24 Pros And Cons Of Declawing Cats

The decision to declaw a cat is one that many pet owners face, often with mixed emotions and considerable deliberation. Declawing, a surgical procedure that removes a cat’s claws, can have significant implications for the animal’s health, behavior, and overall well-being.

This article will delve into the details of what declawing entails, explore the potential benefits and drawbacks, and help cat owners make an informed decision about whether this procedure is appropriate for their feline companions.

What Is Declawing Cats?

Declawing, also known as onychectomy, is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a cat’s claws. This operation is more than a simple nail trim; it entails the amputation of the last bone of each toe on a cat’s front paws. In human terms, this is comparable to removing the last joint of each finger. The procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia by a veterinarian.

Declawing can be done using several methods:

  1. Rescoe Clipper Method: This involves using a sterilized clipper to sever the last bone of the cat’s toe.
  2. Blade Method: A scalpel blade is used to amputate the last bone of each toe.
  3. Laser Surgery: A laser is used to remove the last bone and claw, which can reduce bleeding and pain during recovery.

Despite the differences in techniques, the outcome is the same: the removal of the claws and the last bone of each toe. Declawing is a controversial procedure, with passionate arguments on both sides regarding its ethical implications, health impacts, and overall necessity.

Declawing Cats

Pros Of Declawing Cats

1. Protection Of Home Furnishings

One of the primary reasons cat owners consider declawing is to protect their home furnishings. Cats have a natural instinct to scratch, which can lead to damage to furniture, carpets, and other household items. Declawing can prevent this destructive behavior, preserving the appearance and integrity of a home.

2. Prevention Of Injury

Declawed cats cannot scratch people or other animals, which can reduce the risk of injury. This can be particularly important in households with young children, elderly individuals, or immunocompromised people who may be more susceptible to infections from scratches.

3. Simplified Care For Owners

For some cat owners, declawing can simplify the care and management of their pets. Without claws, there is no need to worry about trimming nails or providing scratching posts. This can be seen as a convenience, especially for those who may find it difficult to manage a cat’s natural scratching behavior.

4. Accommodation In Certain Living Situations

In some living situations, such as rental properties or communal living spaces, declawing may be seen as necessary to prevent damage and ensure that the cat can remain in the home. Some landlords may require declawing as a condition for allowing a cat in the residence.

5. Reduced Risk Of Household Damage

In addition to protecting furniture, declawing can also prevent damage to other household items such as curtains, screens, and wooden fixtures. This can lead to a more harmonious coexistence between cats and their human families.

6. Easier Integration With Other Pets

Declawed cats may integrate more easily with other pets in the household. The absence of claws can reduce the likelihood of injuries during play or conflict with other animals, promoting a safer and more peaceful environment.

7. Enhanced Human-Animal Bond

For some pet owners, the elimination of destructive scratching can enhance the human-animal bond. Without the frustration and concern over damaged belongings, owners may feel more positive and affectionate towards their cats, which can improve the overall relationship.

Cons Of Declawing Cats

1. Pain And Recovery

Declawing is a major surgical procedure that involves significant pain and recovery time for the cat. Post-operative pain can be severe, and some cats may experience long-term discomfort. Pain management is crucial during the recovery period, but it cannot completely eliminate the trauma associated with the surgery.

2. Behavioral Changes

Declawing can lead to behavioral changes in cats. Some cats may become more aggressive or prone to biting as a result of losing their primary means of defense. Others may become withdrawn or exhibit signs of depression. These behavioral changes can negatively impact the cat’s quality of life and the owner’s relationship with the pet.

3. Physical Complications

There are several physical complications that can arise from declawing. These include:

  • Infection: The surgical wounds can become infected, leading to further health issues.
  • Lameness: Some cats may develop a limp or other mobility issues as a result of the surgery.
  • Regrowth: In rare cases, claws can regrow improperly, causing pain and requiring additional surgery.

4. Altered Gait And Balance

Declawing removes a crucial part of a cat’s anatomy, which can affect their gait and balance. Cats use their claws for traction and balance, and the removal of claws can lead to changes in how they walk and move. This can result in long-term joint and muscle issues.

