National Geographic Daily News
C5RXW6 Domestic cat, kitten stretching out paw, portrait, close-up

Although removing the claws of cats is controversial, science on the matter is indecisive.

Photograph by Westend61 GmbH / Alamy

Katia Andreassi

for National Geographic

Published September 10, 2013

A California veterinarian is taking her crusade across North America with a documentary that opens this month.

The Paw Project is directed by Jennifer Conrad, a vet who spent much of her career working with exotic animals. After observing the debilitating effect of declawing on tigers, lions, and other big cats, she began to perform reparative surgeries on their paws. Her attention soon turned to smaller felines: the millions of domesticated pet cats in America.

"Cats are the underdogs," Conrad told National Geographic about her motivation for the film. "I wanted to challenge this; I wanted to protect them."

The documentary—Conrad's first film—follows her quest to ban declawing in North America. She has seen some success so far: Eight cities in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have banned the practice unless it is medically necessary. Conrad also said that veterinary students she has met with have been receptive and "relieved" by her message, but that she has had a strong pushback from practicing veterinarians and veterinary organizations.

While Conrad and her film condemn declawing, many vets continue to defend the practice. Science on the subject remains divisive.

While both the Humane Society and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) strongly discourage declawing except in very specific medical circumstances, major veterinary organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners do not take a hard-line stance.

In position statements posted on their websites, the latter two organizations outline their belief that declawing should be rare, but remain an option when behavior modification fails. That sentiment is echoed by many vets across the country who call for increased education about cat behavior rather than outright bans on declawing.

"It is a major problem when there is no education about alternatives," said Carlo Siracusa of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. "There is a lot of misinformation about animal behavior."

What Is Declawing?

When cats start scratching people or furniture, declawing can seem like a way to make a problem kitten more house-friendly. But the surgery is not an easy procedure for the cat, said Siracusa. Instead, "it's a stressful, major event."

The most common procedure, called an onychectomy, is actually an amputation of the last bones in the cat's paws—often likened to cutting off a person's fingers at the top knuckle. The surgery is performed on the two front paws—declawing of the rear paws is rare—with a scalpel, guillotine-style nail clippers, or a laser. Wounds are closed with surgical glue or bandages.

If all goes well, the declawed cat recovers in a matter of days. However, studies estimate that some form of complication—including pain, hemorrhaging, and claw regrowth—occurs in 25 to 50 percent of declaw surgeries.

Another procedure, deep digital flexor tendonectomy, involves cutting the tendon on the back of the cat's paw that allows a cat to control its claws. Following a tendonectomy, claws tend to grow in thicker because cats cannot scratch to condition them, so they may grow into the paw pad. Owners are advised to trim their cat's nails every week or two, which can prove to be arduous.

Due to such complications, the American Veterinary Medical Association advises against tendonectomies.

A 2001 study by the National Council for Pet Population Study and Policy estimated 25 percent of pet cats in America are declawed, although a more recent regional study in North Carolina suggests the number might be slightly lower. In many countries, including Australia, Brazil, and much of Europe, the procedure is banned unless it is necessary for the health of the cat.

(See "First Person: It's Hard to Send a Pet to Heaven.")

What Are the Alternatives?

Scratching is perfectly natural for cats, said Barbara Sherman, a professor of veterinary behavior at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Cats scratch and use their claws to mark their territory, condition their nails, defend themselves, capture prey, and play, she said. They also use their claws to stretch their backs.

Dealing with scratching is especially important for indoor cats, Sherman said, because "when cats live exclusively in the house, you have to meet all of the cats' needs in a contained space."

That means several simple but important steps for owners: getting kittens used to having their paws handled and their nails clipped, providing a scratching post near where the cat naps and an elevated resting spot where the cat will feel safe, and meeting their needs for exercise and play. These accommodations can eliminate problem behavior, said Sherman, making it unnecessary to consider declawing.

Another alternative is to have small plastic caps put over cats' claws to prevent scratching. The caps are applied to each claw using an adhesive by a vet or pet owner. As the claw grows out, the caps fall off, so they need to be replaced about every six weeks. They are sometimes recommended for cats that are adjusting to a new home or other change.

Why the Controversy?

The debate over declawing reveals deep divisions in the veterinary community, a fact noted by nearly every research paper on the subject. While some vets—like Conrad—are totally opposed to the practice, others believe that it should remain an option for pet owners.

Just what is best for cats' welfare depends on if the surgery is viewed as animal cruelty or a humane way to maintain harmony between cats and their owners.

Much of the debate hinges on whether declawing makes cats more likely to stay in a family home, or puts them at risk of being surrendered to a shelter. Conrad argues that declawing can make cats prone to litter box avoidance and biting, and that these troubled cats are more likely to end up abandoned.

But "there is no solid evidence that declawing leads to behavior problems," said Siracusa. He wants to see well-designed studies on the effects of declawing and said he has concerns with available research because it relies on the outcomes of declaw surgeries conducted by students.

"What we do know about, though, is pain," said Siracusa. There are legitimate concerns with declawing, he said, and "it should not be a standard procedure."

Siracusa believes that, eventually, America will go the way of Europe and require special permission for the procedure.

Julie Meadows, a professor at the University of California Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, said she has seen the popularity of declawing decline during her 25-year veterinary career. She thinks declawing can play a role in protecting the human-animal bond, and in some cases it can keep cats in happy homes.

"It's not fair to say we are never going to declaw cats because some people will be put in a bind," she said.

