Dark Side of Declawing Cats: Why It’s Inhumane

Updated: July 10, 2023


The issue of declawing cats has sparked controversy and debate for numerous years. While some argue that it is a necessary measure to safeguard furniture and owners from scratches, a mounting body of evidence highlights the inhumanity of this practice, which inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering upon our feline companions.

Declawing, also known as onychectomy, involves the surgical removal of a cat’s claws and the associated bone and tissue. This procedure is highly invasive and can result in severe physical and psychological consequences for the cat. Cats rely on their claws for various essential activities, including balance, defense, and exercise. By declawing them, we compromise their natural behaviors and abilities, leaving them vulnerable and defenseless.

Numerous alternatives exist that can protect both your home and your cat without resorting to declawing. Regular nail trimming is an effective method to keep your cat’s claws in check. Additionally, providing appropriate scratching posts or pads can redirect their natural scratching behaviors to designated areas. Soft nail caps, which can be applied to the cat’s claws, are another humane alternative that prevents furniture damage while allowing the cat to retain its natural abilities.

What Is Declawing?

Declawing is a surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, involving the complete removal of a cat’s claws. To prevent regrowth, each toe must undergo amputation down to the first joint. This can be accomplished using a scalpel blade, a guillotine-type nail trimmer, or a laser.

It is indeed true: declawed cats undergo a total of 10 amputations if only the front claws are removed (18 if both front and back claws are declawed). Subsequently, these cats are expected to engage in activities such as walking, running, climbing, and using a litter box with these amputations. This exposes the surgical incisions to urine, feces, and litter, posing potential complications. Additionally, the procedure carries inherent risks associated with anesthesia and bleeding.

The information provided highlights the gravity of declawing, emphasizing the extensive and invasive nature of the procedure. It sheds light on the challenges and potential issues faced by declawed cats as they navigate their daily activities with amputated toes. Considering these factors, it is important to explore alternative solutions that prioritize the well-being and natural behaviors of our feline companions.

What Does Declawing Involve?

Firstly, it is crucial to comprehend the nature of declawing. Known as onychectomy, this procedure surgically eliminates a cat’s claws by removing the bones to which they are attached. It is akin to amputating a human’s fingers at the last knuckle. The following outlines the process in more detail:


Before the declawing procedure begins, the cat is administered general anesthesia to ensure it remains unconscious and pain-free throughout the surgery.


The veterinarian proceeds with amputating the last bone, known as the distal phalanx, of each of the cat’s toes. This bone contains the attached claws. This surgical removal is comparable to the amputation of a human’s fingertips at the last knuckle. Different methods, such as using a scalpel, guillotine-type nail trimmer, or laser, may be employed, but the objective remains consistent: complete removal of the bone and claw without any remnants.

Wound Closure and Bandaging

After the amputation, the veterinarian closes the surgical wounds using stitches or surgical glue, depending on the chosen method. The cat’s paws are then carefully bandaged to protect the incisions and minimize bleeding.


Following the declawing surgery, the cat requires a period of recovery. It may receive pain medications and antibiotics to manage pain and prevent infections. Close monitoring is necessary during this time, as the cat may experience pain, discomfort, or difficulties in walking. Adhering to the veterinarian’s instructions for post-operative care is crucial to ensure a smooth recovery process.

It is important to recognize that declawing is an invasive and painful procedure that can have significant negative effects on a cat’s physical and emotional well-being. Consequently, many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations discourage declawing and advocate for exploring alternative solutions to address scratching behaviors.

7 Harmful Effects That Declawing Has on Cats

Declawing is an excruciating procedure that can have profound and enduring physical and psychological effects on the cat. Let’s delve into seven harmful effects of declawing:

Pain and Discomfort:

Declawing inflicts significant pain and discomfort on cats. The recovery process is painful, and even after the surgery, cats may experience chronic pain and discomfort in their paws. Nerve damage and discomfort can result from removing a cat’s claws, causing pain when walking, jumping, or even standing still. This persistent pain diminishes a cat’s overall quality of life, and without claws, they may struggle to groom themselves properly, leading to skin infections and hygiene-related issues.

Behavioral Changes:

Declawing can trigger various behavioral issues in cats. Losing their primary defense mechanism can make cats more anxious or aggressive. The absence of claws may leave them feeling vulnerable and insecure, heightening their sensitivity to threats from other animals or their environment. Declawed cats may struggle to climb, escape danger, or defend themselves, increasing the likelihood of biting or spraying as alternative forms of defense. The discomfort they experience may also make them less active or playful, leading to potential depression and a decrease in overall playfulness.

It is essential to consider these consequences before opting for declawing, as they can profoundly affect a cat’s physical and emotional well-being.

