One of the first questions a cat behaviorist ask when presented with a cat behavior problem is, "Has your cat been declawed?" It is not uncommon for declawed cats to become aggressive towards people or other animals and/or defecate out of the cat litter box. These cats need lifelong pain treatment and most end up being abandoned in shelters or even euthanized. Some of these cats can be helped to live a better life. However, there is a very sad fact that if only they had not been amputated in the first place, it would not have been necessary.
Declawing or amputation
The term "declawing" is misleading, as this procedure involves amputating the third joint of each finger of the cat. The CVMA does not speak of “declawing”, but rather of “partial amputation of the fingers” to designate this surgery. It's the equivalent, for a human, of having the tips of all ten fingers removed from the last knuckle and walking on them for life. The operation can cause chronic pain and have long-term negative orthopedic and neuropathic consequences, including permanent damage to the nerves of the legs, difficulty in walking, hypersensitivity of the legs, lower back pain, etc., regardless of the age of the cat at the time of surgery.
Deprived of their main means of defense as well as the possibility of expressing several natural behaviors, such as climbing and perching in height, declawed cats are more likely to develop behavior problems than their congeners with intact claws. Indeed, several studies indicate that declawing is a significant risk factor in the development of problems of uncleanliness and aggressiveness.
What are the impacts of declawing on psychological well-being?
Scratching is a purely instinctive behavior for cats, and it's so natural. It is a means of marking one's territory visually and olfactory, and therefore of communicating, but also of clinging on to stretch fully. Claws also allow cats to balance themselves, climb, and therefore perch high up, behaviors whose expression is necessary for their well-being. Think about how many times you see your cat playing with her scratching post with a relax body language. Even this small action can increase the quality of your life. You can offer scratching posts in various shapes that your cat will love to scratch. You can take advantage of cat house & scratchers that allow your cat to rest inside. In addition, the claws represent the main means of defense of the cat. Declawed cats are therefore deprived of the ability to express natural behaviors specific to their species, which greatly affects their psychological well-being.
Deprived of their main defense mechanism, declawed cats feel more vulnerable, which affects their self-confidence and can make them anxious, fearful, and even aggressive.
Declawed cats are more likely to develop behavioral problems than cats with intact claws.
Several studies indicate that declawing is a significant risk factor in the development of dirtiness and aggression problems. According to one of them, a third of declawed cats develop at least one behavioral problem following the procedure. According to this same study, 18% of cats who have undergone declawing show an increase in the frequency of bites, and 15% have problems with dirtiness.
Indeed, without its claws, the cat loses its main means of defense and must therefore resort to biting to express its displeasure or try to ward off what it perceives as a threat.
I have young children or a member of my family is vulnerable… Do I have the choice to have a declawed cat?
Declawing does not reduce the risk of injury for young children or vulnerable people, such as those who are immunocompromised. On the contrary, declawed cats are more likely to bite, and bites are generally more serious and become infected more often than scratches. For these reasons, the US Center for Disease Control does not recommend declawing cats in homes where an immunocompromised person resides.
To ensure the safety of young children, the best solution is to educate them to recognize and respect the body language of the cat. A cat that flattens its ears, whips its tail, growls, or “spits” is a cat that wants to be left alone.
Aren't non-declawed cats more at risk of abandonment?
Some declawing proponents claim that declawed cats are less likely to be abandoned since they cause less damage to their homes. However, the Montreal SPCA receives a good number of declawed cats each year who present behavioral problems, which are frequently invoked as reasons for abandonment. According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, no peer-reviewed studies are showing that cats with their claws are more often abandoned than declawed cats. On the contrary, statistics from eight California cities that have banned declawing indicate that the abandonment rate of cats in shelters has been dropping steadily since the ban was passed. In addition, studies tend to show that declawing causes behavioral problems which, in turn, lead to abandonment.
People who oppose the declawing ban often argue that declawed cats are less likely to be abandoned because they would cause less damage to the home. However, as we mentioned before, the experience of the Montreal SPCA contradicts this argument: each year, the shelter receives many declawed cats who present behavioral problems that are known to be associated with declawing, such as defecating outside the litter box. and aggressiveness. These issues are often cited as reasons for abandonment by cat owners. The study cited above confirms that felines that have kept their claws are no more likely than declawed cats to be abandoned or euthanized.