Meadows is concerned about the decline of declawing training at vet schools. A recent study showed that only 50 percent of U.S. veterinary programs have mandatory declawing instruction. "The potential complications of declawing are associated with inexperience and less than perfect technique," Meadows said.

Gary Patronek of Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, whose publications have been quoted by people on both sides of the declawing debate, said in an email that his older research offers "something for everyone" and his work on the risk factors for cats being left at shelters was "really quite inconclusive" when it came to declawing. But for Patronek, the issue is about much more than cats being abandoned.

"Supporting science can help, of course," he writes, "but this is an issue very firmly rooted in ethical notions about cats and how they deserve to live—even if declawed cats are not at increased risk of relinquishment, it doesn't mean that they are 'happy' living in their homes without claws."

Conrad calls declawing a "peculiar practice" in North America because she says it is considered unethical in so many other parts of the world.

"We have let it happen here and no one has challenged it," Conrad continued. In The Paw Project, Conrad attributes the continued existence of declawing to vets who rely on the income from the surgery and fail to provide alternatives to their clients.

With this film Conrad wants get all pet lovers thinking about the choices they make and end declawing once and for all. "I hope that Americans and Canadians begin to really question what's right for their animals," she said.

Do you have any experience with declawed cats you'd like to share?

82 comments
Macy Putnam
Macy Putnam

I declawed my cat when he reached the age of six months. I must admit, he became the best cat I had ever owned. I only did his front claws. I don't see any side effects that I sit here and read about. 


Regardless, he still runs, plays and has a good time. I keep him inside 100% and he doesn't bite anymore than a regular cat. If anything--he packs a good punch! He still "kneads" me when he is comfortable. He jumps higher than any cat I've ever seen..


And hey, he's my best friend, we're always together. His surgery didn't even seem to phase him. He went on about his normal business.

Sherri D Padgitt
Sherri D Padgitt

After watching the film, "The Paw Project", I can say that I am now against declawing of cats. I have always loved cats and have owned several over the years, but I had never even had the urge to declaw one of them. I knew others who had and never thought anything about it; I just thought it was another optional medical procedure for animals. I had no idea that they are actually removing the entire end of what we would call our finger...more or less cutting off their toes.


 I would go on to bet that a lot of other people do not realize the specifics of this procedure or the documented outcomes or they would definitely think twice about doing it to their pets. Make people realize what is going on and what could end up happening to their pet if they choose this surgery. In some rare cases, this could be necessary and life-saving; otherwise, I think mostly it is done for owner's convenience, but most owners do not realize how serious of a procedure it is and what the long-term effects could be on the animal. Above I said I was against it for cats, but I am against it for any animal unless it is only to save that animal's life and not done for the convenience of the owner only. There are other alternatives that are much healthier for the animals now. 

Annie Adams
Annie Adams

My husband and I have one male Siberian Forest cat and one male of unknown breed (rescue), both of which are declawed on the front (we've never seen the point of rear declawing).  My uncle currently has a young Savannah with all paws declawed (he's strictly indoor).  My husband grew up with several cats, all of which but one were declawed on the front.  We have never had any behavioral or physical issues with any of them (one orange tabby had mental instabilities due to trauma before being declawed but she showed no signs of an altered state afterwards).


The most overlooked point to this whole 'argument' is the fact that 'there is no solid evidence that declawing leads to behavior problems' and doesn't always lead to physical problems.  Both of our cats, in fact, showed signs of being happier after their front claws were removed.  Our rescue was extremely shy of humans and ran from the room anytime anyone came for a visit.  Once his claws were removed, he started venturing out to greet people and now actually stays in the room to see who it is before making his decision.  Both boys still stretch as much as they used to, they still go through the motions of scratching, they still play rough with each other as well as their humans utilizing their back claws on occasion, and they overall act like normal cats who still have their front claws.  Granted, they're both indoor cats (the rescue actually refuses to go outside due to the traumatic event that lead him to us) so we have no way of knowing exactly how they'd handle it.  However, my neighbor, college friend, and our cats' vet tech lives in our apartment building and both her cats have their front paws declawed.  They're also both indoor/outdoor cats, and neither of them have any problems.  They're both well-adjusted, rough-housing, affectionate girls with no physical or behavioral problems.


That being said, I will never tell a cat owner they're a fool for leaving their pet's claws alone.  I will never shove the 'lack of evidence' in their face and demand they acknowledge their ignorance and agree with me.  I will never label the cats that do end up with physical/behavioral problems after declawing as 'exceptions'.  (I will blame a cat's webbed paws on a vet's poor surgery skills.  I've seen some terrible surgery results that should've revoked a vet's license.)


In return, I'd appreciate having the option to declaw my cats.  I know at this point any new addition to our family will most likely have to be declawed, in order to keep harmony among the four-legged family members.  We've witnessed terrible fights between established declawed family cats and a clawed newcomer. The newcomer was consistently isolated by the family cats, it was actively picked on, and it rapidly developed depression.  The negativity didn't necessarily go away immediately after the cat was declawed, but the family cats did eventually welcome the newcomer after the surgery.

I recognize that not all cats are okay after this surgery.  I recognize not all humans make the right decision for their cats.  I recognize that the surgery isn't a simple cosmetic procedure and it's very permanent.  I also recognize that it was the right decision for our boys.  And I want to have the option available to me in the future if it's still the right decision for our future cats.

