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6 Best Ethical Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

6 Best Ethical Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

Did you know that declawing is the amputation of the last bone of each toe on a cat? Ouch! Instead of putting your pet through the trauma, there are much less painful alternatives to declawing cats. 

Keep reading to learn more about declawing and why people do it. We also identify five ethical alternatives to reduce the havoc a cat’s claws can cause in your home.

Let’s get scratching.

What Does It Mean to Declaw a Cat? 

To declaw a cat, a veterinarian amputates the toes from the last bone. It’s done with a scalpel or guillotine clipper. Stitches or surgical glue seal the skin. 

Laser surgery is another method used for declawing cats. It includes a small beam of light that cuts through the tissue with heat. 

Is It Cruel to Declaw Cats?

Declawing can result in life-long physical issues for your cat. It is cruel. It would be like cutting off a human’s finger at the third knuckle. Our co-founder observed the surgery in a vet office once and had to leave after the first crunch.

The Humane Society of the United States has deemed declawing cruel. However, they make an understandable exception for rare medical necessities like removing a cancerous tumor in the nail bed. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages declawing, saying “Declawing is a major surgery involving amputation and is not medically necessary for the cat in most cases.”

Declawing can lead to horrible side effects. For example, cats often get infections, arthritis, abnormal claw growth within the toe, and discomfort when walking after the surgery. In addition, it can cause aggressive behavior due to the trauma of the surgery.

Unfortunately, the procedure is prevalent in the U.S., and veterinary associations want the procedure to remain legal. Global Animal reported that an anonymous veterinarian revealed he makes up to $75,000 annually from declawing and, therefore, won’t quit doing the procedure.

cat scratching a couch
Cats can ruin household items, which is often the motivation behind declawing.

Why Do People Get Their Cats Declawed? 

People typically get their cats declawed because their vet recommends it as a solution to scratching up things in the home. Or it’s simply something they’ve been told that makes life with an indoor cat easier. 

Cats can be destructive and use their claws to damage sofas, carpets, and more in a house. And those sharp claws hurt and cause bruising when they nab your skin in play or in defense. So, people get their cats declawed to avoid these situations and have soft, quiet feet walking through their houses.

We’re not implying that people knowingly put their cats through a cruel procedure just because they don’t want to be scratched. However, if people were better educated on the alternatives to declawing cats, they may be more likely to see them as a humane way to reduce scratching.

Is There a Humane Way to Declaw Cats?

Some pet healthcare professionals consider the laser method a more humane way to declaw cats. They claim that even though the toes are still amputated from the first joint, the procedure is less traumatizing because the laser seals off nerve endings. 

Some scientific studies show cats experience less pain immediately after laser surgery. But they still endured pain, and the same as traditional declawing methods, approximately six days from the procedure. In other words, declawing is painful for cats and can cause long-term physical strain.

We conclude that there are no humane ways to remove a cat’s claws. However, there are ethical cat-declawing alternatives that we’ll get into.

alternative to declawing cats
Declawing a cat can alter its behavior, as it destroys sensory and motor nerves.

Do Declawed Cats Feel Pain Forever?

While we can’t know what a cat is feeling or thinking, declawing destroys sensory and motor nerves. It’s believed that cats suffer long-term nerve pain or phantom pain. 

Declawing often alters a cat’s behavior due to changing the way they walk. For example, it can cause back pain, leading to other issues like fear of stepping over the side of a litter box. Other behavior changes come from physically being unable to scratch.

What Happens When You Take A Cat’s Claws Away

The acts of scratching isn’t just for sharpening claws. Besides defense, a cat’s claws and the act of scratching something serve several normal purposes. They are used to display emotions, often relieving stress or showing excitement in play. Sinking their claws into something and stretching backward is a way for them to communicate relaxation and alleviate any tightness in their back, belly, and legs.

Scratching also allows them to leave scent, as cats have a scent gland in their paws. Scent is extremely important and instinctual to a cat in order to mark territory and give of pheromones. These markings help a cat feel at home and safe, much like burning a candle or diffuser may bring you comfort in your home.

When you take a cat’s claws away, many of these relaxing or pleasing activities are no longer entirely possible for the cat. You may still see them make the scratching motion out of instinct and habit. Declawed cats are also at a significant disadvantage if they go outside, as they cannot climb away or defned themselves against other animals.

6 Best Ethical Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

There are easy, ethical alternatives to declawing cats and keeping them from scratching you or destroying household items. Let’s look at five proven methods.

1. Train Your Cat Where It’s Appropriate to Scratch

One of the best alternatives to declawing a cat is quite simple, train your pet. Scratching is natural for cats, but there’s a way to keep them from hurting things without discouraging them from their instincts. 

