Declawing cats is an emotive subject amongst owners. The procedure is sometimes performed for medical reasons but more often it’s carried out to stop cats scratching things such as furniture. Many people are unaware of exactly what the procedure involves and have no idea of the longterm effect it has on a cat’s life.
Can you declaw a Maine Coon cat? If you have a Maine Coon declawed, you subject it to major, painful surgery. During the procedure, known as onychectomy, the whole of the first joint of each toe is amputated. As cats are digitigrades, which means they walk on their toes, they have to learn to walk over again and often suffer crippling pain for life.
Though a Maine Coon can be declawed, many countries have banned and are in the process of banning the procedure because it is considered inhumane. Therefore it isn’t something you should consider doing to your cat. There are many alternatives and these are covered further down.
The diagram above shows the effect of declawing a Maine Coon. It depicts the bones in a cat’s paws. Top left shows how bones P1 and P2 are positioned when a cat stands or walks, with its claws retracted.
The bottom left picture shows a cat’s claws extended as they are when it stretches or claws at something.
The declawing procedure involves amputating bone P1 from each toe. This leaves bone P2 suddenly bearing all of the weight as depicted in the top right drawing.
Eventually, P2 is pulled by tendons into the unnatural position as shown bottom right.
The Declawing Procedure
Declawing a Maine Coon is not a simple procedure that can be likened to a manicure. It is a severe operation requiring a general
The declawing procedure is equivalent to removing the first bone of each of a human’s fingers as per the following diagram:
So as you can see, declawing a cat is not just like a simple manicure.
How Declawing Affects A Cat
A cat will be in a great deal of pain after the operation and will require painkillers for quite some time. Its paws will be bandaged to keep the wounds clean. The risk of infection is high and its owner will have to check and clean each wound every day as it heals.
A cat is likely to be traumatized and confused by the sudden absence of a very important part of its anatomy.
For Ever After
Many cats continue to feel pain in their paws forever after being declawed. Their whole personalities can change for the worse. As well as being physically affected, they can be psychologically damaged too.
Owners have reported that declawed cats resort to biting – something they had never done before the operation. This is often a result of pain and frustration but also because they no longer have their claws to issue warnings with.
A declawed cat can never safely leave the house because, without its claws, it has no means to defend itself. If a cat was previously allowed out, this can have an extremely negative effect on its temperament.
A declawed cat can no longer flex its muscles and tendons in the way it did by clawing at things. This is fundamental cat behavior and being unable to do this takes away one of its natural activities and affects its health and wellbeing.
A cat with claws intact walks on the tips of its toes. It will find walking excruciatingly painful after being declawed and it has to relearn to walk on bones not intended for weight-bearing.
Once declawed, many cats suffer every day for the rest of their lives. As cats disguise pain well, owners are often unaware of this but they do notice their cat is never quite the same friendly, sociable animal it was before the operation.
Once declawed, a cat can never relieve an itch on its own skin. Try to imagine how this might feel!
Many declawed cats can’t stand the feel of cat litter and begin to go to the toilet in other places such as on carpets and soft furnishings which aren’t as irritating to their paws.
Because movement, in general, is forever painful after declawing, lethargy sets in. A declawed Maine Coon often becomes depressed, gains weight, and then develops associated health issues such as diabetes, joint problems, and heart conditions.
As a result of the change in temperament and the toileting
Cats with declawing-related problems are much more difficult to re-home and are often euthanized. This is a tragic and avoidable situation.
Arguments Used To Justify Declawing
People attempt to justify declawing a cat for a variety of reasons which include:
- My cat is destroying the furniture, carpets, and curtains.
- I don’t have time to train my cat not to scratch the soft furnishings.
- I can’t risk the cat scratching my children/my baby.
- There is a person in the house who has a blood clotting issue and must not be scratched.
- There is a person on the house with a compromised immune system who can’t risk being scratched.
- It’s either declawing or the cat must go to a shelter.
When Is Declawing Acceptable?
Declawing is only acceptable if it is to benefit the cat for medical reasons such as the removal of a tumor, to eliminate a severe nail-bed infection that could spread and to remove irreversibly damaged claws or claws that can no longer be retracted and are causing issues for the cat.
Best Alternatives to Declawing Maine Coons
Here’s what you can do instead of declawing:
Train Your Cat
Yes, it takes a lot of time and patience but this is part and parcel of owning and caring for a cat properly. If you don’t think you will be able to train a cat not to scratch your belongings and you are likely to be upset about scratched belongings then you probably shouldn’t get a cat in the first place.
Training works best if you begin it on day one. Install plenty of scratching posts with a variety of textures. If your cat scratches where it shouldn’t distract it away from the area with a toy and head towards a scratching post.
Cover things you don’t want to be scratched with thick blankets, plastic, or double-sided sticky tape. Never raise your voice and never punish your cat.
Make Sure Your Cat Has An Enriched Environment And Enough Attention
Excessive scratching can be caused by boredom. If your cat is left alone indoors for long spells it can get really fed up.
If you don’t give it enough attention it may scratch your furniture because it has learned that you then take notice. So make sure you give your cat a variety of toys to amuse it and change them regularly, and also that you play with it every day for at least 15 minutes.
Remove Stress Factors
Stress can lead to unwanted scratching so make sure you remove any stress factors from your cat’s life. These can include environmental changes such as a house move, a new family pet, loneliness, and boredom.
Trim Your Cats Claws
Trimming the sharp tip of your cat’s claws helps to limit the damage they can cause. A vet can show you how to do this and then you can do it at home as necessary. Here is a very good pair of cat nail clippers to help you accomplish this. See the earlier photograph of where to trim.
If you have genuinely tried everything and your cat is still intent on shredding your furniture then speak to your vet about nail caps. These are glued onto a cat’s claws and last for about 4 weeks before coming off.
They are blunt, soft plastic caps that stop your cat damaging things with its claws but they also mean it can’t protect itself and so it shouldn’t go outside in them. It will also not be able to grip anything to stretch its muscles and tendons. And of course, it may hate the feel of them and behave erratically.
Some people seem to be applying these to their cats as a fashion accessory. This is really not their intended purpose and should be avoided.
Is there a humane way to declaw a Maine Coon cat?
There is no humane way to declaw a Maine Coon. Some vets will perform the operation but many will try to deter you from having a cat declawed.
You should visit a shelter and ask to see any cats who are there because they have had their claws removed – this will hopefully make you change your mind. Persevere with the methods above as alternatives.
Where Is Declawing Banned?
In many countries, declawing cats for non-medical reasons is now banned. These include parts of Canada, England, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Wales.
Recently New York became the first US state to ban the practice where their Governor referred to the procedure as “archaic,” “inhumane,” and “unnecessary.” Hopefully, more US states will follow suit. It’s also banned in several cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver.
Many breeders now stipulate that the Maine Coons they sell must not be declawed.
I hope you agree that declawing a cat should not be used as a convenient method to protect furniture from clawing.
Declawing is a painful procedure with no positive benefits for cats. Most of the time it changes a cat’s temperament and behavior for the worst and is becoming a bigger cause of cats being given to shelters than those given up for destroying furniture.
So, be fair to your cat. Accept it will scratch furniture from time to time, persist with training it not to and, please, let it keep its claws!