The Hervey Foundation for Cats

Don’t Declaw Your Cat – Trim Their Nails Instead!

One of the things cats are better known for is scratching. This natural behavior accomplishes a number of things, but the most noticeable is the destruction of furniture, such as table legs, mattresses, and everyone’s favorite, the couch.

Cats seem to love scratching couches, and there is good reason for it. Scratching allows them to naturally remove layers of dead nails from their claws. Without a vet, groomer, or owner regularly trimming their nails, they grow and naturally shed with scratching. Additionally, they do this to mark territory and stretch their back muscles.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is the act of removing the tip of their toes, in many cases, up to the first joint. Imagine having your fingers and toes amputated up their first joint. For a cat (an animal that walks on its toes), the act of declawing permanently alters the way they walk. This often results in arthritis and prevents them from stretching their back muscles – which if you live with a cat, you know how often they stretch their backs.

Put simply, declawing is a mutilation of a cat in the name of its owner’s convenience. Most people cite not wanting to be scratched or protecting furniture as the reason they have their cats declawed, but the truth of the matter is there is an alternative and all it takes is a little compassion, time, and in some cases, a quick trip to the vet or groomer.

Don’t Remove – Trim Instead!

Trimming a cat’s nails is different from trimming your own. Our nails grow in one direction (forward), so we trim the tips in a mostly straight line. Cat nails are curved and in that shape of a claw, with the tip of their toe growing into the centre of it.

We recommend getting a set of cat nail clippers as they are designed to work with the unique shape of cat nails. They are designed to slip over the edge of the claw and gently remove the tip. Don’t clip further down then the tip as you risk snipping their toe.

Ideally, most cats will have their claws trimmed from a young age to get them accustomed to the process. That isn’t to say you can’t teach your older cat to go along with it, but for many it will be scary. Be sure to provide positive reinforcement by way of giving lots of treats before, during, and after the process (at least in the beginning). The more regularly you do this, the more accepting they will be of it. Also try to approach them when they are relaxed as you won’t likely be able to trim their nails when tensions are high.

If your cat refuses to let you trim their nails, but you are determined to have them trimmed, take them to the vet or a groomer. A vet or groomer may be able to help calm them down, and some even use sedation. Ideally, your cat won’t be sedated regularly as that is not good for their health and is quite expensive to boot.

Make Sure You Have Scratching Posts and Other Spots Available

Don’t forget, if you put out enough tempting scratching spots (posts, pieces of carpet, wood blocks, etc.), they may just be motivated to scratch those instead of you or your furniture. Cats need to have some ownership over their lives and by providing them with possessions of their own, such as scratching posts, beds, cat castles and more, they will in turn be less stressed and have more places to focus their energy. Sounds like a good combination, does it not? In final, a cat does not need to have their nails trimmed, as they will naturally grow and shed them through scratching, but scratching is integral to this process. Please don’t declaw them. If you don’t want them to scratch you or your furniture, experiment with scratching posts and trimming their nails. It is the most humane way of dealing with the issue and doesn’t harm them. Before trimming your cat’s nails, please go online or talk to your vet about how to do it safely.