Many studies have been performed in an attempt to cover all the results of declawing. Only a few of the studies are listed here, but they all have the same findings:
Declawing has been found to cause the cat much pain which results in undesirable behavior changes which results in the cat being surrendered to a shelter and euthanized, locked in a basement for life, or simply abandoned outside to fend for itself with no means of defense.
"A declawed cat is anatomically and mentally damaged. Careful observation of clawed vs. declawed cats on entry to the vet’s office reveals a cat’s amazing ability to remember. They can and do associate cause and effect. This is a hallmark of a thinking sentient creature." Ron Gaskin DVM
The Physical Consequences of Declawing Your Cat
April 5, 2014 by POPEYE
(Jean Hofve DVM) Declawing changes the way the cat’s paws function, and this creates stress on the joints of the paw, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and spine. The cat’s gait changes, as weight is shifted backward from the toes to the large rear pad of the paw.
Research has demonstrated that, after declawing, cats shift their entire weight more toward the hind legs. This is quite a feat, considering that the front legs normally bear about 60% of the cat’s entire weight.
Within 6 months or so, normal weight distribution among the four legs is restored to pre-surgery values. However, changes and stresses within the paw persist and may even worsen due to normal contracture of the severed tendons due to scar tissue formation.
Over time, this altered stress can contribute to the development of arthritis.
In most older declawed cats, the toes are completely “frozen,” immovable even under deep anesthesia.
Declawing causes observable changes to the cat’s anatomy that are not only visible on radiographs (x-rays) but are obvious to anyone who cares to see them.
Here is what it looks like:
It would be interesting to hear what the orthopedic specialists make of these changes. Can the veterinary community continue to deny the reality that declawing causes serious long-term consequences to the cat?
'Many vets and clinic staff deliberately misinform and mislead clients into believing that declawing removes only the claws in the hopes that clients are left with the impression that the procedure is a "minor" surgery comparable to spay/neuter procedures and certainly doesn't involve amputation (partial or complete) of the terminal-toe bone, ligaments and tendons. Some vets rationalize the above description by saying that since the claw and the third phalanx (terminal toe bone) are so firmly connected, they simply use the expression "the claw" to make it simpler for clients to "understand". Other vets are somewhat more honest and state that if they used the word "amputation", most clients would not have the surgery performed!'
“In some cases, when declawed cats use the litterbox after surgery, their feet are so tender they associate their new pain with the box... permanently, resulting in a life-long aversion to using the litter box. Other declawed cats that can no longer mark with their claws, they mark with urine instead resulting in inappropriate elimination problems, which in many cases, results in relinquishment of the cats to shelters and ultimately euthanasia. Many of the cats surrendered to shelters are surrendered because of behavioral problems which developed after the cats were declawed. Risk factors for relinquishment of cats to an animal shelter: "Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination problems.” Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association – 2001
"There is ample evidence that declawing does result in increased biting and litter box avoidance, the behaviors that scientific researchers and shelter workers agree are the most common behavioral problems cited as reasons for relinquishment.
Since 1966 there have been only six articles in the US veterinary literature, including one by a Canadian veterinarian, which examined the behavioral effects of declawing.
Morgan and Houpt found that the 24 declawed cats in their internet survey had a 40% higher incidence of house soiling than non-declawed cats.
In a study published in the January, 2001 JAVMA, 33% of 39 (1 in 3) cats that underwent onychectomy developed "at least" one behavior problem immediately after surgery, with the most common problems being litter box problems and biting.
..."declawed cats are more likely to be relinquished than normal cats...Unwanted behavior is a major factor in relinquishment of cats to shelters. House-soiling, aggression, and biting are the top 3 reasons why cats are surrendered; as noted, these are the very same problems that 1 in 3 declawed cats will develop after surgery.” Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM
Published 2/1/03 on CourierPostOnline.com, "Eighty percent of the cats that are surrendered that are declawed are euthanized because they have a behavioral problem…. Declawed cats frequently become biters and also stop using litter boxes… One or the other…,” said William Lombardi shelter director, Gloucester County, New Jersey.
Gloucester County Animal Shelter, says Lombardi, who’s been the director for three years and an animal control officer for 25, Cats with claws, he says, are always surrendered for human-related issues, mainly “moving and can’t take the cat with us.” Declawed cats, on the other hand, have behavior problems, and most that come in end up having to be euthanized. Even when Lombardi works with declawed cats and tries to place them in new homes, they often come back to the shelter for not using the litter box”.…”Almost all of our hotline calls are declawed cats with litter box issues,” says Pat Rock of the Oshkosh Area Humane Society in Wisconsin.” “ The Declaw Dilemma", Nancy Lawson
Seventy percent (70%) of cats turned in to pounds and shelters for behavioral problems are declawed. (National Survey from pounds & shelters obtained by Caddo Parrish Forgotten Felines & Friends)
From the Summer 2002 issue of PETA’s Animal Times: “A survey by a Delaware animal shelter showed that more than 75% of the cats turned in for avoiding their litter boxes had been declawed.”
