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Dear Molly, "Declawed Cat"

My husband and I are looking to adopt a cat soon but we are newly weds and haven't owned a pet outside of our childhood homes. We both have a little experience with cats but my main question is: You mentioned how declawed cats are more prone to use the restroom outside the litter box. If the cat we adopt is declawed is there a way to prevent this?

Dear Newly Weds,

When a cat is declawed there is about an 80% chance of bone spurs, which lead to residual and continual pain in their feet. There feet become particularly sensitive to sharp/uncomfortable material. So many declawed cats experience pain by stepping on the hard litter or digging in the litter. They then associate the pain in the feet with going in the litter box, and will often choose to go in other, softer, less painful areas. There is no way to guarantee prevention of this if the cat is indeed feeling pain. There are surgeries to remove the bone spurs, which are expensive. Sometimes cats respond to piddle pads (instead of litter) in litter boxes (which you’ll need to replace multiple times a day – expensive and hard on the landfill.

I guess I’d have to ask why you’d want a declawed cat? Are you worried about it scratching you or your family members or your furniture? Cats must scratch; it is not optional for them. In doing so, they get a back stretch, which is important for maintaining good posture. They are also “trimming” the ends of their nails by removing dead sheaths. They are also performing a territorial ritual by leaving scent (they have scent glands between their toes), and visual markers behind. If you provide a cat with a tall cat tree that is the full height of the cat, covered in material it likes to scratch, and placed in an important area for them, then they generally will use the scratchers and not your furniture. There is a podcast for scratching on Cat Talk Radio here:

If you’re worried about a cat scratching you, it probably won’t. Be sure to spend time with any pet before you adopt it. And if it does develop human aggression behaviors, there are many ways to modify that behavior as well.


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