Why do cats use their claws?

Cats use their claws for a variety of reasons. Scratching is a very natural and instinctive behavior for them, and satisfies both physical and psychological needs. They use their claws to leave their scent and mark their territory. By using their claws, they are able to stretch their muscles and tone their bodies.

Could you imagine not being able to stretch your muscles when you wake up in the morning? Yeah, neither could we. Their claws are also their primary means of defending themselves.

Declawing a cat is the equivalent of cutting a person's fingers off at the first knuckle.

Are there negative impacts when a cat is declawed?

A 2001 report published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association by Yeon, et al. states that 1/3 of cats suffer at least one behavioral issue as a result of being declawed. Many cats suffer from arthritis, as declawing alters the way a cat walks. Some cats also experience bone regrowth, which is extremely painful. The pain associated with declawing causes some cats to bite, as their primary means of defense is gone.

Some cats also begin to avoid using the litter box because they associate the pain they are feeling with the litter. The same study mentioned above concluded that 17.9% of declawed cats will result to biting, and 15.4% of declawed cats eliminate outside the litter box. Because of these issues, declawed cats may be given up by their owners to shelters.

1/3 of cats suffer at least one behavioral issue as a result of being declawed

— Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

What is being done about declawing?

Declawing was just recently made illegal in the state of New York. In addition, eight cities in California have banned declawing, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills. The city of Denver has also outlawed the procedure.

Worldwide, declawing is banned in over 20 countries, including the UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, and Spain. The biggest opponent in the fight against cat declawing is unawareness. Many pet owners across North America have not been educated on this topic and are not dissuaded by trained professionals when they inquire about it.

17.9% of declawed cats will result to biting, and 15.4% of declawed cats eliminate outside the litter box.

— Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

What are some alternative options to declawing?

Most cats can be trained to scratch appropriate items! Some cats like to scratch and stretch horizontally and others prefer vertically. Knowing and understanding your cat and their preferences is the first step. Giving them several scratching options of different types and textures such as, but not limited to, a scratching post, cat tree, and a cardboard scratcher.

Using tools such as catnip and treats are great ways to persuade them to use their scratchers rather than your beloved furniture. Trimming your cat’s nails is another option to keep them short and less sharp (just like our own human nails).

It is important to encourage appropriate play with your cat utilizing toys and treats instead of your hands which are meant for petting, not playing. Another last resort could be claw caps also known as “soft paws” to place over your kitties nails routinely — like gloves but for your cat! Remember, your cat is just doing a natural behavior for its health and happiness.

The SPCA of Northern Nevada will not adopt out any cat to a family that intends to declaw. Are you a good home for one of our adoptable cats?

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