Kirsten Doub
Kirsten Doub

I am a veterinarian in Utah. I am personally conducting an ongoing study of declawed cats which involves over 10 DVMs nationwide, including some boarded specialists. We have analyzed over 25 cats so far, including behavior analysis and radiographs of declawed and non declawed paws. 23/25 declawed cats display at least 2-3 signs of pain as according to published AAFP and AVMA pain guidelines and 15/25 cats analyzed have P3 fragments left over from improper technique. Given our preliminary data, it is impossible to say that this procedure is ever pain free. Additionally, it is impossible to blame post operative pain even years post procedure on inexperienced surgeons. Over half of declawed surgeries involve improperly removed segments of P3, and most declaw procedures are performed by DVMs with 5+ years of surgical experience. New graduates enter the profession with extensive behavioral training and are more than willing to present owners of cats with alternatives to declawing. Older veterinarians, sometimes do not explain the procedure appropriately to owners as they see it as commonplace like a spay or neuter procedure. Owners: It is not a permanent nail trim. It is an amputation of P3. Like cutting off the top of your own finger. Aside from this issue of misinformed owners signing thier cats up for this permanent change to thier paw anatomy, the fragments are one possible surgical complication, nevermind the laundry list of others: osteomyelitis, paw pad abcesses, paw pad calluses, foreign body reactions due to glue left inside the incisions, carpal and tarsal deformities, musculature atrophy, degenerative joint disease, osteochondritis dessicans, and lameness. This also does not at all address the emotional impact on these cats, who are left defenseless. It is well known that declawed cats are more prone to biting when threatened since they have been deprived of thier primary defense mechanisms: thier claws. Others have issues with inappropriate elimination because traditional cat litter hurts thier painful paws. Others become more withdrawn in general, less willing to interact with thier owners, thus making them less desirable pets. The declaw procedure is never performed without a big negative emotional and physical toll on the actual cat.

Kirsten Doub, DVM

Aimee Staats
Aimee Staats

To those of you who have declawed cats with reportedly no complications, just because your cat is OK doesn't make the surgery "no big deal" all around. You are attempting to make a generalization about millions of cats based on a sample size of one or two. The article states that 25 -50% of declaw surgeries result in complications. Those are very risky odds if you care about your cat living a happy, comfortable life.

Kim Miedema
Kim Miedema

I've owned cats my whole life(40+ years) and have never declawed any, and never had my furniture or carpet destroyed! Give them multiple types of scratching surfaces, different cats like different things, and they'll use it! And anyone that worried about furniture or carpet shouldn't own a cat. Declawing a cat is no different than debarking a dog, it's only done for the OWNERS benefit and serves no benefit for the animal!

Ron Gaskin
Ron Gaskin

Fact is the declaw surgery was never a researched peer reviewed surgery. It has never been proven a safe surgery over time. The first documented evidence of this surgery is a 1952 letter to the Journal of the AVMA editor. A second letter to the editor was published again in JAVMA in 1961 using citation to the first letter he wrote and a TV broadcast! he had done This was a private practitioner's personal opinion and the surgery became rampant over the years. Fact is greater than 90% of veterinarians never follow the current AVMA declaw policy of trying and medically documenting their alternative options to declawing. It appears vets just cannot regulate themselves. This resulted in California Cities banning the surgery in their City limits. 


Fact is JAVMA editors will not publish declaw research papers! JAVMA editors refuse to undo the harm their professional journal has done to cats. Jennifer Conrad's declaw repair research paper was rejected by JAVMA editors.


Fact is even our veterinary anatomists do not agree on the feline paw anatomy. Is there a digital extensor tendon attached to the top of P2 in a cat's finger? The anatomy experts DO NOT AGREE! This fact is critical to why painful hyperflexion occurs in at least 30% of the declawed cats we examine at our practice! The superficial flexor tendon is attached to the bottom of P2. The damage manifests over years and can be at the worst between 7-12 years of age. We have documented the changes and the vast majority of vets never check the declawed paws and furthermore they do not know what to look for. Self examination is never an easy thing to do but our patients cannot talk  or defend themselves.


Fact is new graduates have all the modern behavioral redirection/modification techniques to alleviate almost all inappropriate scratching. The other cats could have Softpaws applied. This makes the declaw surgery obsolete. What vet really wants to practice in the stone age? More importantly who wants a outdated vet working on their cat?


Fact is Americans want quick fixes to their problems. Cut the claws off. But when their cat starts peeing outside the box or starts biting family members it gets surrendered to the over full rescues. Then this quick fix cat owner goes to get a new "good" kitty to replace the bad kitty and do the same declaw quick fix solution to scratching to the new cat/kitten. Vets make more money this way too!


Fact is the CDC does not recommend declawing the cat of an immune compromised individual because declawed cats bite more. Cat bite wounds are far more dangerous than scratches.


Fact is our clinic has refutable evidence that declawing cats does harm. We have ultra high detail radiography and very good historical medical records. We just cannot predict which cats will be effected by declawing and the surgery technique does NOT make a difference. The cat paw anatomy is the same for all the 3 declaw surgery methods. Declawed cats by their very nature hide pain.  Cats have different pain tolerances and personalities just like humans.


Veterinarians are supposed to be feline advocates. Declawing domestic cats deprecates our noble healing profession.


Cats are noble intelligent problem solving top predators and declawing them makes them less then what God made them. 

