Declawing (Onychectomy)

As an AAHA-accredited hospital, we follow the declawing position of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Scratching is Normal Feline Behavior

When people think about having their cat declawed, it’s usually because they don’t want to risk having their furniture damaged. Sometimes it’s due to safety concerns for other people or pets in the household. Scratching behavior serves several important purposes for cats:

  • It helps condition their claws by removing old nail/keratin.
  • They use it for scent mark objects with the glands on their paws.
  • It helps them stretch and exercise their forelegs.
  • They enjoy how it feels!

As a cat owner, you can help promote appropriate scratching behavior by considering these recommendations:

  • Provide suitable implements for normal scratching behavior. Examples include scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching, and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching.
  • Place appropriate scratching objects near scratched furniture and make them more attractive than the furniture. Additionally, place scratching objects near resting areas so the cat can stretch and scratch after resting.
  • Train cats through positive reinforcement (e.g., treats, use of catnip, verbal praise, etc.) to use the above implements.
  • Trim cats’ nails every one to two weeks.
  • Consider artificial nail caps, such as SoftPaws.
  • Avoid harm to themselves or cats by avoiding engaging in rough play.

Making an Informed Decision

People considering having their cat declawed should be informed that:

  • Declawing is not just removal of the claw; it is a major surgery involving amputation.
  • Declawing is rarely a medically necessary procedure. There are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure, including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, side effects associated with analgesics, hemorrhage, infection and pain.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, October 2003. Revised October 2009. Last revised August 2015.