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Vet 101: Why Declawing Cats is the Unkindest Cut

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cat declaw PSA

Updated: May 2020. We’re passionately against declawing of cats and happy to announce the Paw Project, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization’s new 57 minute documentary, titled “The Paw Project,” is now available on Netflix. The dramatic film aims to educate the public about the harmful consequences of feline declawing. The Paw Project movie trailer can be viewed at For more information, please visit


paw project documentary poster 357x450 Movie Review: The Paw Project, A Catfight Against Declawing

Our Vet 101 guest post today is by veterinarian Dr. Sasha Gibbons.


Many people believe that declawing is a solution to undesirable behaviors. What people do not realize is that it is a serious surgical procedure with long-term implications. The claw is deeply embedded into the tip of the paw, and bone must be amputated to remove it. The equivalent for people is removal of the finger beyond the last joint. Cats are usually required to stay in the hospital for a minimum of 48 hours following the surgery. The reasoning is this is usually the minimum time for bleeding to subside. However, bone can take weeks to completely heal, causing pain and limping. In the meantime, cats need to retrain themselves to walk, and balance without having part of their toes

As declawed cats age, prolonged redistribution of weight onto areas of the paw that are not normally pressure-bearing can cause arthritis, and problems with balance, which can ultimately lead to litterbox aversion due to difficulty standing in the litter. Elimination outside the litterbox is one of the top reasons cats are put to sleep in this country, either by owners who are frustrated by the situation, or in shelters as these cats are deemed unfit for adoption. With these aspects in mind, many countries, and certain local jurisdictions have banned the procedure.

Instead of declawing, people should work on behavioral modification. Kittens’ paws should be handled regularly to get them used to having their paws touched. The younger people start trimming their cat’s nails, the better they will tolerate it as they age. If nail trimming cannot be done at home, many pet stores or veterinary offices offer low cost nail trims.

  • To avoid scratching furniture, appropriate scratching material should be provided that should mimic what the cat is interested in (vertical or horizontal surface).
  • Catnip can be added to the scratching posts as additional enticement.
  • When an owner witnesses a cat, using the scratching post, the cat should be praised and given a treat so that the cat understands this was a desired behavior. On the other hand, cats should be deterred from furniture with use of textures or odors.
  • If caught in the act of scratching, deflecting the unwanted behavior with play i.e. throwing a ball or using a wand toy can be used to discourage the behavior.

Owners that are concerned with aggression towards themselves or other animals should work with their veterinarian to determine the best way to harness these unwanted behaviors. Declawing is not a solution to aggression. In fact, often, it makes cats more aggressive as without their claws, cats often turn to biting, which can be more destructive.

With appropriate information on alternatives to declawing and knowledge regarding the truth about long term effects, hopefully more people will opt not to put their cats through this elective procedure.

Sasha Gibbons is a feline only practitioner at Just Cats Veterinary Hospital in Stamford, CT. She has been sought after for her feline expertise and is a regular contributor Cat Fancy magazine.

Editor’s note:
Banned or considered unethical in many countries worldwide, declaw surgery is commonly performed in the U.S. and Canada. Why? The estimates are low. The cost of declawing 4 paws can be @$300+

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
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Slovenia
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Serbia
  • Montenegro
  • Macedonia
  • Slovenia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Bosnia
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Northern Ireland
  • Portugal
  • Belgium
  • Israel

LET”S GET THE U.S. and CANADA ON THE LIST! Please share and cross post.


  • Martin BJ B

    Since watching the movie on Netflix, I simply had to share it & this website as well. Having been a military dog trainer during the Vietnam war, I intensely dislike ill treatment of animals. I’ve never has a cat declawed & never would. There’s enough pain in this ‘ole world. We don’t need to create more. My father often said, “follow the money trail & you’ll find the cause of trouble” and this is anther example of his being right (again).

  • Cynthia Southern

    We all hate declawing in our home also. I have ‘The Paw Project” i my Netflix queue and look forward to seeing it. A Denver newspaper did an article on this same film recently. Her is the link. Neither of my cats are declawed and I my vet is adamantly opposed to it too. I would never go to a vet who did declawing in its practice. This inhumane and painful torture must be banned in the US and Canada.

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    We ,as a country ,try to tout our zero tolerance of cruelity, abuse etc. in other countries yet we are guilty of allowing some of the most horrible treatment and abuse to happen in our own backyard.
    NO DECLAW!!!
    Thank you Layla for the wonderful post on this terrible practice.
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig and Peanut and Romeo >^..^<
    All 36 paws filled with claws!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Vets must be do better at explaining the procedure. You should have to sign something that says the procedure has been explained to you. I never once had a vet explain the procedure to me. Knowing what I know now, I would never have done it. I try not to feel horribly guilty.

  • Stephanie Flynn

    I talked my boss out of declawing his 2 kittens. I told him that is was finger amputation to the joint. The two cats I had known that were declawed had aggression issues with biting and hissing and the other cat went into depression.

  • Kathie

    Declawing is awful, my kitties almost never scratch where they’re not supposed to because they have scratching posts in almost every room. Simple concept!

  • Darlene Arden, C.A.B.C.

    I love the visual at the end with the hand raised with fingers cut off at the first joint! It beautiful shows what we have been saying for years! Maybe the visual will make the point!!!

    Thank you for such a comprehensive post on declawing, Layla. You go, girl!

  • Cathy Keisha

    For a nation such as ours, we’re behind the rest of the civilized world in many areas, including health insurance, gun control and animal treatment. Gramma had her first cat declawed cos she didn’t know any better. They’d just adopted their 1st cat and that’s what people, inc. the vet told them to do. Gramma vowed never to do it again after Faith came home with bandages on all 4 feet. Sometimes TW wishes she could get my teeth files down but my claws will stay.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    R claws bee like matress tags…DUE… KNOT… REE MOVE….

    & doodz…
    heerz two a perch & cod kinda week oh end !!

  • maggie

    It’s a horrifying practice. When I see a declawed cat left at PAWS, I think; it’s not surprising that someone who would declaw for their convenience, would abandon their cat when they became inconvenient.
    So sad.

  • Bev Green

    Great post on show your paw day…as an Australian I am always astounded when declawed cats are mentioned overseas….almost a habit..leaves a cat defenceless..we have sticky paws for sale here that you put n the couch to prtect it..but really the cat is marking it’s work around it….a really cruel way to treat an unwanted behaviour! the same people I imagine are mortified by countries that cut the hands off thieves…..well where is the difference… Fozziemum

  • Tamago

    I am 100% against declawing. Unfortunately, there are those who do not know how horrible it is. Vets should give thorough information when people come to their office asking for surgery. Educating those people is important. Thank you for your post!

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