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

While some veterinarians have the opinion that "up to 75% of people who request declawing would get rid of their cat if surgery couldn’t be done (thus providing the rationale that declawing somehow “saves” cats), a survey of their own clients found that only 4% would euthanize or relinquish if declawing weren’t an option. (It is a well-known tendency among veterinarians to vastly underestimate both the resources and the compassion of their clients. They don’t know, because they don’t ask.)


In a survey of Canadian veterinarians, only 102 were willing to venture a guess as to how many of their clients would have given up their cats if not for declawing (their estimate was 57%). This brief (1-1/2 page) article has become the foundation for claims that declawing “saves” cats’ homes or lives. The entire argument rests on this flimsy excuse that was proved completely false by the next study by the same author. (Landsberg GM. Declawing is controversial but saves pets. A veterinarian survey. Vet Forum1991;8:66-67.)


A survey of 276 clients (of those same veterinarians who guessed that 57% of their clients would have gotten rid of their cats) found that a whopping 4% would have seriously considered doing so. Because this study was published in a journal that few vets even know exists, it has remained obscure, and most vets who favor declawing use only the flawed and 99%-wrong figures. (Landsberg GM. Cat owners’ attitudes toward declawing. “Anthrozoos” 1991;4:192-197.)"


When I checked the adoptable cat listings on Petfinder.com, I found some interesting data that should have people interested in really studying this. I found that 14.5% of adoptable declawed cats were listed by shelters or rescue groups as NOT suitable for homes with young children (due to behavoiur issues, including aggression) vs. 8.64% of non declawed cats. The sample size of that info was even larger than the Canadian surveys.  


No data is available about all the declawed cats who are put down by their owners and shelters and not even offered for adoption. If declawing is so benign, vet associations shouldn't be afraid of collecting and sharing this data. 


One Minnesota found that the majority of their diabetic cats are also declawed. They are asking other shelters to participate in a survey to find out if this is true elsewhere. 


If this was human medicine, declawing would probably have been "off the market" a long time ago.

S T.
S T.

I've had many cats throughout my adult life, all of them living out full, healthy lives in my home.  While I've never declawed a cat myself, a kitty who appeared in my yard one day, and whom we eventually took in, was apparently declawed and neutered by a previous owner.


She was a loving, very sweet cat, with no behavioral problems.  My son, who has Asperger's syndrome, was her favorite.  She would sleep on his chest every night.  He loved her and she taught him a lot about patience and emotional connection.


Honestly, I didn't realize she WAS declawed, until the vet pointed it out to me.  After that, I realized that I had never seen her stretch like all my other cats.  

Being declawed may have affected her in some ways.  Sometimes she walked a bit stiffly, as though her back ached, and I would occasionally find her behind the washing machine, unable to get up and out on her own.  On the other hand, she just recently passed, 24 years after her first appearance, and she was full grown when we found her.  She had a very long, apparently happy life.


While I wouldn't choose to have a cat declawed myself, I sure wish there was some reliable way to keep my furniture and carpeting in one piece.  Providing scratching posts and pads, a large variety of toys, and a judiciously applied spray bottle filled with water has not kept my upholstery from being shredded over the years.  And I can't imagine convincing any of my cats to sit still while I glue plastic caps to their claws.

Elvira Muller
Elvira Muller

we don't declaw in Australia its against the law

Could the problems be related to many US cats being kept indoor 24/7 ?

In Australia most people have their cat neutered and let her out during the day but lock them in at night (from dusk to dawn).


neutered cats particularly a female does not go far during the day.


Also cat flaps are very popular here and the cat usually will spend most of her day inside and perhaps climb her tree or sit in the sun in her courtyard and that's about it.


For over 20 years, we have lived on a busy road in Melbourne which is 4 million people but our cats do not venture outside the courtyard or front entrance or common area of the block as they have been trained to do this since kitten-hood. 


She has a scratching post inside and loves to claw that but uses the trees and bushes outside also. 

S Miller
S Miller

I watched the documentary last week and thought it was great. I see no reason whatsoever to declaw a cat. A cat comes with claws and should be accepted as such. When a dog digs in the yard do you declaw him? When a child marks on the wall with crayons do you remove their finger tips? I would imagine your answers to both questions are NO so why, why, why would you do this to a cat? Are cats any less deserving of humane and ethical treatment? Are cats any less deserving to keep an innate part of their being? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO!. Claws for cats are an important part of their anatomy. Not only do they use them for protection, scratching and escape but they use them to stretch the muscles in their legs, shoulders, neck and back. When you remove the claws you remove the ability of them to stretch as they need to which can lead to arthritis. Every single cat I had declawed started to suffer from arthritis by they time they were 10. I've also had cats the same age that have not been declawed and they do not have any symptoms of arthritis.

Declaw continues to be a problem because veterinarians do NOT discourage it nor do they offer any alternatives. Before I knew what was involved in declaw I had several kitties go through the procedure and had several different vets perform the surgeries. Not ONCE, did any of these "ethical" doctors tell me what the surgery meant to my kitties or mention other humane options. I find this extremely disconcerting, unethical and really makes me angry at the veterinary profession. They are supposed to be a partner with me and my animals and to perform this surgery is inhumane, extremely painful for the cat and unethical at best.

All the arguments about it not affecting cats is erroneous. If you truly dig into the research many will find (as I did) that your kitty did suffer complications from the surgery. They probably just didn't present that way or in my case, I thought it was more to do with them getting older. Most of my kitties were declawed as kittens. :(  Every cat that I have ever dealt with whether my own or through rescue that has been declawed came with some sort of issue. Many may not even recognize it but in the rescue community you do because you see it so often in declawed cats.

