Declawing surgery is illegal in many countries but still carried on in some places. While researchers have already proven that the practice causes massive health issues such as lameness, chewing of toes and infection, the long-term impact of declawing was still not properly assessed. Now, a new study details just that, and it’s exactly what you’d expect: the procedure increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain. Cats become more aggressive and exhibit other abnormal behavior such as urination outside the litter box.

Image via Pixabay.

Declawing, technically called onychectomy involves the removal of surgically by means of the amputation of all or part of the distal phalanges, or end bones, of the animal’s toes. Although more and more veterinarians are speaking against the practice and some countries (especially in Europe) have completely banned it, declawing remains popular in the US, Asia, and South America. People usually do it because they don’t want cats to scratch their furniture or because they think it will make their cats less aggressive. But it has quite the opposite effect.

For starters, the practice is painful for the cats, who have to walk on the soft cartilage that was previously a part of their joints. This can induce chronic pain, and also pushes cats to walk on soft surfaces to avoid pain. This, in turn, could make them want to avoid the rugged surface of the litter box and urinate in places they shouldn’t. Nicole Martell-Moran, a veterinary practitioner in a cat-only clinic in Houston, Texas, USA, wanted to see what the long-term effects declawing can have.

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For the study, she investigated a total of 137 non-declawed cats and 137 declawed cats, of which 33 were declawed on all four feet. The health of all the cats was examined, as well as their medical history and any signs of previous aggression or misbehavior. They found that:

  • inappropriate toileting (urinating or defecating in inappropriate places) increased 7 times
  • biting increased 4 times
  • aggression increased 3 times
  • overgrooming increased 3 times.

Declawed cats were also three times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic back pain, likely due to their altered gait.

“The result of this research reinforces my opinion that declawed cats with unwanted behaviors may not be “bad cats”, they may simply need pain management. We now have scientific evidence that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than we originally thought and I hope this study becomes one of many that will lead veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats.”

They also found that in 63% of the surgeries were improperly performed.

The takeaway is simple, folks: don’t declaw your cats. You can simply cut their claws if you want, which is simple and not painful, but declawing is barbaric, painful, and helps no one. Alternatively, you can also try training your cat — yes, cats can also be trained.

Journal Reference: Dire DJ — Nicole K Martell-Moran, Mauricio Solano, Hugh GG Townsend — Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats.

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