Should You Declaw Your Cat?

People declaw their cats for convenience, health reasons, and behavioral challenges. However, this surgical amputation has significant implications for your cat’s long-term health, behavioral wellbeing, and overall life satisfaction.

Are you or someone you know considering declawing a cat? Please continue reading to learn about this multifaceted issue and whether or not it’s right for you and your feline companion.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is a surgical procedure in which the top third of a cat’s digits, including their claws, are removed. The harsh reality that not many people are aware of is that declawing is actually a partial amputation, because part of the cat’s toes have to be removed in order for the claw to be removed (The Paw Project). 

It is important to know that the declawing procedure is often referred to inaccurately as an onychetomy, which is defined as “the surgical excision of a fingernail or toenail” (Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary). This term causes a frustrating misunderstanding of the procedure, leading many people to believe that declawing only affects the cat’s claws and not any other part of their anatomy. 

In other cases, some of the cat’s claw-controlling tendons are cut. This procedure is called a tendonectomy, and it makes the cat physically unable to move or extend their claws (The Humane Society of the United States). However, regardless of what kind of procedure the cat undergoes, they lose an essential component of their anatomy and autonomy. 

Why do Some Veterinarians Declaw Cats?

Declawing is either banned or in the process of being banned from several areas in the United States. In areas where declawing is still common practice, veterinarians agree or offer to declaw cats in an attempt to avoid owner surrender or to prohibit behavioral problems that would lead to surrender or euthanasia (Petful). Some pet caregivers approach their veterinarians expressing concerns about unwanted scratching behaviors. Others share that they have never lived with a fully clawed cat before. Unfortunately, some veterinarians address these scenarios and concerns with declawing procedures as a preventative, commonplace solution. 

There are veterinarians who tout that they use surgical lasers to perform the declawing amputation, because surgical lasers are supposed to have a lower risk for pain and infection (Aspen Grove Veterinary Care). The veterinary practice cited here lists two alternatives for declawing in their list of services, but they still stand behind the procedure if it’s what the pet caregiver chooses.

There are some instances where veterinarians will find cancerous tumors in a cat’s nail beds and decide that the removal of the nail is best, in order to prevent the spread of cancerous cells (The Humane Society of the United States). However, these instances of declawing are rare and done in the best interest of the animal’s long-term health. 

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Why do People Choose to Declaw Their Cats?

Some people still believe that cats’ claws are dangerous. Others think they are simply a cosmetic inconvenience for their home and for the cats themselves. They are quick to assume that cats will use their claws aggressively towards themselves, their other pets, their children, or any guests that enter their home. Some simply worry about their furniture and assume that cats will immediately destroy their material possessions. 

There is yet another group of individuals who worry about their personal health due to preexisting conditions. Some health professionals warn that cohabiting with a fully clawed cat poses a threat to their health, but this is often incorrect. Cats are more likely to expose you to illness via their litter, fleas, or bite wounds than they are via their claws (The Humane Society of the United States). 

What Declawing does to Your Cat’s Health

The surgery itself and the resulting lifetime physical deformity are both detrimental to your cat’s health. During surgery, there is a risk that pieces of bone will be left inside your cat’s paw, causing discomfort when they walk. They also run the risk of having one or more nails that eventually grow back (The Paw Project). Both of these negative side effects of the declawing surgery can cause lifelong pain that occurs any time your cat takes a step. 

There is also the risk that your cat will develop arthritis or experience nerve damage due to the partial amputation that is declawing surgery (For All Animals). If your cat undergoes a tendonectomy instead of the traditional (incorrectly named) onychetomy, your cat may develop a condition where they begin to grow claws that are uncomfortably thick. This makes claw trimming more difficult, poses a bigger risk to you and your furniture, and is ultimately painful for your cat (The Humane Society of the United States). 

The chronic pain and other lifelong health complications that declawing causes for your cat will inevitably lead to negative behavioral changes.


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Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

Any contribution is greatly appreciated!

– $6.00 allows us to buy a bag of litter
– $25 helps us buy 12 cans of cat food
– $100+ allows us to fund general medical procedures for any felines that we foster on our own

Thank you so much for considering a donation! 🙂

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What Declawing does to Your Cat’s Behavior

A cat without claws is not a true cat, meaning that they are not able to live out their lives in their natural way. Key components of feline behavior are scent marking, visually marking their territory, digging, kneading, climbing, defending themselves, and hunting. Each of these behaviors directly involves the use of their claws. 

Without the use of their claws to carry out these instinctual behaviors, your cat is bound to become stressed, frustrated, and confused. Add these emotions to the long-term physical pain the declawing procedure has caused them, and you have one angry kitty on your hands. 

Common behavior changes include:

  • Increased biting, due to the inability of the use of their claws to defend themselves (For All Animals).
  • Litter box avoidance, due to chronic paw pain (For All Animals).
  • Walking on their wrists or elbows. Cats naturally walk on their toes, but when their toes are amputated they lose the ability to do this comfortably or it becomes physically impossible (The Paw Project). This physical coping mechanism can lead to chronic pain, and when a cat is in chronic pain, they are in constant defense mode. 

