Declawing Cat Information and Alternatives

Declawing Cat Information and Alternatives

By Greg Podsakoff

Claws are a very important part of feline life. They allow the cat to balance when running to and fro, jump and grab onto a surface, and protect themselves from predators, other cats, and catch prey. Claws also help a cat to stretch, which keeps their joints relaxed, as well as provide them with a source of relaxation and comfort when they stretch. Also, cat claws can be used to dig up dirt or clay and bury their mess once they use their toilet.

Cats are territorial animals, and they mark their territory. Sometimes, people have their cats fixed before he develops the ability to spray an area, but this is not his only method of marking. They also release a chemical in their paws that allows them to mark their area when they scratch the surface. We can’t detect it, but other cats can, and this is very important for a cat to be able to mark the area.

Most importantly, the claws of a cat are actually the last digit of the cats paw. When a cat is declawed, the vet actually removes the entire claw, including muscle and the tip of the bone. To make an analogy to human hands, it would be like amputating the tip of the finger up to the base of the finger nail.

Now, the advantages to declawing are obvious. It will keep your furniture free of claw marks, and your cat won’t be able to scratch anyone, or ruin rugs. However, if a declawed cat is threatened, it will sometimes compensate by biting instead of clawing, and this poses an even more serious risk of infection than a cat claw.

In fact, due to the traumatic nature of this operation, many vets will not perform it unless there is a medical necessity. For example, an AIDS patient in the latter portion of the disease may not be able to heal any wound or scratch that they get, so a cat scratch could be deadly. If the cat is a well loved family pet, the only option may be to give it away, or declaw it. In this case, a vet may perform the operation. But, this is the exception, and really should be the only time declawing is considered.

Furthermore, the trauma that declawing can cause may change a cats behavior dramatically. Some cats never adjust to life without their claws, and it can also be painful. Remember, this is an amputation, so it is expected that some will not recover emotionally from this procedure. Also, a cat that is used to jumping on furniture may find that it cannot do so anymore. Nor will it be able to claw at any cat toys, and this can cause depression or even aggressive behavior in a cat.

Training your cat is the best alternative to declawing.

And of course, just because you have beautiful furniture doesn’t mean that you can’t keep it, and your cat’s claws. Start by getting a scratching post, and placing it in an area the cat is familiar with, and enjoys being. Also, a spare piece of carpeting or rug can work well for a cat to scratch on. Our cat happens to love cardboard, so we have several cardboard scratching posts that we add catnip to on occasion, and our furniture has never looked so good.

But what if you get the scratching posts, and they just collect dust?

Well, you need to train your cat to use it. Start by forcefully using the word “NO” when your cat scratches furniture. It’s crucial that you DO NOT hit your cat when they scratch, it’s cruel, illegal, and bottom line, it won’t work! They will be confused, and simply grow to resent you. Instead, tell them no, pick them up and put them by the scratching post.

If your cat doesn’t respond to a verbal warning, a good technique to try is to spray them with water. Most cats don’t enjoy the water and this will get your point across.

Sometimes, they will prefer a horizontal scratching post to a vertical one, and visa versa. If the first one you get doesn’t work, try another style, texture, or even room where it sits.

And of course, when your cat starts to use the scratching post, encourage it with treats and affection, this will keep them, and your furniture, happy for years to come.

Greg Podsakoff is one of the owners of Hercules the cat and an editor at

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