In my own three-year experience, 95% of calls about declawed cats related to litter box problems, while only 46% of clawed cats had such problems—and most of those were older cats with physical ailments. Of my calls, only declawed cats have cost their owners security deposits, leather sofas and floorboards. And it’s mostly declawed cats that have been prescribed pain killers, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, and steroids. Two-thirds of my calls are about litter box problems. In 90% of those cases, the cat is declawed, sick, or old. In 7 years, only 3 people have called about a “scratching-the-sofa problem” - yet countless of “healthy” declawed cats have peed on sofas.” Annie Bruce, cat consultant & author Cat Be Good
Another county facility automatically puts down or transfers out any declawed cat, because of the greater likelihood that such cats will exhibit behavior problems such as litterbox avoidance or a propensity for biting.
Declawing does not keep a cat in its home. A declawed cat may lose its home, because of behavior problems that may develop after declawing...Considering all factors in aggregate, statistically, a declawed cat is more likely to be killed in the pound, because it was declawed.” Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, The Paw Project
Behavioral problems frequently haunt declawed cats. By far, the commonest thing we see is cats not using the litterbox. When cats have stress beyond what they can take, it often shows up as a litterbox problem and declawing makes them stress intolerant, in general, for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Harrison, DVM. Dr. Harrison gets 3-12 calls a day about litter box problems in cats and, after ruling out medical problems, 90 percent of the cats with litter box aversion are declawed cats. “Declawing: Behavior Modification or Destructive Surgery”, Animal Issues, 1998
“…our cat care coordinator was becoming increasingly disturbed at the euthanasia rate for declawed cats and decided to conduct an informal study. She discovered that more than 80% of declawed cats that were either returned or owner-surrendered that year were done so because of litterbox problems or biting.”
"...Colorado Humane Society and SPCA Inc. in Englewood and sees many cats come into the shelter because of litter-box issues. Frequently, the cat has been declawed, making the act of using the box painful.
"My own queries to shelter personnel show that 20% of all cats entering shelters have already been declawed, and half of these declawed cats do not reach the adoption shelter, as they are screened out at intake as "behavior problems". Harriet Baker, "The Shocking Truth About Declawing Cats", 2003
2/2007 "...Delaware Humane Association...Declawing also can lead to litter box problems...75 percent of declawed cats in shelters are there because they had issues using their litter boxes.
In a study published in the January, 2001 JAVMA, 33% of 39 cats that underwent onychectomy developed "at least" one behavior problem immediately after surgery, with the most common problems being litter box problems and biting.
Cocheco Valley Humane Society of Dover, NH annual shelter statistics revealed that there was a high percentage (66-72%) of cats turned in with behavioral problems were declawed cats. Behavioral problems included improper elimination and aggressiveness. Shelter Sense, 8/1992, "A Cat and His Claws Are Too Often Parted: The Realities of Declawing" by Rhonda Lucas Donalds
“Dr. Susan Swanson, DVM, owner of the Cat Care Clinic in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, notes that "year after year, the declawed cats that I see in my practice have higher rates of litter box issues such as inappropriate elimination"…Nearly every shelter and rescue group director in the country makes the same observation. Sore paws that don't feel like digging in the litter may be one reason why declawed cats are more prone to litter box rejection. (The accumulated stress buildup from lack of scratching may also be a contributing factor, as stress is implicated in half of all urinary tract problems).” "Why Cats Need Claws", Gary Lowenthal
Based upon conversations with our customers who bought Feliway because their cats were peeing outside of the box I'd say that at least 60%, if not closer to 70%, of these people had cats who were declawed...” Cat Faeries behaviorist and feline territory specialist
“Asthma and cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) have also been linked to the stress of declaws…consider the possibility of post-surgery behavior problems – especially litterbox issues and aggression…reports abound among cat owners and some animal behaviorists also notice a link. Karen Overall, VMD, PhD, a specialist in veterinary medicine, has seen transient aggression and reluctance to use the litterbox after declaw. There is also the issue of trust...Interestingly, the humane society workers have made these claims about declawed cats for years”. "Declaw Details", Dr. Brenda McClelland, DVM, Cat Fancy Magazine Jan 2006 p. 44-47
“Chronic physical ailments such as cystitis or skin disorders can be manifestations of a declawed cat’s frustration and stress.” David E. Hartnett, DVM
“…San Francisco Care and Control ("some declawed cats become more nervous biters; others are known to become even more destructive to furniture than before the operation; and many cats stop using the litterbox"), East Bay SPCA ("deprived of their primary form of defense, declawed cats become nervous, fearful, and/or aggressive, often using their only remaining defense, their teeth. Some cats stop using their litter pan. This may be associated to the discomfort of scratching in the litter after the surgery"), and Palo Alto Humane Society ("we have a no-declaw policy"). These organizations and the individuals working there are obviously highly motivated to find each cat a home and do not wish to see the cat returned. They have found that declawed cats, with a disproportionate rate of biting and house soiling, have a relatively low adoption success rate.” Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, The Paw Project,
In a recent study published October, 2001, JAVMA by Dr. Gary J. Patronek, VMD, PhD., “…declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment.”