5. Ethical And Moral Considerations

The ethical and moral implications of declawing are significant. Many animal welfare organizations, veterinarians, and pet owners argue that declawing is an inhumane and unnecessary procedure. The removal of claws is seen as a violation of the cat’s natural anatomy and behavior, raising concerns about the animal’s welfare and rights.

6. Decreased Defense Mechanism

Claws are a cat’s primary means of defense. Without them, cats are more vulnerable to predators and other threats. This is particularly concerning for outdoor or indoor-outdoor cats who may encounter dangerous situations that require self-defense.

7. Long-Term Health Issues

Declawing can lead to long-term health issues, including arthritis and chronic pain. The alteration of the cat’s natural anatomy can cause strain on other parts of the body, leading to ongoing health problems that can affect the cat’s quality of life.

8. Impact On Natural Behavior

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats that serves several purposes, including marking territory, stretching muscles, and maintaining claw health. Declawing deprives cats of this natural behavior, which can lead to frustration and stress.

9. Limited Veterinary Support

Increasingly, veterinarians are refusing to perform declawing procedures due to ethical concerns and the potential for harm to the cat. This means that cat owners who wish to have their cats declawed may find it difficult to locate a willing veterinarian, and those who do may face criticism from the veterinary community.

10. Legal Restrictions

In many places, declawing is either heavily restricted or outright banned due to animal welfare concerns. This trend is growing globally, with more regions enacting laws to prohibit the procedure. Pet owners must be aware of the legal status of declawing in their area before considering it as an option.

11. Psychological Stress

The experience of undergoing surgery and adapting to life without claws can cause psychological stress for cats. The loss of their primary means of defense and a significant aspect of their natural behavior can lead to anxiety and other stress-related issues.

12. Alternatives To Declawing

There are several alternatives to declawing that can address the concerns of pet owners without causing harm to the cat. These include regular nail trimming, providing scratching posts and pads, using nail caps, and behavior modification techniques. These alternatives can be effective in managing scratching behavior while preserving the cat’s well-being.

13. Potential For Regret

Many pet owners who choose to declaw their cats later express regret due to the negative outcomes and ethical considerations. The irreversible nature of the procedure means that once it is done, it cannot be undone. Owners must weigh the potential for long-term regret before making the decision to declaw.

14. Impact On Adoption

Some animal shelters and rescue organizations have policies against adopting out declawed cats or require potential adopters to agree not to declaw. This can limit the options for those who wish to adopt a cat and may affect the likelihood of a successful adoption.

15. Impact On Cat’s Play and Exercise

Cats use their claws for a variety of activities beyond scratching, such as climbing and playing. Declawing can limit a cat’s ability to engage in these natural behaviors, which can affect their physical fitness and mental stimulation.

16. Risk Of Phantom Pain

Just like in humans who have undergone amputations, cats may experience phantom pain in the area where their claws used to be. This can lead to ongoing discomfort and stress for the cat.

17. Financial Cost

Declawing is not only a significant procedure in terms of health but also financially. The surgery, post-operative care, and potential complications can be costly. Pet owners must consider these financial implications when deciding whether to declaw their cats.


Declawing cats is a complex and controversial issue that involves significant considerations of health, behavior, ethics, and practicality. While there are certain benefits, such as protecting home furnishings and reducing the risk of injury, the drawbacks are substantial and multifaceted. The pain and recovery, potential for behavioral changes, physical complications, ethical concerns, and long-term health issues all weigh heavily against the procedure.

Cat owners must carefully evaluate the pros and cons, considering not only their own needs and circumstances but also the well-being of their feline companions. Exploring alternatives to declawing, such as providing scratching posts and using nail caps, can often address the concerns without resorting to this invasive procedure.

Ultimately, the decision to declaw a cat should not be made lightly. It requires a thorough understanding of the implications and a commitment to the animal’s health and happiness. By prioritizing the welfare of their pets and seeking humane solutions, cat owners can ensure that their beloved companions lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

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