For anyone that does not think declawing is harmful to cats, I would suggest you get actively involved in cat rescue or with a shelter. While someone may have not had an issue with their one cat, when you are in an environment where you deal with hundreds of cats a year, it becomes a lot more apparent.

Jody Weaver
Jody Weaver

We are a long way from banning declawing. However, we, as owners, do have control of where we take our cats to be declawed. All veterinarian hospitals are NOT created equal.

In our practice, feline patients under going declaw procedures are given Gabapentin (pain reliever) 3 days prior to surgery. We ensure each patient has appropriate iv pain medication during surgery. We perform local blocks which block the pain pathway. And we send the patient home on Gabapentin and a opiode.

Erica Anglin
Erica Anglin

I love all my animals, I never knew until recently what declawing entailed. We have always declawed our cats. Not keep them from scratching anything up, but because ever sense I was little if I had gotten a scratch from our cats I would swell up and break out. They have never had problems hunting and bringing me back "gifts" when they are outside, and they defend themselves just fine from our dogs when they get to rough. My aunts cat was declawed as a kitten and lived to the vary ripe age of 24 with no health issues contributed to being declawed. He went outside when ever he wanted, and still climbed a tree to the roof to get in the bedroom window to sleep with me at night. 

Patricia Blackmon
Patricia Blackmon

I had one of my cats declawed and had no regrets for years until I was in the process of moving when someone unknowing let her out of the bathroom and she escaped outside into the wood. We never found her. I worried about her because she was declawed and had no way to protect herself and unable to climb to safety. I like the product of the claw covers that recently came out that would have been my choice if it had been available at the time. My vet did not agree with declawing until the laser procedure wa s available and it is more humane. That is what I had done for my cat. I will never have a cat declawed i will use the claw covers!

Laura Maddox
Laura Maddox

I've noticed that declawed cats don't like their paws, front or back, being touched. They do seem to spend a lot more time licking/grooming their feet than cats with claws. My cats have claws and Its really not hard but you must be consistent when training cats not to use claws when interacting with humans.

Monica Studer
Monica Studer

Over the course of my cat owner lifetime, I have had 5 cats declawed, three of whom still live with me ( the others are deceased). I have NEVER had a problem with the cats in regards to infection, change in gait or their litter box habits. Behavior modification didn't work for me. The last two I had all four paws done as I had only done the front on my other cat and when she jumps off my lap she scratches me, and more importantly she has been able to scratch the side of her head so often she has a bald spot. I've tried the caps on her back claws but she bites them off quickly. And it isn't cheap to do. If California outlaws declawing I won't own another cat and I believe many people would feel the same.

Laurie Hines
Laurie Hines

Just had our four cats declawed yesterday and feeling somewhat guilty, although I know in my heart it was the right thing to do.  I'm going to watch them carefully and make sure they are comfortable.  My cats are primarily indoors although do like to go outside most days when it isn't cold.  It was a difficult decision.

Clay Russell
Clay Russell

The question is about experiences with declawed cats, not philosophy, so that's what I'll focus on.

I always thought declawing was inhumane so I didn't do it to my cats. But then I adopted a cat whose previous owner had declawed her. I spent a lot of time watching her and feeling and rubbing her paws. She showed no signs of pain or awkwardness.

So, with that in mind, and because my furniture was getting torn up (despite the presence of scratching posts and the use of "don't scratch here" sprays), I had my other two cats declawed.

Again, I watched carefully and felt their paws often. They showed no signs of pain. Their litter box habits didn't change.Their gait appeared normal.

(All were 100% indoor cats.)

Just one guy's experience but there you are.

Linda Goris
Linda Goris

My cat, Penny, is 7 years old and I had her declawed same time she was neutered. She was fine within 2-3 days and has had no ill effects as a result. She is always indoors because I don't like seeing cats at the mercy of other animals much larger and viscious. Also lately reports of cats being mutilated by people has made me extra cautious as well. After my children grew up and moved away, Penny came into my life and has been a constant companion ever since. She has never been ill and appears very happy with her only 2 house rules - no climbing onto tables nor snooping in cupboards. She is well behaved and has been since she came to me just 3 days old - her mother and rest of her litter were going to be put down because the elderly couple's health had made it impossible for them to continue caring for them. So I for one see no problem with declawing a house cat because she does no damage to furniture or other belongings, nor does she scratch anyone coming to visit - particularly young children. These were the 2 reasons for my having her declawed in the first place and there have been no problems as a result of this proceedure. 

Tina Jo Brown
Tina Jo Brown

What about this thought?  Imagine that your toes are removed.  They are deformed and you'll never ever walk the same again. 

Tina Jo Brown
Tina Jo Brown

I definitely agree with Joan Paul-Nguyen .  You said everything I thought of when reading this article.  I say to those that want to declaw, to think about cutting humans hands off so they won't hurt anyone.  It's the same concept.  When humans don't like something they act selfishly and rid its problem.  Those that don't understand this articles shouldn't have animals at all.  You're missing the big picture, not just their hands!  It's called feelings.  Don't get a cat if you plan to deform it.

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

My mom is a medical professional and well educated about human anatomy, so she had no idea what declawing entailed - until we went to pick up the cat from the vet's. We were totally horrified and dumbfounded. Our shock made the vet tech so unnerved that she had trouble explaining the cat's aftercare. Even though that was some 20 years ago, I routinely run into cat owners who don't know what declawing is. I don't think a profession which allows it's members to behave that way should be trusted. I certainly would NOT want to work for such an employer and don't want to patronize clinics which declaw cats.

