Do Veterinarians Still Declaw Cats?

As feline companions continue to hold an integral part in many households, understanding their welfare and addressing key controversies is of utmost importance. One such ongoing debate revolves around the practice of declawing cats. This article aims to provide a comprehensive perspective on whether veterinarians still undertake this procedure and elucidate the reasons behind their decisions.

Understanding Declawing

Contrary to the belief of some, declawing is not merely a ‘feline manicure.’ The process involves a surgical procedure known as onychectomy, which involves removing the last bone of each digit, along with the attached nail. This can be compared to amputating a human finger at the last knuckle.

Current Practices and Perspectives

In the past, declawing was a common preventive measure to safeguard furniture or to avoid scratching-related injuries. However, the perspective towards declawing has significantly evolved within the veterinary community. A growing number of veterinarians refuse to perform declawing surgeries due to ethical and welfare concerns unless there is a valid medical reason, such as cancer or a persistent, debilitating infection.

Legal Aspects of Declawing

Declawing cats remains legal in most U.S. states, but it’s increasingly under scrutiny. Several cities, including Denver and Los Angeles, have outlawed the practice unless it’s medically necessary. Meanwhile, countries like the UK, Australia, and many European nations have banned declawing entirely, considering it a form of animal cruelty.

Consequences of Declawing

Recent studies indicate that declawed cats are at risk for both physical and behavioral complications post-surgery. This includes chronic pain, lameness, biting behavior, and litter box avoidance due to discomfort. Such findings have further motivated the veterinary community to discourage declawing.

Alternatives to Declawing

With growing awareness, there’s an increased emphasis on alternatives to declawing. Regular nail trims, providing scratching posts, and using soft nail caps are now widely suggested. Moreover, behavioral training to redirect scratching onto appropriate items can help resolve issues without the need for surgery.

Informed Decision-Making

Many veterinarians now prioritize educating cat owners about the implications of declawing and its alternatives. They firmly believe that discussing these matters without alienating cat owners is crucial. As a result, informed decision-making is becoming the cornerstone of contemporary veterinary practice.


While some veterinarians might still declaw cats, the trend is declining, driven by ethical considerations, potential legal restrictions, and a commitment to promoting animal welfare. Cat owners are encouraged to seek advice from their veterinarians about alternatives to declawing to ensure their feline friends lead comfortable, healthy lives. The decision to declaw should never be taken lightly, and as responsible pet owners, we need to explore all possible alternatives before resorting to this irreversible procedure.


Q1: What Medical Conditions May Warrant Cat Declawing?

While it’s generally discouraged, declawing might be necessary in a few medical situations. Conditions such as severe and recurrent nail bed infections, tumors, or persistent and unmanageable pain in the claw might necessitate a declawing procedure. It’s essential to note, however, that these are exceptions rather than the rule.

Q2: Why Are Many Veterinarians Against Declawing?

Many veterinarians oppose declawing due to the pain and behavioral issues it can cause for cats. The procedure can result in chronic discomfort, and behaviorally, declawed cats may become more prone to biting as they’ve lost their primary means of defense. It’s viewed by many professionals as an unnecessary procedure that causes more harm than good.

Q3: Are There Other Medical Options Available?

Absolutely, there are other medical options available. Soft Paws are vinyl nail caps that are glued onto a cat’s claws, preventing them from causing damage when they scratch. FeliScratch by Feliway is a product that can be applied to scratching posts to encourage cats to scratch there instead of on furniture.

Q4: Is Cat Declawing Legal Worldwide?

No, declawing cats is not legal worldwide. Many countries, including the UK, much of the EU, Australia, and New Zealand, have outlawed the procedure due to animal welfare concerns. Even within the U.S., some cities and states have enacted bans on declawing.

Q5: Can Declawing Lead to Litter Box Problems?

Yes, declawing can lead to litter box problems. Following surgery, a cat’s paws can be very sensitive. The discomfort caused by scratching in the litter can lead to an association of pain with the litter box, causing the cat to avoid it and urinate or defecate elsewhere.

Q6: Does Declawing Affect a Cat’s Balance?

Cats use their claws for various functions, including maintaining balance. Although declawing doesn’t necessarily render a cat entirely imbalanced, it can make certain activities more difficult. This includes climbing, gripping surfaces, and engaging in certain types of play.

Q7: Are There Behavioral Changes After Declawing?

Yes, there can be significant behavioral changes in cats after declawing. Some cats may become more aggressive or anxious, often resorting to biting as a primary defense mechanism. Declawed cats might also become less active due to the discomfort in their paws.

Q8: How Can I Train My Cat to Stop Unwanted Scratching?

Training a cat to stop unwanted scratching can be achieved by providing appropriate outlets, such as scratching posts or boards. Using positive reinforcement when your cat uses these can help condition them to prefer these outlets. Additionally, products like FeliScratch can be used to attract cats to appropriate scratching locations.

Q9: Are Declawed Cats More Prone to Certain Medical Issues?

Indeed, declawed cats are more likely to experience certain medical problems. Complications can occur during or after the procedure, including anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, and infection. Long-term, cats can suffer from nerve damage, regrowth of deformed claws inside the paw, and chronic pain syndrome.

Q10: Does Declawing Protect Individuals with Weakened Immune Systems?

The rationale for this belief is that scratches from cats, particularly those that venture outdoors, can cause infections. However, declawing is an extreme solution. It’s more effective to keep the cat’s nails trimmed and clean, and if the cat is kept indoors, the risk of it contracting and transmitting an infectious disease is greatly reduced.

Q11: Can Declawing Affect a Cat’s Personality?

Yes, the trauma and discomfort associated with declawing can potentially alter a cat’s personality. Some declawed cats may become more withdrawn, anxious, or aggressive due to the loss of their primary defense mechanism. These changes can impact the bond between the cat and its human companions.

Q12: How Painful is Declawing for Cats?

Declawing is a painful procedure for cats as it involves amputating a portion of their digit, comparable to the removal of human fingertips at the last knuckle. Pain can persist after the procedure during the healing process, and in some cases, chronic pain can develop.

Q13: Is Declawing More Acceptable in Younger Cats?

While it’s technically easier to perform the procedure on younger cats because their bones are softer, this doesn’t make the procedure more acceptable from an ethical or medical standpoint. Regardless of age, declawing can result in pain, behavioral changes, and long-term health issues.

Q14: What are Some Natural Behaviors That Require a Cat’s Claws?

Cats use their claws for a variety of natural behaviors, including climbing, hunting, self-defense, and marking their territory. Claws also help cats stretch their bodies and exercise their muscles. Thus, declawing can inhibit cats’ ability to perform these natural behaviors.

Q15: Are There Alternatives to Declawing for Protecting Furniture?

Yes, there are alternatives to declawing to protect furniture. These include providing scratching posts or mats, using cat deterrent sprays or sticky strips on furniture, or using soft plastic caps (like Soft Paws) on your cat’s claws. Training and regular nail trims can also help reduce unwanted scratching.

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