Should my cat be declawed?

January 18, 2021

Claws are an important part of cat anatomy. Cats use their claws to scratch and mark territory, climb, and defend themselves against attack. Scratching is also an emotional release for cats, allowing them to release frustration, excitement or anxiety when they use their scratching posts.

It’s also one of the ways a cat is able to groom themselves. When scratching, cats remove the worn-out layer of the claw, allowing them to keep their claws clean and healthy.

Declawing cats is illegal in most states within Australia, and for good reason. Veterinarians will not undertake this procedure unless it’s within the best interest of the cat’s wellbeing. Some medical conditions, such as cancer, infections, or injuries, such as irreversible damage to the claw itself, can be a reason your vet may need to remove claws.

Removing a cat’s claws isn’t as simple as trimming a nail. It is a surgical procedure, equivalent to a doctor partially amputating human fingers and toes to the last knuckle. The surgery involves removing bone from the cat’s paws, to prevent the claw from regrowing. As with any surgery, it can be fraught with complications, such as pain (sometimes lasting the entire life of the cat), arthritis, bleeding, infection, and the development of other behaviours to replace scratching – such as biting or toileting away from a litter tray.

Cats that spend the majority of their time indoors can create issues when they scratch at home without a proper outlet for their behaviour. However, it’s important to understand that scratching is completely normal. It isn’t possible to deter cats from this activity, and it would be unfair to remove a cat’s claws to curb this behaviour.

The best way to help your cat continue this instinctive behaviour, without causing you or your home any grief, is to give them outlets and enrichment that enable them to scratch safely.

Outlets for scratching

Scratching posts are an excellent way to enrich your cat’s life. They allow cats to climb, clean their claws and mark their territory in a safe, positive fashion (away from your furniture!) Keep scratching posts in your cat’s play area, and near where they sleep. Good quality scratching posts are sturdy and tall, beware of posts that are too short or have material that don’t enable your cat to hook into it properly when scratching.

Positive reinforcement and training

Your cat will play with their new toys and posts by enhancing the enrichment quality of these items. Adding things like catnip and feather wands will make this space more enticing and fun for them to be around. Playing with your cat while they’re on and around the scratching post will help to positively reinforce their scratching behaviour to this area. Reward your cat with treats they like to help promote the behaviour you want them to do.

Saving your furniture

Sometimes furniture will become a casualty of your cat’s claws. This can happen when scratching posts and toys aren’t in the best spot within your home for your cat to engage with. If your cat continues this behaviour no matter what you do, you may want to consider making spaces within your home cat-proof, or limiting the area your cat has access to.

Deter your cat from scratching furniture by putting down material that they dislike, or spray scents that they will shy away from (such as citrus). You can even trim the tip of your cat’s claws to reduce sharpness, but beware – do not cut too much, or you will damage the sensitive tissue within the claw. We recommend taking your cat to a qualified groomer or vet if you’re looking to have their claws trimmed.

Unsure how to best help your cat? Our friendly team will give you helpful advice on how best to help your cat live it’s happiest, healthiest life.

Got a question?

We’re here to help you with any urgent enquiries or assistance you might need. Need a little extra help, or not sure if you should bring your pet in for a check-up? Give our team a call and we’ll happily answer your questions.