The information I've seen posted by vet clinics about declawing is obviously promoting it when they don't include any info about alternatives or behavior modification. If they have info about including declawing as part of a "kitten wellness package", the client hasn't even had a chance to know about normal feline behavior, that scratching posts are essential equipment, that nail trimming is routine grooming (just like it is for dogs), and they haven't had a chance to train their kitten where to scratch. 

I believe all veterinary professionals, cat owners and those who care for cats should see "The Paw Project Movie" and the other evidence about declawing. There is no way that it's ethical to declaw once you are aware of all the complications, both short and long-term.

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

Studies were not conducted on declawing to see if it adversely affects cats. One vet started doing them, then other vets started. They didn't even think cats used to feel pain! Even now it's extremely difficult to judge how much pain they are in because cats have evolved to be so stoic.

Fact: Post-operative pain remains a problem and is not treated effectively or for long enough, even by those who know better.

  1. A force-plate analysis of 27 declawed cats treated with 3 different pain protocols found that all cats were still shifting their weight off their front paws 12 days after surgery. They authors suggested that (even though they did not do it themselves) pain management should be continued for at least 12 days post-op. (Romans CW, Gordon WJ, Robinson DA, et al. Effect of postoperative analgesic protocol on limb function following onychectomy in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Jul 1;227(1):89-93.)
  2. In response, a group of five veterinarians wrote a letter to the editor of JAVMA objecting to the lack of adequate pain relief. (Hornstein SE, Stein R, Thompson D, et al. Questions analgesic protocols and conclusions of onychectomy study. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Jul 1;227(1):89-93.)
  3. Despite their own recommendations, the same authors subsequently did another study on declawing in which they provided equally poor pain control and only for 2 days. (Robinson DA, Romans CW, Gordon-Evans WJ, et al. Evaluation of short-term limb function following unilateral carbon dioxide laser or scalpel onychectomy in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc.2007 Feb 1;230(3):353-8.) - http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/declawing-and-science/


Joan Paul-Nguyen
Joan Paul-Nguyen

Has anyone ever thought, why declaw? (In exceptions of medical reasons)

If one truly questions it, one will find the answer that it is done for selfish reasons such that as mentioned above, they will not scratch people or the furniture. In the first place, simply put it don't get a cat. 

If putting your pet at your convenience is what you call "I love my cat" then your love is truly warped in a sense. Whether the cat feels pain/behavioural problems after declawing does not matter. The REASON behind choosing the option to declaw matters. Listen to yourself. And you'll realise how selfish one can be.

jezz marie
jezz marie

I love my cats, and guess what, all three are DECLAWED... do any of them have behavioral problems because of it, no, are they in pain because of it, no, did anything horribly traumatizing happen to them because of it, NO..my oldest cat survived a week after he got out accidentally, and guess who came back alive and guess who didnt have any claws...like I said, I love em dearly, but declawing isnt the end of the world

Brittany Blue
Brittany Blue

I have 2 cats, that i have had since they were babies. and i couldnt imagine declawing them. specially because my friend declawed her cat, and he wasnt the same. ever again. i will not traumatize my cat or even take the risk.

Xira Arien
Xira Arien

Declawing a cat in return for a lifetime of room, board, and love is a good deal for the cat.

I, absolutely, 100%, am willing to let someone partially amputate my fingers in return for never having to work again. 2 million dollars up front and I _WILL_ let you cut off the top part of my digits.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog, if you want to take me up on my offer:D

Granny Goodwitch
Granny Goodwitch

...if you declaw your cat you should have your fingers removed at the first knuckle !!! =/

David Boyle
David Boyle

We feed birds and love them.  It makes us sick every time a cat kills one-which happens frequently.  Countless birds are killed by house cats in this country every year-in the billions I believe.  As far as I am concerned, for every bird killed by a cat, a cat should be killed.  They are nothing but pests.  If people insist on owning cats they should be required to be on a lead at all times.  Perhaps the owners too.  

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

@Ron Gaskin  Thank you for your ongoing research, Dr. Gaskin, and for helping save the life of declawed cats with behavior problems that benefit from pain relief and declaw salvage surgery. It's shameful that declawing continues and that the "JAVMA" refuses to publish the newer research, so we end up with "Nat Geo" saying "science on the matter is indecisive".  They haven't done their homework. 


Declawing is big business. Money is the incentive to keep a surgery legal in North America that surgeons elsewhere in the world consider unacceptable mutilation. The California vet association fought to keep declawing legal in their state. They  gave a substantial campaign contribution to governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and put words in his mouth to parrot their position statement to get him to defeat the proposed state wide ban there. 


The ban would have not only prevented cruelty to animals, but provided consumer protection to pet owners and taxpayers to reduce expensive consequences caused by declawing, as acknowledged in legislation by the eight cities that banned it.


"Nat Geo" should understand that veterinary associations exist to protect the business interests of their members; they have a real conflict of interest when it comes to saying they also protect animal welfare and their clients' interests. Many places don't allow consumer protection laws to apply to veterinary medicine, leaving the public and animals unprotected. It's clear that the industry cannot be self-regulating.  


Good science is based on the scientific method. If the veterinary profession in the USA and Canada thinks declawing is benign or they truly have the best interests of animals in mind, then they shouldn't be afraid to review and publish the newest info. 


