proud to say she’s never declawed a cat in her entire veterinary career. And I agreed with her. I’ve never thought it was a good idea to declaw cats. It’s a major surgery. It’s an amputation of their toes. It’s wrong.

But I had a secret. And I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want her to know that we had declawed cats. And when I finally did tell her, I left out the fact that we were the ones who paid for the surgeries. That we were the ones who amputated our cats’ toes. I was ashamed. And I was afraid she’d judge me.

I was wrong. Not just about the declawing, but about being judged.

As cat owners, we’re often bombarded with feline allies who will loudly proclaim, “Never declaw your cats!” And I appreciate their passion, but if it hadn’t been for Dr. Bahr’s more gentle approach, with kind and loving support, we may never have stopped declawing our cats.

two cats lying on the couch with one of the cats hanging their head over the edge

I had my first declawed cat when I was in my early twenties. My roommate had moved out and I was considering moving across the country to live with my older brother. He had three cats and told me both my cat and I were welcome, but she’d need to be declawed. So I did it. My vet supported me.

I ended up not moving across the country, but a couple years later, I got a second cat. And since my first was declawed, I thought, “Well, I’d better get him declawed also so she doesn’t get attacked.”

This went on and on. Each time we got a new cat, we’d say, “Well the others will get beat up. They won’t be able to defend themselves.” And we always had a vet who supported our decision.

I always knew cats were better off with their paws intact, but I didn’t know I could change. Instead of making me feel like a bad cat parent for my previous decisions, I saw from Dr. Bahr’s example that cats just need healthy outlets for scratching, and their claws will only serve the functions they were intended to: catching prey, playing, climbing, and stretching.

Without the benefit of claws, kitties can’t grasp toys as easily, they are less stable on perches, are unable to climb normally, and are likely insecure because of the amputation.

black cat lying on a white couch with a ring toy in it

As I write this, my 10-year-old dilute tortie, Zooey, is draped across my arm. One of her sweet grey paws is resting on my chest. Zooey doesn’t have her front claws. She doesn’t seem to know the difference, but I feel guilt about it every day. Because I could have doomed her to lifelong pain, anxiety, and myriad other issues.

I’m extremely lucky that none of my declawed cats have had any long-term issues from their surgeries. But that’s not always the case. When we amputate our cat’s claws, we are essentially leaving them disabled and unable to hunt, fight, protect themselves, or even play the way they want and need to. Why do we think this is okay? I can’t believe I paid someone to perform an unnecessary surgery.

We stopped declawing a few years ago, but it was a recent foster fail that made me realize just how misguided my beliefs had been.

Our newest cat Peg was seriously injured by an animal attack when she was just two weeks old. She lost a litter mate and was so badly injured she almost didn’t make it out alive. The wound went from her chest to her paw. It was weeks of daily vet visits and antibiotics before she was out of the woods. And when she was about 7 weeks old, she lost one of her paws due to necrosis.

black kitten with front paw wrapped up in bandage

Today, at six months, Peg only has one front paw. She only has one set of claws to help her run, play, jump, and climb, but she does it all. I think she actually plays a little harder than my other cats.. She’s our little miracle baby. You’d never know she was any different than our clawed or declawed cats. And if she knows she’s different, she doesn’t care.

But I also know not having that paw hurts her. When she lands on it wrong, I see her shake off the sting. When she climbs, I see her struggle to grab with her one good paw. She’s a happy and healthy cat, but if I had the choice, I’d give her that paw back. And that’s how I know, I’ll never declaw another cat.

tiny black kitten looking straight at camera with front limb extended while bundled up in a yellow blanket

I encourage you, despite what you may think or what your vet says, not to declaw your cat. Not even if you already have one who is declawed. It’s not too late to change your mind for your next feline companion. It might mean a few more cat scratchers around the house, but you won’t regret it. I speak from experience.

Do I have more scratches on me now than I did in the past? Sure. But I wear them with pride knowing that my cats have all the tools they need to live a healthy and playful life.

Are declawed cats happy?

