By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 7 April 2011)
Although many people claim that declawing saves cats from being relinquished to shelters, evidence suggests the opposite.
Declawing surgery, which involves amputation of the claws and a portion of the bone in which they are embedded, along with connecting tendons and nerves, is often marketed as a way of saving cats by reducing destructive scratching. However, studies and anecdotal evidence from animal shelter workers indicate that declawing increases the likelihood that cats will develop severe behavioural problems such as house soiling and biting, and be surrendered to shelters as a result.
Declawing Cats Doubles the Likelihood That They will be Abandoned to Shelters
A study conducted by Patronek et al. (1996) found that declawed cats are almost twice as likely to be surrendered to shelters than intact cats, and evidence from shelters suggests an even higher rate. A Forgotten Felines and Friends of Caddo Parish survey (Louisiana) found that of cats relinquished to shelters due to behaviour problems, 70% were declawed (compared to about 25% in the general owned cat population). A survey conducted by a Delaware animal shelter found an even higher rate of 75% (The Paw Project).
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy, top reasons for surrendering pets to shelters include house soiling and aggression; destructive scratching, the trait for which so many cats are condemned to declaw surgery, did not even make the Top 10 list. A Ralston Purina survey found that the main reasons for relinquishment of cats were soiling around the house (33%), followed by biting people (14%), and numerous studies have found that urinating and defecating outside the litter box and biting are the two behaviour problems most likely to be triggered by declawing.
Declawed Cats at Shelters Have Poor Adoption Prospects
William Lombardi, animal control officer (Gloucester County, New Jersey), notes that “80% of the declawed cats that are surrendered are euthanized because they have a behavioral problem. That totaled 300 cats at the shelter last year … declawed cats have a greater chance of having a behavioral problem than (non-declawed) cats. When a cat is brought into the shelter because it is biting or (not using the litter box), the first thing we ask is, ‘Is it declawed?'”
The Cocheco Valley (New Hampshire) Humane Society has also reported a disproportionate number of relinquished cats with behavioral problems having been declawed, and is another of the many animal shelters in the U.S, to adopt a no-declaw policy (The Paw Project).
Oshkosh Area Humane Society’s Pat Rock concurs, noting that: “Almost all of our hotline calls are declawed cats with litter box issues.”
If you would like to learn more about the problems associated with declawing, sites and pages produced by veterinarians include: