The Claws Are Out : Vet Q & A

This week’s Vet Q & A includes a controversial question about declawing. If you have a question for our resident cat expert Dr. Richard Goldstein, please send it to
Question: Can you please tell me why de-clawing is illegal in the U.K and not in North America? Do you recommend those claw tips that are glued on? My cat hates getting her claws trimmed. Any tips?
cats claws

Not being a legal expert, I can’t tell you why declawing might be illegal in one country and not another. There are many issues and arguments on both sides of the fray. But I can tell you that there are several viable alternatives to declawing that are worth considering:Regular nail trimming is the most basic alternative. Start at an early age with your kitten, getting him used to having his feet handled. At that age the nails are fairly soft (and sharp!), and a human toenail clipper can often be used to trim the tips of the nails. As cats age, and their nails become tougher, use a more pet-oriented nail trimmer. (I like the ones often referred to as the “orange handled ones”, or the ones that look like ”children’s scissors” – sorry, there’s no specific names for them, but I know ‘em when I see ‘em!). The key is to use a simple nail clipper that will clip fast and clean, and is easy to operate. No need for the fancy grinders and gadgets. Your cat doesn’t need a full mani-pedi, just a trim.

For cats that hate having their nails trimmed, try just doing one or two nails at a time while he’s sitting on your lap. Give a treat to reward his good behavior. Many cats will learn over time that there’s really nothing to be frightened of, and he gets to eat more good stuff if he lets you do it!

An alternative product that some people like is called Soft Paws. It’s an acrylic nail that is glued over your cat’s nails so that they can’t do damage to furniture or people. They can be tricky to apply, and will fall off as your cat’s nails grow, so must be reapplied every 4-6 weeks or so. If your cat doesn’t like having her feet touched for nail clipping, she might not be thrilled to have you holding her paws to apply her fake nails. Again, offering treats as a reward, or trying one or two nails at a time might reassure her that bonding time with her person over a pedicure is actually a good thing. Oh, and for the fashion conscious, there are Soft Paws variations in fur-matching colors. Go figure.

If the problem is that your cat is scratching expensive furniture or people, it may be time to address some behavioral issues. Most cats scratch in order to keep their nails healthy, and to stretch. Scratching posts are a great idea – and the taller the better. One type is called The Purrfect Post. The idea is to try to displace the spot your cat likes to scratch with something more appealing. Deterrents are also available, like Sticky Paws Strips, to teach your cat that certain spots don’t feel so great to scratch on. (Note that regular double-sided tape is not a safe alternative. Make sure to use a product that is safe for cats). Some cats will scratch or lash out due to boredom. Simulating hunting behavior with toys and activities may also help cut down on unwanted scratching behavior.

Wherever you stand on the declawing issue, recognize that there are viable alternatives when considering what’s best for your cat. Perhaps nail salons that cater to felines and their people might be in our future. Just sayin’…

Editor’s Note:
The following is a list of countries in which declawing cats is either illegal or considered extremely inhumane and only performed under extreme circumstances:

England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Bosnia, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Yugoslavia, Malta and Israel. I hope that one day Canada and The United States will join this list.
To learn more about declawing and to join the anti-declawing movement please visit The Paw Project

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