There are a couple of training techniques that work best. One way is to put double-sided tape or aluminum foil on surfaces you don’t want to be scratched. Soon your cat will learn where to find alternative outlets for clawing.

Another easy technique is to implement cat-specific furniture. When your cat scratches on furniture or items you don’t want their claws on, redirect to things like scratching posts. Give your fur baby lots of praise or treats when they strike the correct object.

cat using scratch pad
Scratch pads are an excellent alternative to declawing cats, and you can easily train your feline friend to use them.

2. Make Scratch Pads Available Throughout Your House

Scratch pads keep cats’ claws healthy and give them an outlet to relieve stress. They also provide exercise. And, of course, they keep your furniture intact. 

Purchase scratch pads and make them available throughout your house to redirect your cat to safe surfaces. Consider putting one in every room in the house. And if you have multiple cats, you may need one for each cat because, well, who wants to share? 

There are several options on the market, and they don’t have to be ugly. For example, you can get scratch pads that blend in with your decor. You may be surprised to find that your cats may drastically prefer scratching these pads that are cat-tested and -approved to satisfy.

3. Regular Nail Trimming

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails will decrease they’re getting snagged or broken. And it’s especially important to trim indoor cats because they may not get as much exercise and nail wear as outdoors cats. 

Nail trimming will help promote healthy claws, and they’ll have less of a punch when you get swatted by one. If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your cat’s nails on your own, you can go to a professional. However, we encourage you to give it a try. Unlike declawing, nail trims don’t hurt at all, just as long as you don’t snip the quick of the nail, which is easily seen in most cat nails.

We suggest you start trimming nails when your cat is a kitten. Not only are kitten nails extra sharp, but they’ll grow up more desentized to the whole experience. Also, don’t start trimming when your cat is alert and playful. Wait until they are sleepy and cuddling with you, then casually snip one or two nails to start with plenty of pets and scratches in between. The less of a deal you can make it, the better. Treats may be a good idea too, however they just might get them more excited than necessary.

4. Vinyl Nail Caps

Vinyl nail caps are another ethical alternative to declawing your cat. The nail caps provide a protective layer that doesn’t leave a mark when your cat scratches an object or you. They’re best for indoor cats that don’t need to survive in the wild or hunt.

The caps need to be correctly sized and applied. And they typically need to be reapplied every few months, depending on the nail growth. As a fun bonus, you can have a lot of fun choosing your kitty’s new manicure color each time.

Be sure to do your research to make certain nail caps are suitable for your cat. 

5. Spray Scents that Repel Cats on Items You Don’t Want Scratched

There are some scents that cats detest. They include eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint. Alternatively, there are specially formulated commercial cat anti-scratch sprays that can also do the trick. Spraying one of these on items you don’t want to be scratched can help your cat find alternative surfaces. Just be sure to provide scratch pads, so they don’t become frustrated. 

6. Anti-Scratch Tape on Items You Don’t Want Scratched

Cats hate stickiness. If you have a piece of furniture you simply cannot have scratched, there is double-sided anti-scratch tape that is specially designed to be non-toxic and easy to remove from furniture. While it is toted as “training” tape, your cat may scratch if you ever decide to take it off. However, the reviews of success make it impossible to deny its effectiveness.

What Do I Need to Know If I Adopt a Declawed Cat?

If you adopt a declawed cat, be aware its feet may be sensitive. Take the time to watch your new fur baby walk and see how they interact with objects around the house. 

For example, declawed cats sometimes avoid litter boxes because it’s painful to climb over the side of the box. This is because their paws hurt, which causes back pain. In this case, get a walk-in litter box. Declawed cats also may have a more difficult time getting clean. 

There are also some simple things you can do to help your declawed cat be more comfortable. Gentle foot and leg massages may relieve or soothe any pain. Soft stretching of your cat’s front legs and back may help loosen tightness they can’t quite release on their own. If your cat is struggling and you think there may be underlying health issues, consult your veterinarian.

It’s also important to remember that, again, declawed cats won’t be able to defend themselves as well outdoors. So, if you adopt one, we highly recommend keeping them indoors.

alternative to declawing cats
It’s a cat’s natural instinct to use its claws. So, by not declawing, you’re improving its quality of life.

Keep Your Cat from Pain and Loss By Not Declawing

It’s natural for cats to scratch and use their paws and claws for their intended purpose. We hope you’ll look into cat declawing alternatives to spare your fur baby from pain. 

And if you have a declawed cat, watch out for any long-term health issues they may encounter and consult your vet as needed.

Have you tried one of the alternatives to declawing cats on our list?

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Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

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