Cats,  Vet 101

The Claws Are Out : Vet Q & A

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

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 [email protected]
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


  • Mr Puddy

    I don’t do declaw at all, and my pawrents never want me to declaw. I’m a lucky cat because they have the same reason as Austin’s mommy. I need it to protect myself outdoor . I never scratch any human furniture in the house, I do on my scratching post, or my matt. I’m a good boy : )

    One friend of mine , Jonesie ( Cory Cat Blog ) she been attacked by woofie in their own yard. That was so scary. The dog got her collar and about to bite her till dead, lucky she got claws to protect herself and climb up to the tree near by. She said her claws save her life.

    I believe everything COD created for us, It’s for some reasons !

  • Simba

    Mom does not think she would get a kitty declawed any more – they did have it done to one cat about 25 years ago, and I came to them already declawed. Their other cats were not decalwed and Dad made great scratching posts for them, which they were encouraged to use from kittenhood. Some damage did occur to furniture, but it was not total destruction. However, some cats are SO destructive to furniture, it is as if the people cannot live a normal life. Couches are absolutely shredded, and nothing deters the cat. If the choice were to be euthanasia or declawing, then what would be the better decision? It is hard.

  • Brian

    I too think declawing is horrible. Two of my sisters had that done before they came to live with us. By the way, I love, love, love having my claws trimmed!

  • Cheysuli

    Ironically I think it has more to do with the fact that the US dislikes change! There are lots of groups lobbying for change and I think there are small areas where it is illegal. However, pets are not a priority in the US when it comes to legislation. Also, people like Michael Vick are not even censored for something like dog fighting, which just sort of shows the lack of attention that people have.

    I doubt it has anything to do with civil liberties. My best friends are gay and they can’t marry. If we were all about civil liberties, that wouldn’t be an issue.

    • boomermuse

      Another good point “U.S dislikes change and pets are not a priority” There are a few pockets in the L.A area where declawing is illegal but it’s not enough.

  • Kathryn

    We don’t trim ours, but I have to wear heavy clothes when picking up Ched. I think the reason it is illegal in the UK and not in the USA, is that here in the USA we value our civil liberties SO much that nobody can tell us how to manage our pets unless our pets endanger anyone else (dogs, for example.) In MA, people objected to making seat belts mandatory in the 80s (and so they rescinded it for awhile) because they said ‘you can’t tell us it is illegal not to wear seat belts without infringing on our civil liberties. Go figure. Now of course, it is click it or ticket.

    See you next week. Montreal this week.

    • boomermuse

      Kathryn, thanks for pointing out another view. Usually the criticism is about vets wanting to make more money but civil liberties is another. It’s a polarizing subject in any case. Enjoy Mtl.

  • CATachresis

    To declaw a cat is cruel as it is removing a useful tool and attack/defence mechanism. It is treating them as if they are a kind of toy instead of the sentient creatures they are. I hope it becomes illegal in the US as it is here in UK.

    For my cat, who spends a lot of time outdoors, he would be much more vulnerable without claws. The fact that he likes to scratch the furniture indoors is to do with stretching, spreading his scent and to be honest, also to get my attention! A gentle water spray can deter quite quickly.

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