This issue is similar to drugs that used to be prescribed to pregnant women, where the drugs ended up causing deformities, both external and internal, in their unborn babies.  It took a few years, but eventually doctors stopped prescribing them to pregnant women. With declawing, they refuse to observe or publish the evidence, for the sake of profit. Pharmaceutical companies make more money from selling vets strong pain medication for declaw surgeries, controlled drugs normally only needed for extremely painful conditions, like cancer. They don't want to see their profits decrease either.  


Just because the deformities caused by declawing are not easily observable to the untrained eye doesn't mean that they aren't happening. Refusing to observe, document, and properly study issues doesn't mean they don't exist. As Dr. Hofve said: "It is axiomatic in science that “lack of evidence does not equal evidence of lack.” 

S Miller
S Miller

@Jody Weaver I find this truly sad. I feel it should be banned and vets should not even offer it as an option. If there were a vet in my area that refused to declaw, I would not only switch all my personal pets to them but my rescue animals as well. I am very disillusioned with the veterinary profession at this point.


Ron Gaskin
Ron Gaskin

@Monica Studer  Good, please do not own another cat than. Owning a cat comes with responsibilities. Just clip the back claws. Scratching at the head is a sign of ear problems or systemic allergens both probably food related.

Montanna Holliday
Montanna Holliday

@Laurie Hines If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, don't you think you should have avoided getting it declawed? Anything can happen outside that may totally spin out of your control. The cat will need to protect itself & without claws, that is probably going to be difficult, if not impossible to do.

Clay Russell
Clay Russell

And by the way... (off topic)

I believe that letting cats outdoors is mistreating them. Just for what it's worth.

Annie Adams
Annie Adams

@Tina Jo Brown Declawing a cat does not remove their ability to walk, it removes their ability to damage an object being scratched (which they're still capable of doing even without claws).  As Linda Goris said, it's quite different from having your toes removed.

Linda Goris
Linda Goris

@Tina Jo Brown  

This is quite different. My cat walks, runs, and plays just like any other cat and she was declawed a couple months after she was born. 

Montanna Holliday
Montanna Holliday

@Chris Harris Vet offices that do not provide alternatives to procedures really make me feel ashamed to be associated to the vet world. Those kind of vets are just looking to make a pretty penny off of the procedure, aftercare, and future complications that may cause the owner to come back. It's truly disgusting and makes me cringe.

Linda Goris
Linda Goris

@Chris Harris  

It sounds as though this particular vet didn't know how to perform the proceedure properly. My cat was not horribly disfigured nor does she show any deformity. One would not know she was declawed unless they checked her front paws. 

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

@jezz marie Please examine your cats' feet and compare them to normal, healthy anatomy. On declawed cats you should notice their toe pads are all abnormally shrunken with calluses from uneven, unnatural pressure bearing down from amputated toe bones. Their toes will be in various stages of hyperflexion - see comparitive photos and x-rays -  http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ .

A cat who is walking on toes at an unnatural angle will likely develop arthritis and other physical problems as time goes on. The way that declawing throws everything out of whack and adversely affects their conformation would be unacceptable on other animals that walk on their toes, like dogs or horses, so why would it be acceptable on cats? Most vets will acknowledge that declawed cats walk differently; they can tell which cat is declawed from across a room. Why should it be okay to cause such awful deformities in an animal? 

Cats are stoic and don't show they are in pain like some other animals do. For example, vets will admit cats can have abscessed teeth and still eat where a person would be unable to. Don't assume cats aren't in pain because you don't see any evidence of it. It's a logical fallacy to assume lack of evidence is proof they are not in pain (It is axiomatic in science that “lack of evidence does not equal evidence of lack.”- see http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/declawing-and-science/).

Linda Goris
Linda Goris

@Brittany Blue  

If the proceedure is done properly, there is no trauma to the cat. I am sorry your friend's cat was not cared for as well as my Penny but I assure you she was just sensitive for a couple days, required extra comforting and cuddles, and she was just fine. 

Ralph Smith
Ralph Smith

@David Boyle  I agree with Mr Boyle. If you want a cat make them stay inside to protect the birds, I'n not a cat lover at all. My neighbours cats have killed many birds who were trying to feed their young leaving their babies to starve to death. Luckily the coyotes have since eaten their cats, Their cat used come over to defecate in our garden where we plant ground crops. If you want a cat allow it to scratch around in it's litter box then walk around on your kitchen table & counter top where your food coexists, 

Linda Goris
Linda Goris

@David Boyle  

What a nasty thing to say! Just because there are thousands of men who beat and torture people every day in this world, does that mean you should also be mistreated? No!! And besides, it is a natural thing for cats to hunt birds - part of their survival instinct. They don't do it to be melicious, that simply go by instinct. You need to read and educate yourself more on animal behaviour before making such a crass statement. Plus, have you ever really watched birds around cats? They enjoy very much teasing their feline friends who cannot fly away as they can. Also, I'll have you know when my budgies were still alive, they used to sing along with the stereo and my cat would join in with them. She would sit by their cage for sometimes 30 minutes doing this, then lie down and sleep while the budgies played together in their cage beside her. 

Charlie Pennington
Charlie Pennington

@David Boyle Ok, so for every prey species killed, a predator should be killed? For every zebra killed by a lion, a lion should be killed in turn? This is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. While I know that **some** areas have a problem with feral cat populations and declining bird populations, your argument is simply silly. Cats kill birds. It happens. Circle of life. Do you eat beef? Because I really like cows. So...I think you should be killed if you eat one. Totally logical, right?

