Declawing cats is one of the worst things you can do to a cat. Declawing takes away their ability to hunt, track, and defend themselves when they need to.

Cats are very predatory animals, so why is it wrong to declaw them? Imagine a life without your fingernails – without the ability to grow them back. Everything that makes us feel humane would be stripped from us.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is essentially the removal of the entire claw performed through surgery, and it’s amputating the first joint of each finger/toe and is extremely painful afterward. The purpose of cat claws is to help them gain their flooring and balance on slippery or angled surfaces.

Cats are curious and adventurous mammals and use their claws for pretty much everything.

  • Climbing
  • Balancing
  • Feeling the surface below them
  • Protection
  • Grasping, holding, or hugging.
  • Hunting
  • Scratching

Everything that a cat does, how they behave, and how they engage with our world has to do with their claws. Taking this away from them would be like taking away their core nature as a species.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Cats scratch for many reasons, from letting out stress and tension to playful activity to just plain curiosity. Cats will scratch mainly to sharpen their claws or help shed the outer layer, making room for growth.

When a cat’s claws become too long, they curl and can hurt your feline if not clipped. Scratching also releases a territorial scent claiming that object as their property to tell others, “this is mine.”

Cats don’t scratch to make you angry or upset their owners. However, signs of destructive scratching may be a sign of stress or depression. It is ultimately up to the owner to contain the scratch-need behavior as felines do not understand right from wrong. All your cat is concerned about is meeting its basic and instinctual needs.

How to Stop Destructive Cat Scratching

Felines can become destructive for a variety of reasons. However, they do not understand that they are destructive – they are simply letting out some frustration in the only way they know-how. Signs of destructiveness and stress include:

  • Scratching everything in sight
  • Chewing on plants or other non-cat objects
  • Excessive licking or cleaning
  • Aggression
  • Urinating outside the litterbox

Causes for destruction may be due to another cat or person in their house, boredom, or emotional trauma. Perhaps the best methods to get a cat to stop scratching are preventative methods such as:

  • Buy a scratching post and use catnip and hanging toys on it.
  • Place tin foil, double-sided tape, or sticky items in places where you don’t want cats to scratch
  • Plastic caps on your feline’s claws while inside the house or during playtime
  • Make scratching areas appealing, such as placing cat toys and favorite scents by each “okay to scratch” areas
  • Redirection.

Ensure you are not punishing them by spraying them or yelling and hitting them. Instead, use a low tone with a cue word such as “no.” Then redirect their behavior to what they can scratch.

If you notice your cat likes to scratch the couch, place cardboard or twine with a backing on that spot. Then take the concoction and place it elsewhere after a couple of days.

How is a Cat Declawed?

The traditional declawing procedure involves a scalpel or guillotine clipper. The modern declawing method uses laser therapy.

With any declawing surgery, the vet will give your cat an anesthetic before the procedure can take place. The vet then goes in with their scalpel and removes the cat’s last knuckle from their paws. Once the traditional procedure is complete, the vet will stitch the ends and bandage the feet.

During the laser therapy method, a beam of intensely hot light severs the cat’s nerves, tendons, and bone from the nail joint. After the surgery is complete, the vet will stitch and bandage the paws. You will then go home with prescribed pain medication for your feline.

It will take approximately two to six weeks for your cat to heal completely. Expect your cat to limp and have very different behavior post declawing. Some bleeding may occur, and bandages must be removed the next day.

Negative Side Effects of Declawing Cats

During pos-declawing, your cat may be feeling betrayed, neglected, and de-humanized – cat version. Some signs you may notice are:

  • Distrust and lack of bonding
  • Less pleasant or friendly
  • Show aggression or run away
  • Litter Box avoidance
  • Early arthritis and back pain
  • Lameness
  • Infection

Since the procedure of declawing takes a cat’s nerves and feelings away, they have to relearn how to walk and move around. The negative side effects above signify their inability to cope, thus resulting in emotional behavior.

Unlike dogs, cats will neglect their owners and become unloyal after feeling betrayal or any form of forced caretaking – such as declawing.

Alternatives to Declawing

Since the popular opinion on cat declawing is becoming more inhumane, many alternatives to declawing your cat is plenty. These alternatives are also preventative measures for excessive scratching:

  • Buy “feliscratch” – a synthetic pheromone releasing component to calm your cat scratching behaviors
  • Get regular nail trims through a groomer or learn how to yourself
  • Invest in vinyl nail caps
  • Ensure there are many cat toys readily available to your cat
  • Hire a behaviorist or trainer to prevent scratching

Most kittens are playful and need to be entertained constantly. During playtime, ensure that you wear protective gloves and clothing so no injuries arise from play. Older cats will only scratch where they know not to if they become stressed.

To ensure an older cat doesn’t become stressed, try not to make drastic changes or move around a lot. However, if there is an emergent time where your cat will be under stress, take measures such as buying Feliway, anxiety spray, and feeding them with tons of attention and treats, or, in drastic situations, seeking emergency vet services in your area.


Why is declawing cats bad? The primary reason remains – cats’ claws are a part of them; taking them away by force not only forces your cat to relearn how to live, it takes their bond and trust from you.

If you’re still wondering, is it really cruel to declaw a cat? Just imagine how you would be able to survive with your last knuckle on every toe surgically removed. How would you feel? How would things be different?

Dr. Erin Downes VMD

Dr. Erin Downes graduated valedictorian from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. She and her husband, Dr. Jay Rowan are the owners of Paoli Vetcare | Main Line Vet & Animal Hospital.