Declawing Facts vs Myths

 

MYTH: Declawing is just removing the nails out of the cat’s paws.

FACT: No matter how declawing is performed, it always involves cutting through ligaments, tendons, nerves, and tissue to remove the last toe bone in a cat’s paw. The guillotine method cuts part of the last bone and claw in a cat’s paw and leaves bone fragments behind.

 

 

MYTH: My declawed cat didn’t show any signs of discomfort or pain.

FACT: CATS HIDE THEIR PAIN. Declawing can create chronic pain in a number of ways, and cats, being stoic, deal with it. They appear normal. They may even get back to playing. They may “pretend” to scratch with their missing front claws. They may climb and jump, but none of it is normal movement because declawing has altered their entire physiology. Their biomechanics have changed, and down the road, behavioral problems can arise.

Cats usually only show their pain and suffering when they are in a severe state.

For example, cats with Grade IV dental disease (the most advanced level of tooth decay and dental infection) often do not appear to their owners to act or even eat differently despite a serious medical problem.

 

MYTH: Veterinarians declaw to keep a cat in a home and safe from being euthanized.

FACT: Declawing doesn’t always keep a cat in a home. There are immediate and obvious behavior changes in many declawed cats like biting and eliminating outside the litter box. But there are also mental and emotional problems that can develop. Lots of owners of declawed cats report that their pet has become depressed, withdrawn, irritable and even aggressive after being declawed.

Many owners can’t deal with these behavioral changes and relinquish their declawed cats to a shelter where many of them are euthanized because they can’t find a home.

Many cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change from being lively and friendly to becoming withdrawn and introverted. Many declawed cats become so traumatized that they end up spending their lives perched, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against which they no longer have any defense. Removing the toe bones and claws makes a cat feel defenseless.

 

MYTH: Cats go back to normal after declawing.

FACT: Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat’s weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat’s claws are used for balance, exercising, and stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws.

They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold – similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment.

 Removal of the last digits in their paws causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle and that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.

 

MYTH: Declawing is a simple and easy procedure and if done by a skilled surgeon a cat will be fine.

FACT: The rate of complication is relatively high compared with other procedures. Complications can include: severe, immediate, and possible long-term pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone fragments that cause chronic inflammation, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside the paw, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken.

Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes. Infection will occasionally occur even when all precautions have been taken. The pad is often displaced backwards, toward the rear of the foot, allowing the weight of the cat’s body to push the end of the second toe bone (second phalanx, or p2), through the thinned tissue on the underside of the foot. These complications may occur in combination, invariably resulting in great pain for the animal to stand or walk.

 

MYTH: Spay/neuter surgeries are just as mutilating as declawing

FACT: There is a BIG difference.  Spaying and neutering eliminate the risk of developing future health problems (i.e., pyometra, mammary gland neoplasia, and reproductive tract–related neoplasia), by preventing unplanned breeding. It prevents unwanted animals from being born. Declawing actually causes many unpredictable, potentially life-long health problems and harms the well-being of a cat.

 

MYTH: As long as you declaw at a young age, the cat will be fine.

FACT: A younger cat may do better post operatively than an older cat but it will not protect them from the mechanical changes that result from amputating an entire bone and making them walk on cartilage.

The long term negative issues from declawing a kitten are still the same which are chronic small bone arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes (neuralgia.)

No matter what method, or what age the declaw is performed, it alters the conformation of the feet and physically changes everything about the way a cat walks.

 

MYTH- Laser declawing is humane and better.

FACT- Many veterinarians purchase the $40,000 laser machines and they need to do a lot of declaws to pay them back. Many of these vets say that laser declaw is more humane, is less painful, quicker healing, and less invasive. These are all lies.

Laser declawing involves burning through ligaments, tendons, nerves, and tissue to remove the last toe bone in a cat’s paw.

Studies show that laser declawing is not less painful or faster healing than a scalpel declaw. There is less blood because the laser cauterizes while it burns. In fact a recent study showed that when you use lasers the tissue is burned (cauterized).  The body then has to take longer to bridge the gap at the incision site and heal versus with a scalpel blade incision where the incision forms a clot and has less work to bridge the gap between the incision site. 

A study reported in the September 1, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association by Mison, et al., reported that lasers offered no benefit over the more conventional methods of declawing, stating “differences in discomfort and complications between groups treated via scalpel versus CO2 laser were not clinically relevant.”

Levy, et al. (1999), found that complications (bleeding, limping, swelling, infection) were generally worse in the laser onychectomy (declawing) group, compared against blade onychectomy in the first 2 days after surgery. Laser declawing can result in 4th degree burns.

The long-term pain and other problems with the laser declaw procedure remain the same as the other methods.

 

MYTH: If declawing is bad then veterinarians wouldn’t do it to a cat.

FACT: Declawing veterinarians make easy money from this barbaric amputation procedure and it is regularly added to a spay/neuter procedure in a package deal. Most declawing veterinarians refuse to learn the latest facts about declawing and that it is harmful to a cat. Declawing is a billion dollar business in America and that’s why the America veterinary associations lobby to keep declawing legal for their veterinarians. Around 80% of veterinarians in America declaw cats. Around 5000 cats a day are declawed in America.

Declawing is banned in 42 countries. The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and other European veterinary organizations call declawing mutilation and unethical. Canadian veterinarians are voting to ban declawing and so far they have made it illegal to declaw a cat in 6 Provinces.

 

Myth: If declawing is banned, the euthanasia rate, cats in shelters, and the feral cat rate will all skyrocket.

FACT: In the California cities where declaw bans were passed in 2009, the rate of cats coming into shelters (and, consequently, euthanasia rates) consistently went down (see chart below). Declawing did not cause even the slightest increase in relinquishments due to the bans. In addition, unpublished data show that, specifically, the surrender of declawed cats to shelters where bans were in place also went down. [Hofve 2010, 2016]

Declawing was banned by veterinarians in Nova Scotia in 2018. We asked the SPCA Nova Scotia’s Director of Programs & Administration in March of 2019 if they had more cats coming into their shelter after the ban on declawing.

She said, “We’ve seen very little impact, some critics thought we would see an increase in owner surrenders for destructive scratching however that has not been the case.”

Most shelters and rescues in America are against declawing and want it banned. If they thought it would increase the amount of cats who are relinquished, then they wouldn’t be for a ban on declawing.

 

Myth- People with immune-compromised issues or other health issues need to declaw their cats. People should declaw their cats to prevent cat scratch fever.

FACT: People with health issues should not declaw their cats. Declawing is not recommeded to protect humans from cat scratch fever.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), American Cancer Society, National Hemophilia Foundation, and infectious diseases experts do not recommend declawing cats for any human health reason or to protect humans from scratches.

Things that people can do to protect themselves from scratches.

Trim your cat’s nails, use common sense and care when playing with your cat, keep your cat indoors, and wash scratches with soap and disinfectant.

See your veterinarian for the proper treatment if your cat has fleas. Cat Scratch Fever is caused by fleas.