"One problem we have is people get their cats de-clawed," he said. "De-clawing a cat is like cutting off the end of your finger. When you de-claw a cat, you remove digits. When the cat gets older, it stops using the litter box because the litter gets stuck between its toes and the cat doesn't like it. A lot of older cats are surrendered because they stop using the litter box and people don't want to clean up after them."
St. Louis, MO humane shelter 2/2007
According to a pain management article from 2005, Dr. Gaynor, DVM states, "It is becoming more and more apparent that the number of feline patients who have declaw procedures performed have subsequent chronic pain issues...Another client complaint is a cat who just has some behavioral changes which may include decreased activity, decreased appetite, or increased aggression...within days to months to years..."
"Many cats find it painful to use the litter box, develop a conditioned aversion to using the box, and become un-housebroken. This is why many de-clawed cats are put up for adoption or are euthanized. They may also bite more, and become defensive when handled because their paws are hurting and infected... I have received a few letters from some cat owners who claim that their cats never developed any problems after being de-clawed. But have received many more letters to the contrary, so why run the risk? Dr. Michael W. Fox
"...Declawing that results in biting or inappropriate elimination outside the litterbox may result in the cat being permanently locked in the basement, dumped at a shelter, or simply abandoned. Many cats are exiled to a life outdoors because of these unwanted behaviors. There, they also risk injury or death by dogs, cars, wild predators, disease, poison, and other hazards of outdoor life; even more so than clawed cats who retain their primary defenses. People who work with feral cat Trap-Neuter-Release programs often find declawed cats in their traps--cats that should never have been outside at all. These cats once had homes, but were abandoned in an alley or field--almost certainly due to behavior problems resulting from declaw surgery. The claim by veterinarians that "declawing keeps cats in their homes" clearly isn't true for these declawed cats that lost their homes and were abandoned to an uncertain fate. There is no way to know how many cats are dumped this way, but based on experiences in Denver, a typical urban environment, the number is likely in the many thousands. "Declawing: A Rational Look" Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM
...(declaw surgery)..."I've counseled too many cases when these cats becoming biters and/or develop litter box problems due to painful paws" Amy D. Shojai, IAABC Certified Animal Behavior Consultant
From an Ontario animal shelter: "Many vets and people have argued that if they did not offer declaw surgery people would either surrender their pets to shelters or have them euthanized for unwanted scratching behavior. I believe that if declawing was not an option, the people who were that concerned about their furniture and belongings would not get a cat to begin with. Through the years, we have seen many declawed cats surrendered to our shelter for behavior issues that can be related to being declawed. Over the past two years, 75% of the declawed cats that were surrendered to us had behavioral problems. In that same time frame, only 4% of clawed cats were surrendered to us for the same behavioral reasons. I think those statistics speak for themselves. Studies show that declawing is a very painful procedure that can lead to long term issues, both physical and emotional.” From the Cats Anonymous Rescue & Adoption, spring 2010 Newsletter. They are a no kill shelter in Orton, Ontario that re-homes about 100 cats every year.
"I have seen firsthand the problems associated with declawing. It was not unusual for the shelter to receive surrendered cats that began exhibiting aggressive behavior and refused to eliminate in the litter box after being declawed. Sadly, these cats were typically considered unadoptable and euthanized.” Janet Winikoff, former manager of the Animal Welfare League’s adoption program in Alexandria, Virginia.
Suite101: Studies Indicate Declawing Cats May Cause Behavior Problems
The following abstracts are from studies on declawing and tenectomy. Note the high complication rates for both procedures.
Vet Surgery 1994 Jul-Aug; 23 (4):274-80
Feline Onychectomy at a Teaching Institution A Retrospective Study of 163 Cases.
Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
Washington State University
College of Veterinary Medicine,
One hundred sixty-three cats underwent onychectomy. Fifty percent of the cats had one or more complications immediately after surgery. Early postoperative complications included:
Follow-up was available in 121 cats. 19.8% developed complications after release.
Late postoperative complications included:
prolonged, intermittent lameness
J Am Vet Med Assoc
1998 Aug 1; 213 (3):370-3
Comparison of Effects of Elective Tenectomy or Onychectomy in Cats.
Jankowski AJ, Brown DC, Duval J, Gregor TP, Strine LE, Ksiazek LM, Ott AH
Department of Clinical Studies
Veterinary Teaching Hospital
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia 19104, USA.
Objective: To compare short- and long-term complications after Tenectomy of the deep digital flexor tendons or onychectomy.
Animals: 20 cats undergoing Tenectomy and 18 cats undergoing onychectomy.
Procedure: Cats undergoing Tenectomy or onychectomy were monitored for a minimum of 5 months to enable comparison of type and frequency of complications. Type and frequency of complications did not differ between procedures.
Clinical Implications: Owners should be aware of the high complication rate for both procedures."
Prevent unwanted animals in overcrowded shelters.
Their only crime is being born.
Their punishment is execution.
Please spay and neuter your pets.