Common Behavioral Problems in Declawed Cats

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There are many side effects from declawing a cat. Veterinarians may not inform owners of the risks of declawing a cat, or the behavioral problems associated with declawing a cat. Learn what happens to cats who are declawed.

There are many side effects that result from declawing a cat. Often times cat owners are dumbfounded that their veterinarian did not warn them about behavioral problems which are common in declawed cats. If you are considering declawing your cat, or own an already declawed cat, these common behavioral problems are some things to consider, or watch for.

What is a Declaw?

To be brief, declawing involves removing the last joint of the cats toes. It would be like taking the last bone of your fingers, and removing it at the joint, thus removing your fingernail. Declawing is often done only on the cats front paws, but sometimes done on the back paws too. It should be noted that declawing only the front, or back and front, does not make a difference in terms of the side effects.

While some owners report no side effects, is it possible they are not aware that their cats behavior is not normal, or problems have not yet developed (some show up later in life), but indeed a few cats do have no long term behavior issues following a declawing surgery.

Declawing is considered cruel, and is illegal in some parts of the world. It is removing a part of the cat that is very natural, it would be like getting a bird, and removing its ability to fly.

Heightened Flight or Fight Response

This is one of the most common behavioral problems in cats often associated with being declawed, but often one owners do not associate with the declaw surgery. Basically the cats become overly paranoid, and may seem neurotic. The cat will either run at the slightest noise, or attack without warning, or cause.

Nervous biting falls under this side effect of being declawed. The cat may bite for no reason, an owner may be sitting with the cat on their lap, when suddenly it bites them and runs off.

The flight response makes the cat more likely to run, and hide, from strangers, noises, and so forth – essentially with the heightened flight or fight response the cats are more likely to react to a situation that most cats would ignore.

Increased Aggression

Declawed cats know they are defenseless. In nature being defenseless can be a death sentence so many declawed cats put on a show of strength and power to keep other pets from “testing” them. Again we may reference the fact that declawed cats often use their teeth more than cats who still have their nails.

Refusal to Use the Litter Box

This problem may not show up right away, it can occur at any time. Initially declawed cats may not use their litter box because digging in coarser litter hurts their paws. Even if they do use their litter box consistently at first it is not uncommon for them later to stop.

Declawed cats will frequently urinate on beds, and linens, while this is often due to pain in their paws while using the litter, it is also a way for them to mark territory. When we consider the fact that cats usually mark their territory by clawing things, leaving their scent behind, and delcawed cats have been stripped of this natural behavior, they often find other means of compensating.

It is not uncommon for declawed cats to defecate outside of their litter box, after a while they associate the box with pain and look for other places to poop.

authors cats

authors cats are not declawed

Other Side Effects from Being Declawed

The above are only the behavioral side effects, other side effects are to their health.  If infected the cat could face serious complications.  As well later in life declawed cats often suffer back pain due to the fact they cannot walk naturally on their toes, but have been walking unnaturally for years, on their heals.

Alternatives to Declawing

There are many alternatives to mutilating a cat this way. There are may products that cover a cats nails. Scratching posts should be provided, and moved weekly to encourage use (as well they may be rubbed with cat nip).

If somebody does not own a cat (and are concerned about clawing), they should not get a kitten, as kittens are very claw aggressive, instead getting an older cat, or one that is of a breed not noted for using their claws quite so much (Persians, Himalayans).

Consider adopting a cat who is already declawed rather than putting another cat through this extreme surgery.

Warning – Declawed cats have little hope against predators, they may even attack a dog in order not to appear defenseless. They should never be allowed outside, unless in a fully enclosed cat pen.

Related Links

Why is My Cat Not Using its Litter Box

Alternatives to Declawing a Cat

Should Cats be Allowed Outdoors?

Common Household Dangers to Cats


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