Difficulty in Walking and Jumping:

Cats rely on their claws for balance and grip while walking or jumping. However, after declawing, cats may encounter challenges in performing these activities. The absence of claws can lead to a decrease in mobility, hindering their ability to navigate and explore their surroundings. This limitation can significantly impact their overall quality of life.

Litter Box Issues:

Declawed cats may develop aversions to using the litter box. The act of digging in the litter can cause pain and discomfort in their sensitive paws, leading them to associate the litter box with negative experiences. Consequently, they may seek alternative locations for elimination, resulting in inappropriate urination or defecation outside the litter box.

Health Problems:

The absence of claws can lead to various health problems for declawed cats. Cats use their claws for grooming, and without them, they may struggle to maintain proper hygiene. This can lead to skin infections, matting of fur, and other related issues. Additionally, the declawing procedure itself carries inherent risks, including the potential for infection, excessive bleeding, or complications arising from anesthesia.

It is crucial to weigh these potential complications and risks before considering declawing as a solution. Exploring alternatives that prioritize the well-being and natural behaviors of cats is essential in promoting their overall health and happiness.

Loss of Natural Behavior

Scratching is an innate behavior for cats that serves multiple purposes essential to their well-being. By scratching, cats stretch their muscles, maintain the health of their claws, and mark their territory. It is a natural and instinctive activity deeply rooted in their behavior.

When a cat’s claws are declawed, they are deprived of this crucial behavior. This deprivation can have negative effects on their overall well-being. Scratching provides cats with physical exercise, allowing them to stretch and strengthen their muscles. Without this activity, they may experience a decline in their physical fitness and flexibility.

To address the concerns of furniture damage and accidental scratching without resorting to declawing, there are several humane alternatives that can be implemented:

Regularly Trim Your Cat’s Claws:

By regularly trimming your cat’s claws, you can keep them short and blunt, reducing the risk of scratches to furniture and people. It is important to use proper nail clippers designed specifically for cats and to be cautious not to cut into the quick (the sensitive area within the nail).

Provide Scratching Posts:

Fulfill your cat’s natural instinct to scratch by providing them with appropriate scratching posts or pads. These designated surfaces will allow them to exercise their claws and satisfy their scratching needs without causing damage to furniture. Encourage your cat to use the scratching posts by sprinkling catnip or using interactive toys.

Use Nail Caps:

Soft nail caps, made of a non-toxic material, can be applied to your cat’s claws. These caps are glued on and act as a protective cover, preventing them from causing damage while still allowing your cat to retract and extend their claws naturally. Nail caps need to be replaced periodically as your cat’s nails grow.

Train Your Cat:

Through positive reinforcement training, you can teach your cat to redirect their scratching behavior. Use rewards and praise when your cat uses the designated scratching areas and discourage or redirect them when they approach furniture. Patience and consistency are key to effectively training your cat.

By employing these alternatives, you can protect your furniture and minimize the risk of scratches while ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of your cat.

Frequently Asked Question

What is declawing, and how is it performed?

Declawing, or onychectomy, involves the surgical removal of a cat’s claws along with the associated bones and tissues. It is typically done using either a scalpel or laser, and it is an irreversible procedure.

Why is declawing considered inhumane?

Declawing is considered inhumane due to the physical and psychological harm it causes to cats. The procedure is extremely painful, and cats often suffer from long-term pain and discomfort. It can lead to complications, such as infection, nerve damage, and behavioral issues.

What are the negative consequences of declawing?

Declawed cats may experience difficulty walking and jumping, litter box aversion, and increased aggression or anxiety. They may also develop health problems, such as infections or hygiene-related issues, due to the loss of their natural grooming ability.

Are there alternatives to declawing?

Yes, there are humane alternatives to declawing. Regular nail trimming, providing scratching posts, using nail caps, and positive reinforcement training can help protect furniture and redirect scratching behaviors without resorting to declawing.

Do some countries or states ban declawing?

Yes, several countries, including the UK, Australia, and most European countries, have banned declawing. Additionally, some cities and states in the United States have implemented bans or restrictions on this procedure.

A Final Word

Declawing cats is widely recognized as an inhumane practice that inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering. Thankfully, there are numerous alternatives available to protect your home and family without resorting to such a cruel procedure.

By opting for these alternatives, you can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your feline companions while preserving their natural instincts and well-being. It is our responsibility as cat owners to prioritize their health and happiness, and choosing humane alternatives is an essential step in fulfilling that responsibility.

Michael R

Michael R

I'm a publisher and editor at Cat Guide 101. I imagine that since you’re here, you likely own a cat — or two! — so helping you better understand them is my aim. I'd like to invite you to check out our about page to learn more about the Cat Guide 101 story.

Please Write Your Comments