Brian Howard
Brian Howard expert

@David Boyle A lot of people around the world dislike cats. I'm a cat lover myself, but I do find it interesting that many do have a visceral negative reaction to them (beyond those who are allergic). I wonder if something in our genetic memory is going on. I associate cats with positive things, not the least of which was keeping rodents down, but I do wonder...

Annie Adams
Annie Adams

@Montanna Holliday @Laurie Hines It's not impossible for them to defend themselves with their back claws and it's definitely not impossible to climb a tree (I witness this phenomenon every day with our neighbor's two front-paw declawed felines).

Chris Harris
Chris Harris

@Linda Goris @Chris Harris  I don't know what you mean.The vet did NOT inform us of the nature of the surgery beforehand. I don't believe it's possible for clients to give true informed consent to this procedure if vets are not acknowledging the possible complications, both short term and long-term, and are not informing clients about how to deal with normal feline behavior, and normal routine nail trimming. I run into people with more recently declawed cats who also were not aware of this information. Vets want the money so are not necessarily giving clients the info needed to make informed decisions.


While that cat passed away, two other rescued declawed cats we have DID get their paws x-rayed. Their toes are at an abnormal, contracted, angle, and both have deformed wrists too. Both have abnormal gaits, and one ended up sick and diabetic (more common that many realize, possibly linked to high cortisol levels due to chronic pain associated with declawing).


All declawed cats feet I've seen also have shrunken toe pads with painful looking calluses. This is really bad for an animal that is digitigrade, or a toe walker, where their toes actually bear weight (cats, dogs, and many animals are digitigrades). People are plantigrades, or heel walkers. 


I wouldn't have known what is normal or not unless I had educated myself. Unless you've had good x-rays taken and the cat examined by someone willing to make accurate observations, who likely doesn't profit from declawing cats, then you may not understand or get to observe how deformed the feet are, or become over time.


If you really press them, most vets WILL tell you they can tell if a cat is declawed by the way they walk. They can tell from across a room. The reason the cats walk differently is due to the deformities CAUSED by amputating the ends of each digit at the last joint. 

Please see comparative x-rays, photos, and descriptions here, by Dr. Jean Hofve - Physical Consequences of Declawing - http://www.littlebigcat.com/declawing/physical-consequences-of-declawing/ 


Lee MacDonald
Lee MacDonald

@ Chris Harris, You urged to go look at the declawed cats paws. I have the perfect opportunity to go look and compare.  I have 2 cats that are declawed.  Have been since they were 6mths of age (declawed same time they were fixed) and are now 16 and 14 yrs of age. So plenty of time to show the 'abnormalities' on their paws.  And to compare to my third cat who is not declawed (stray I found earlier this year).  And what do you know? After ten minutes with each cat, close inspection, holding, splaying, rubbing, feeling, close looking, etc of each cats front paw, nope, not a difference.  None of the signs you urge that are there or the article.  And I looked hard.

Both of my elderly cats have never displayed any problems with being declawed, never had walking problems, never had litter box problems, never became aggressive due to being declawed or any of the horror stories that people like to put out there.  They were declawed due to behavioural issues that could not be corrected no matter what avenues were tried, and believe me, many many avenues were tried, many vets consulted.  These cats were not ignored.  They were always checked to ensure they were healthy, were played with, had toys, had attention.  They are also strictly indoors, very much loved, very much still getting into things and places they shouldn't.  So before trying to paint that broad brush of well, this says it deforms all feet, um, no. I have even taken my cats to the vets to look at them and the vet was surprised they were declawed....all of them in many cities I have lived in, could not tell until they were told, so again, the statements that vets can tell just by the cats walk. Again. No. Unless....my cats are just really really weird miraculous twists of fate.  Then again.  They seem to fit in with the majority of declawed cats i have seen....


Tina Jo Brown
Tina Jo Brown

@Charlie Pennington @David Boyle This was so funny I couldn't stop laughing!  People can hate on cats all they want.  I'm not a fan of dogs.  I would like to kill the one next door for barking all dang day and night, but I don't.  Someone loves that animal.  Cats are rated the most dangerous animals alive.  They got skills your brain couldn't come up with, David.

Katia Andreassi
Katia Andreassi

@Brian Howard @David Boyle That negativity is one of the things that makes Jennifer Conrad so passionate about this project—she thinks cats are unfairly maligned more than other animals. 

The negative reaction is surprising to me too since there are so many cat lovers and cats are jousting with dogs to be America's favorite pet, but I think the large population of feral cats has a lot to do with it 

Ralph Smith
Ralph Smith

@Tina Jo Brown @Charlie Pennington @David Boyle  Write down the barking times then talk to the owners if they are reasonable people. If they're not responsible for their pet & your peace & quiet call animal control. They're not allowed to bark like that, They'll be either told to get them under control or find another home. That has worked for us. We keep our dog indoors & have trained her not to bark. She walks close to 3 miles a day & goes swimming a few times per week so she has a good life. She has her flaws as being a bit too friendly & wanting to kiss everyone she meets but when we get near people she goes onto a leash. We're not perfect with her but thinking of your neighbours is important as there are more of them than us. We're lucky where we live as you can sit on your deck you might hear a barking dog once or twice a day due to considerate neighbours, 

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