Many cat owners have their indoor cats declawed as a way to protect the furniture, or themselves, from possible scratching. While it may not seem like a big deal, declawing is a serious and painful surgery, which can lead to infection, behavior problems, and personality changes.

According to The Paw Project, an advocacy group that works to educate the public about the dangers of declawing and to rehabilitate cats that have been declawed, “declawing is illegal or considered inhumane in many countries throughout the world, including over 12 European nations, Australia and Brazil.” The city of Denver has already banned declawing and California, New York, and New Jersey are considering laws to do the same. Many veterinarians now refuse to perform declaw surgery.

Bone fragments in George's paws
George had some of the worst damage the vet had ever seen, with multiple bone fragments in each paw.

Declawing, or onychectomy, is more than just a nail trim…it’s a major surgery that amputates the last bone of a cat’s toes and severs the tendon. In a person, it would be similar to cutting off a finger at the last knuckle. Not only is the surgery itself painful, the result changes the way a cat’s paw meets the ground, causing pain whenever she takes a step. Bone fragments are often left behind, which feel like walking with sharp pebbles in your shoe. Sometimes, part of the nail bed is left and a new nail will grow inside of the paw pad.

This pain, which can become worse over time, often causes changes in a cat’s behavior. Cats that are in constant pain are less likely to want to be handled and can become aggressive as a result. Some cats will stop using the litter box because the litter is painful to their paws. Aggression and litter box problems are two of the main reasons cats are surrendered to shelters.

Fortunately, some veterinarians are now performing declaw repair surgery. A declawed cat’s paws are x-rayed and if bone fragments or claw regrowth is present, surgery can be performed to remove them. This should greatly lessen the pain that the cat is experiencing, although some cats may still need to be on pain medication for the rest of their life.

Captain had a nail regrowing inside of his paw.

The Brown County Humane Society now has every declawed cat’s paws x-rayed and has had repair surgery done on close to a dozen cats in the last two years. For those cats that displayed some aggression, the difference in their behavior after surgery was noticeable. Cats that have initially been difficult to adopt have gone on to be loving companions.

To learn more about the inhumane practice of declawing and how you can become an advocate, visit The Paw Project’s website at  You can also stream their movie The Paw Project on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube.