Anti- Declaw: Understanding the Damage of Declawing & The Alternatives

By: Nicole McCray

Declawing is the surgical removal of an animal’s claws. Most cat owners consider getting their cats declawed to avoid scratching and reduce furniture damage when the cat is playing.

However, they fail to consider the lasting damage that declawing has to the health and well-being of their cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages surgical declawing and encourages other non-surgical alternatives.

Below, we’ll look at the lasting damages of declawing your cat and explore alternatives that will help you avoid causing more complications. 

Damages of Declawing

Declawing features the use of a scalpel or guillotine clipper to amputate your cat. Laser surgery is also another option that may be preferred for declawing. After the procedures, your cat is closed up with stitches and feet bandaged. 

These procedures involve the amputation of the last toe bone in your cat’s paws. The humane society states that if the same procedures are done on humans it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.

The severity of these procedures carries a lot of damage that you should keep in mind before opting to declaw your cat. These damages include;

Surgical Complications

The AVMA analyzed different studies and found that surgical complications are a serious concern when declawing. The review states that the postoperative complications ranged from rare to 50%

Some of the main surgical complications that were present include;

  • Hemorrhage
  • Claw regrowth
  • Paralysis
  • Wound dehiscence
  • Probability to develop chronic illnesses


After surgery, infections are likely to occur. These infections may cause a lot of pain to your cat. This is why in most cases, vets recommend a round of antibiotics after surgery to facilitate healing without the risk of infection. 

However, if infections are not mitigated, you risk having your cat hospitalized, and subjected to more surgical procedures or serious antibiotic therapy. These changes can be quite uncomfortable for your cat not to mention the crippling pain from infections. 

Nerve Damage & Paw Pain

Potential mishaps during surgery may leave your cat with significant paw pain and serious nerve damage. Declawing requires the surgeon to remove all the claws to the last knuckle without doing too much.

If the surgeon fails to remove the claws properly, the remaining tissue may try to facilitate the growth of new claws. New claws may come out deformed and cause a lot of pain in your cat’s paws.

In addition, if the surgeon removes too much he/she may tamper with the wrong tissue and cause nerve damage. 

Inability to Use the Litter Box

Cats tend to dig before relieving themselves and after to cover up their business. Litter helps your cat to stay comfortable and freely lighten its load. However, after declawing, your cat may avoid the cat litter completely and go elsewhere.

If your cat does use the litter box, cat litter may enter your cat’s incisions and cause irritations, pain, and discomfort that will discourage your cat from relieving themselves. In addition, the pain from the procedure may hinder the ability of your cat to dig and cover-up. 

Some cat owners may switch to paper litter to reduce the chances of irritation. But, your cat may not be comfortable and will require you to clean up after them wherever they choose to go. 


In case of nerve damage, your cat may be unable to walk either temporarily or permanently. If the damage is permanent, there’s nothing your vets can do and you’ll need to find ways to help your cat live a close-to-normal life. On the other hand, if the damage is temporary, your vets can try to fix it and relieve the pain your cat may be feeling when walking.

Impairment of Normal Behavior 

Clawing is a normal behavior for cats that helps them mark their territory, exercise their muscles, and hold on to surfaces. Claws in cats also act as protection since they can easily scratch when they feel threatened.

However, if a cat is declawed, it may start to feel out of place. Things that were normal before start to feel foreign and this may affect their behavior. Without claws, your cat may feel unsafe since it cannot mark its territory and may be hindered from climbing high areas. 

Alternatives of Declawing

As we’ve seen declawing comes with a lot of risks that you can avoid by investing in alternatives that will keep your cat healthy. Some alternatives to declawing include;

Trimming Your Cat’s Nails

Nail trimming is a great option when looking to keep your cat’s claws more manageable. All you need is a pair of nail clippers and the right information to help you avoid causing pain to your cat.

When trimming your cat’s nails you must treat them just like your nail and realize that at some point they will become painful. This point is where you see the pink color and that’s where your cat’s veins and nerve endings are.

So, cut off a bit and leave the rest of the nail to ensure that your cat is comfortable and pain-free. If you are having trouble with this, consider consulting an online vet service, like Bond Vet to help you trim your cat’s nails right. 

Investing in Nail Caps

Nail caps help keep your cat’s claws manageable while reducing the chances of scratching you or other surfaces. These nail caps allow your cat to continue screeching and playing without causing any damage.

The caps are comfortable making them ideal for your cat. Investing in nail caps that cover the sharp part of your cat’s nails will help you avoid declawing and keep your cat healthy. 

Providing Scratching Surfaces

If your biggest concern is the constant scratching from your cat that may be ruining your seats and other surfaces, invest in alternative scratching surfaces. These scratching surfaces feature a playful design that will keep your cat’s attention.

To discourage your cat from scratching other surfaces, cover them with double-sided tape or aluminum foil for some time. Once your cat is fully comfortable in its new scratching surface you can stop covering other surfaces.