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When the Claws Come Out: The Truth About Declawing Your Cat

Posted 09.21.16 by Katie Morrill, DVM

Declawing has become a hotly contested topic in veterinary medicine. There are veterinarians who refuse to do the procedure under any circumstances. At the other end of the spectrum, some vets have no qualms at all about declawing pet cats. Pet owners and animal welfare advocates also run the gambit of opinions on this subject.  So what are the facts about this divisive procedure?



1) The quickest procedure is the Rescoe method. This involves using a sterilized pair of Rescoe nail trimmers, which work like a guillotine, to remove most of third phalanx. This method can leave behind a piece of the bone, resulting in regrowth of an abnormal nail months or years down the road. If this happens, you have to go in surgically and remove the rest of the bone.

2) The blade disarticulation method involves using a small, sharp scalpel blade to completely remove the distal phalanx by cutting all the ligaments that connect it to the neighboring bone. This is delicate work, and takes somewhat longer than the Rescoe method, but it ensures there is no way a nail can ever regrow.

3) The laser disarticulation method aims to achieve the same end as the blade one, but uses a surgical laser instead. This can shorten surgery time and recovery time, but has not been shown to change long term outcomes. The laser is also very user dependent, so results will vary based on the surgeon’s experience and technique.


The obvious benefit to declawing is that a cat can no longer scratch up the house, furniture, other pets, an owners’ skin, etc. Declawing is a rather permanent solution to scratching problem. Some people want any cat living in their household to be declawed even before it shows any destructive behaviors. Others turn to declawing as a last resort after unacceptable damage has been done.


Not every cat will have an ideal declaw. Some cats experience significant bleeding after surgery or once their overnight bandages are removed. Others can have long-term pain or lameness. This can be due to a medical reason, like nail regrowth or tendon contracture; or it can be from phantom pain.

A few cats may develop behavioral issues if their natural scratch ability is taken away. In addition to scratching, climbing and catching prey might be inhibited. Declawed cats are also less able to defend themselves from other animals, so it is not recommended to let them outside unattended. Some believe that cats who cannot scratch will be more likely to vent their aggression through biting.


There are alternatives to having a cat declawed. Routine nail trims are one option. Starting a kitten early withgetting their nails trimmed every few weeks will help them tolerate it long term. Soft, silicon caps (Soft Paws) can be glued over the nails once every few weeks as well and is a service we offer. soft-paw

Several behavioral modification practices can also dissuade a cat from scratching in an unwanted manner. Please visit the links below for several strategies to redirect your cat’s scratching habits:


Dr. Katie Morrill

The Pet Hospitals– Poplar at Massey

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