We strongly urge you to consider and trying alternatives to declawing before resorting to it as your last resort. Some cats do poorly after being declawed and could develop undesirable personality traits, like biting. Unfortunately, most of these cats end up homeless. You must be committed to having your cat for life and never turn her loose outdoors after she’s declawed.

Because the front claws are cats’ primary defense, declawed cats may develop a tendency to bite more as their claws yield no desired effects. This is especially important for people with young kids. Kids need to learn to give kitty her space. Cat bites are a lot worse than cat scratches. Kittens do tend to do fine after declawing, as long as the veterinarian performing the surgery does it correctly (preferably using Laser), and the owner takes proper care of the cat after surgery. Once declawed, cats should be kept exclusively indoors as they are now vulnerable to dogs and other wildlife.

Declawing the hind feet is not necessary. Cats only scratch with their front claws. Trimming their hind claws once every 2 months or so or putting Soft Paws on them will prevent the hind claws from accidentally catching on fabric or carpet. Having hind claws will allow the cats to scratch their ears. Imagine not being able to scratch an itch ! We can trim your cat’s claws for you.

Alternatives to declawing

Cat with Soft Paws

There are alternatives to declawing. Providing a scratching post and training your cat to use that over furniture and curtains is crucial. Scratching is a natural, instinctive behavior that cats do to stretch and sharpen their claws and to mark their territory.

Cats can be trained with dedication and time to scratch in an acceptable manner, with a combination of making the furniture unattractive (temporary double-sided tape like Sticky Paws, loud noises when caught in the act, foil, citrus spray, etc.) and making the scratching post attractive (cats like natural rope, burlap, or similar texture much more than carpet, on a strong, tall sturdy surface). If the post wobbles the cat won’t use it. There are also products (e.g. Soft Paws) which are plastic caps that fit and glue over the nail so no damage is done when the cat scratches. These caps have been known to stay on for as long as 4 months and they come in a pack of 40 caps at a very good price. We also offer the service of applying Soft Paws on your cat if you’re unable to do it yourself. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

Reasons for declawing
Declawing your cat as a preventive measure because you have small children or ‘just in case she scratches’ is not a good reason to have the procedure done. Children need to learn to give kitty her space and when to leave her alone. When your cat gets no response from her now ineffectual claws, she may bite. Cat bites are much worse than scratches, often requiring hospitalization. Every veterinarian has been requested to euthanize cats because they bite, and often this is the result of declawing the wrong cat. Many cats don’t scratch furniture and only stick to scratching posts and pads. Give your kitty a chance.

You should NEVER declaw a cat that will be going outdoors. It is too tragic and common a sight to see a cat mauled to death or nearly so, because he could not defend himself.

Soft Paws

Prevents damage from scratching

-Simple alternative to declawing
-Do not interfere with normal retraction of claws
-Kit includes nail caps for up to four complete applications

Apply directly to nails; will not interfere with normal claw extraction and retraction. Lasts from 1-4 months. Kit contains 40 nail caps, six applicators tips, two tubes of adhesive, and complete instructions. Comes in 5 different colors: Red, Purple, Clear, Blue, Pink.

A lot of people have been surprised at how well these work. Try them today. It’s only $16.99 per kit. If you’re not able to apply them on your cat, we can put them on for you.

Happy cats wearing Soft Paws

Applying Sticky Paws temporarily for training period

Sticky Paws makes scratching furniture unpleasant for your cat. Most cats hate the sticky residue of the tape and will stay away from that spot. It’s safe for most furniture and cats; non-toxic, odor free, easy to apply.

Not unlike double-sided tape, Sticky Paws easily applies to furniture, counters, stereo speakers — just about anywhere your cat scratches. Stays in position for weeks or months, yet removes with a damp cloth or steam without harming most furniture or leaving a sticky residue (Caution with wood or leather). Transparent two-faced sticky strips (24 count, 12″ x 2″).

Winner of «Best New Product» Award from CATFANCY Magazine; received an «Excellent Review» from Catsumer Report. Also endorsed by the Humane Society as a humane product.

If you have more questions regarding this product, don’t hesitate to contact us or refer to the manufacturer’s FAQ page.

These are very reasonably priced at $9.95, cheaper than the pet stores and well worth a try before considering declawing.

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