Cats with these unpleasant behavioral changes are much more likely to be given up on. Many declawed cats are surrendered to local animal shelters because their owners are unable to cope with these behavior changes. As we know, many animals brought into shelters never make it out alive, especially when they are exhibiting behaviors that scare humans such as hiding, hissing, biting, and swatting. 

So, here we are. This is where I urge you to reconsider your decision to declaw your cat. Your feline friend is intended to be a forever companion, and it’s important to understand that their claws are a part of their true nature and not simply a cosmetic inconvenience. 

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Why Cats Need Their Claws

Several essential daily functions involve your cat’s use of their claws. If the negative side effects of declawing are not enough to change your mind, consider honoring your cat’s true nature by reading through the raw cat behaviors below.


Cats scratch areas of their home base to mark their territory. The scent glands in their paws leave important messages for themselves and for other members of the household. The visual marks made by their claws are another important territorial signal, indicating that your cat owns a certain space. 

Scratching also provides stress-relief. As your cat stretches out to their fullest extent, they release pent-up energy and also get a nice muscle-toning experience in the process. Even having the ability to use a claw or two to scratch an annoying itch can make all the difference for your cat’s independence and wellbeing.

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Your cat needs their claws to confidently jump and swerve when running. More importantly, they also must have their claws to climb. Whether they’re climbing cat trees to get to their favorite cozy spot, climbing a sisal pole while teasing a playmate, or climbing a tree to get away from a threat, their claws are absolutely essential. Your cat cannot grip onto surfaces without their claws. 

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Anyone who has ever engaged in play with a fully clawed cat or has watched a wild cat hunt knows that they use their claws to help them catch and hold their prey. Even though your sweet house cat is not relying on hunting prey to get their daily nutrition, they still crave the process of hunting, catching, and killing (Jackson Galaxy). Being able to hunt, catch, and “kill” their toys builds your cat’s confidence and helps them establish a healthy routine. 


For cats, anything can be viewed as a threat. It is important that your cat knows they have several lines of defense when they’re feeling threatened. Whether it’s a warning swipe to an unfamiliar cat or digging their claws into a dog’s fur to make them leave them alone, your cat needs to know they have those tools at their disposal. Otherwise, their instinct will be to immediately bite. 

Digging and kneading

From the first day of kittenhood, your cat has used their claws for survival. As kittens, claws are used to gently stimulate their mother’s milk production. Once they’re older, they begin to use their paws and claws to dig, particularly in the litter box. So, your cat’s claws have allowed them to eat and eliminate for their entire lives, ensuring their survival. 

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Is it Okay to Declaw Your Cat?

If you haven’t realized quite yet, the answer is a resounding no. 

When you adopt a cat, you agree to cohabitate with the whole cat, claws and all. You don’t adopt a cat only to alter an essential part of their anatomy that they need for everyday life. 

If you still aren’t convinced that declawing your cat is a bad idea, please explore the alternatives below. 

Alternatives to Declawing

Cats typically begin scratching between the ages of 5 to 8 weeks old, as this is when their personalities and independence start to form. This is the ideal time to train kittens to use a scratching post and to allow nail trims. Pet caregivers should not consider declawing to be a routine preventative measure for unwanted scratching. As you know by now, declawing can lead to a myriad of behavior problems that are far more frustrating than unwanted scratching.

Aside from training your kittens to feel comfortable during nail trimmings (more info coming in a future post), you can also use nail caps. Nail caps are soft covers that go over each individual nail, while still allowing the cat to fully extend and retract their claws. They allow for the use of each claw without allowing for the occurrence of damage or injury caused by scratching. 

No matter what alternative route you take, always be sure to offer scratching posts. Offer different textures, heights, directions, and locations until you find something your cat is obsessed with. 

  • Alternatives to declawing your cat
    • Offer scratching posts in different textures, heights, directions, and locations.
    • Put nail caps on each nail.
    • Train your cat to feel safe during nail trimmings.
    • Sprinkle catnip on items they’re allowed to use to encourage enthusiastic scratching.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about your cat’s precious paws and the claws that help them navigate their world. I have two fully clawed cats in my home, and every cat or kitten I’ve fostered has had all of their claws. I have never had a single problem related to a cat’s claws that I haven’t been able to adjust for. As long as you tailor your space to provide plenty of scratching options and enrichment for your cat, you will have a beautiful relationship with your cat and their claws!

References: Aspen Grove Veterinary Care, For All Animals, Jackson Galaxy, Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, Petful, The Humane Society of the United States, & The Paw Project

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through these links may help me earn a small commission.

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One response to “Should You Declaw Your Cat?”

  1. […] be live on the website soon! In the meantime, check out Why You Should Adopt Instead of Shop and Should You Declaw Your Cat for more animal welfare […]


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