Declawing is a major surgery known as onychectomy, which is performed under anesthesia. This surgery removes the tip of each digit (from the first knuckle out) of the cat’s forepaws.
- Slight chance of death in the surgery
- Increased risk of infection
- Life-long discomfort in its paws.
It should be noted that this surgery is not recommended for an adult animal and is considered an act of animal cruelty in some countries (see below).
People generally have cats declawed to prevent them from damaging furniture and from hunting.
In the United States, some landlords require that tenants’ cats be declawed.
Veterinarians are generally critical of the procedure and some refuse to perform it because of the absence of claws in a cat:
- Can deprive it of its main defense abilities, including escaping from predators by climbing trees;
- Could impair its stretching and exercise habits, leading to muscle atrophy;
- May compromise its ability to balance on thin surfaces such as railings and fence tops, leading to injury from falls;
- Can lead to insecurity and a subsequent tendency to bite.
This operation is rare outside of North America.
In Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, declawing is forbidden by the laws against cruelty to animals. In many other European countries, it is forbidden under the terms of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, unless it is found that “a veterinarian considers [such] non-curative procedures necessary either for veterinary medical reasons or for the benefit of (the) animal.”
In Great Britain, animal shelters find it difficult to place imported cats that have been declawed, and subsequently, most are euthanized as a result.
One alternative to declawing your pet feline is the application of blunt, vinyl nail caps that are attached to the claws with a nontoxic glue. This requires periodic replacement when your cat sheds its claw sheaths (about every four to six weeks). However, the cat will still experience difficulties because the capped nails are not as effective as claws.