How Does Declawing Hurt Cats?

Declawing can be a painful, unnecessary experience for any cat.

Declawing can be a painful, unnecessary experience for any cat.

Declawing is an issue that arouses strong feelings for many cat owners. While some feel this practice has its place, others consider it cruel and unnecessary. Owner opinions aside, declawing your cat can hurt her both physically and psychologically.

Immediate Pain

Declawing is amputation. To declaw a cat, the veterinarian actually cuts off the last knuckles of her paw, severing bone, tendons and nerves. This surgery is so predictably painful that it is utilized by pharmaceutical companies to clinically road test their new pain medications. How much pain a cat is experiencing during and immediately following this amputation is tough to determine, as she is unable to communicate and will by nature attempt to conceal chronic pain and learn to live with it. The absence of an overt display of pain does not necessarily mean she is pain-free.

Post Surgical Complications

The complication rate for declawing is relatively high when compared with other so-called commonly performed procedures. Pain, hemorrhaging, infection and foot tissue destruction are just some of the post-surgical complications of declawing. Re-growth of improperly amputated claws, nerve damage and bone spurs can occur days, weeks or years after this surgery, leading to repeated surgery and further suffering.

Physical Problems

Discomforting joint problems tend to haunt a cat who has been declawed. From the start, the removal of a cat's claws changes the way her foot meets the ground and causes discomfort similar to when you wear an uncomfortable pair of shoes -- shoes that you cannot remove. After a cat's declawing surgery, the tendons that control toe joints retract, causing her to shift the body weight off her toes and adopt an altered gait to avoid pain. This change in stride causes stress to her leg joints and spine and can lead to arthritic damage and long-term joint issues.

Psychological and Behavioral Complications

A cat may exhibit a noticeable change in personality following the shock of her declawing. A once lively and friendly cat may become withdrawn and timid. Deprived of her primary means of defense, she may become fearful or aggressive, often resorting to biting. No longer able to mark territory with her claws, she may decide to mark it with urine. These kinds of behaviors can cause a cat to fall out of favor with even the nicest owner.

About the Author

Joe Gordon is a writer who divides his time between Tampa Bay, Florida and Western North Carolina. Gordon has been published in local and regional newspapers and magazines, including VisitFlorida.org, "Oceanfront Magazine," "Sarasota Herald Tribune," "The Bradenton Herald," "Sarasota Scene Magazine," " Biz 941 Magazine" and "U Manatee Magazine." He studied journalism at Ohio University.

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