Pain Management For Declawed Cats

by Michael (PoC Admin)
(London, UK)

Photo/artwork copyright Stockxpert

Photo/artwork copyright Stockxpert

Pain management for declawed cats varies widely, which is disturbing because it is agreed by veterinarians that declawing cats caused a lot of pain. This page relates to the USA as this is were declawing takes place.

Declawing is painful. There is no such thing as a painless declaw1......It is critically important to ensure proper pain management post-op

Pain management in dogs and cats is an area where vast differences exist among veterinarians2

According to anecdotal evidence, many dogs and cats still receive little to no analgesia following surgery or trauma. Dr. Hellyer cited several surveys3.

In a survey of 2002, of 1000 vets in the USA, it was found that 44% did not administer pain relieving medication after surgery4. As at 2001 pain management at Colorado State University was not uniform. Canadian veterinarians surveyed indicated that:

Analgesics were not administered to..30 percent of cats undergoing surgery associated with tissue trauma and pain5

In about 1990 veterinarians were discussing whether animals actually hurt6! At that time, not long ago, there was still the lingering arrogance of humankind that presented a barrier to the commonsense belief that animals were like us - that we are animals. In 2001 onwards the discussion got around to how to manage pain. Don't you think that the veterinarians were a bit slow figuring it out? This informs us that there are still today many vets who do not administer proper pain killers after delawing. The most likely to under medicate are the older male vets. Younger female vets are more sympathetic to pain management and probably better informed.

What I am saying in this short post is that in addition to the fact that declawing is (a) unnecessary, (b) does not prevent reliquishment (declawed cat are also relinquished) and (c) is unethical and immoral, it also causes untold pain and the vets just aren't on top of this based on this research. The vagueness by the vets in dealing with post operative pain caused by this brutal procedure is rarely referred to and needs to be highlighted. It indicates negligence by the vets.

Bearing in mind the late awareness by veterinarians that cats can feel pain (extraordinary isn't it), it is my belief that veterinarians are still not fully aware of the kind of pain that they are causing when they declaw a cat. In fact they will probably never know for sure. There is a wide range of drugs used (when they are used) and some are less effective than others. Are some (a lot) ineffective? The type of pain that a declawed cat feels will probably include neurogenic pain. This is the pain felt from an amputated limb and I will suppose that that applies to a part of limb as is the case in declawing. Do vets fully understand this sort of pain? And if not aren't they negligent in performing a needless operation that probably causes it?
Animals are a valued part of society and are to be protected from needless suffering7

Declawing of cats is needless. If a vet says that it saves lives, please read the research: Cat Declawing Myths and Truths

All the arguments for declawing (all of which can be counter argued with ease) are essentially built around how the cat suffers no detriment. Yet I never see a pro-declaw person argue why it is ethically justifiable to cause massive pain to a companion animal without the animal's consent (which of course cannot be obtained) and for no reason other than the person's preference. On the basis that many hundreds of thousands of cats (an estimate by me on the figures mentioned above and the large number of declawed cats) feel pain after the operation because of improper use of pain killers or none used, it is impossible to counter the argument that the operation is highly unethical.

No consensus exists for what constitutes ethical treatment of animals with regard to pain, even among veterinarians, who are known to place a premium on relieving animal suffering. Studies have shown that sensitivity to animal welfare issues among veterinary students varies according to gender and background. Views may also vary according to nationality and religious beliefs8.

The above statement clearly indicates that there are bound to be many instances of cats suffering acute post operative pain for up to 429 days.

Sixty-one of 163 cats exhibited signs of pain for one to 42 days after declawing; however, the median duration of signs was two days10

Veterinarians would seem to hold a wide range of views and skills in regard to pain management11 making consistency impossible and the chances of a cat suffering post operative pain after a declaw is likely. The problem is that vets don't know how much pain the cat is feeling. It is all guesswork. On this factor alone should vets be declawing cats, forgetting all the other extremely cogent and important arguments against declawing?

I have found no research articles regarding pain management in animals dated about 2008 or 2009. Nearly all are around 2000. Does this mean that they are no longer bothered? Actually come think of it, most of them were never that bothered in the first place.

Michael Avatar

Pain Management for Declawed Cats to Declawing Cats

Pain management for declawed cats - Note: I have quoted pretty extensively. I argue fair use as it is vital to quote the exact text for feel and accuracy and this site is for charitable/educational purposes and the quotes come from research papers.





4 Wagner and Hellyer JAVMA Dec 1 2002



7 Dr Hellyer -- Silent suffering AVMA Animal Welfare Forum addresses pain management in animals 2001

8 a/dec01/s121501h.asp

9 Tobias KS. Feline onychectomy at a teaching institution: a retrospective study of 163 cases. Vet Surg 1994; 23: 274-280.


11 Myths and Misconceptions in Small Animal Anesthesia.

Comments for
Pain management for declawed cats

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Jan 29, 2010 How I agree
by: Ruth

Anonymous I totally agree with you but I'd go a step further and amputate their last finger and toe joints just as they do to cats and then make them walk immediately on their mutilated feet and use their mutilated hands.
They would never abuse a cat again !

Jan 28, 2010 Vets Who Hate Cats
by: Anonymous

Just one thing to say about such so-called animal doctors,


Jan 14, 2010 Flying finger Babz
by: Barbara

Gail, I can't remember specifically if I got onto that forum but it's my usual practice to try and get a comment on when I see such tommy-rot and cruelty, I have a folder in my email account of all the dosnes of forums, newspapers, sites and groups I've joined just to be able to have my say but of course as we know a lot are moderated and our comments never see light of day. It does help though to pound out a vitriolic reply, even if it doesn't get printed it relieves a bit of the anger and frustration we feel when we read such things doesn't it?

Barbara avatar

Jan 13, 2010 Barbara & Susan re: Pain Meds for Declaw
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Barbara - did you have the opportunity to respond to those mislead individuals on the blog with the plethora of knowledge we all know about declawing, pain meds (or lack thereof) and set them straight? (I can visualize your fingers flying across the keyboard now...)

Susan - Don't kid yourself, neither east nor west coast vets are as enlightened as they purport. Our home is 15 miles south of Boston and I still changed vets! The original vet wanted me to have surgery performed on my 15 YEAR OLD Sadie, who has hyperthyroidism, without guarantee she'd even survive the procedure! When I refused, they made me feel like I was negligent because I opted for daily meds instead. (I will not reveal my response to that vet, as this is a family-oriented can pretty much guess my reaction, though.)

Jan 13, 2010 Thanks
by: Michael

Thanks very much for the comments. As you can see I am being meticulous with my references to avoid what the vets do, which is to quote so called "facts" that support declawing when in fact they are misrepresentations.

Michael Avatar

Jan 13, 2010 Midwest Declaw Hell
by: Susan

Gail - I am in the Midwest. We are not as enlightened as the East and West coasts when it comes to animal welfare issues, in fact, de-knuckling is considered routine cat care here, the majoity of cats de-knuckled, vets proudly estimate they butcher 65-95% of their feline clients. Some of their advertising not only doesn't include the cost of pain meds, but clearly states "pain meds are optional". It's criminal!

Jan 13, 2010 Pain management is optional
by: Barbara

I wrote a blog on this subject a while back after I had seen on a website someone who was getting a "kitty" for their baby ( and we all have our opinions about THAT I'm quite sure)asking for advice about declawing the "kitty" and I quoted some replies,this was one of them "They are NOT allowed to jump at all! And they are supposed to have special litter for a week or two. They have it at the vet. They usually wont give pain meds because if the pain med takes away the pain then the cat will jump and not know better and bust the tips open and they will get infected- I have experienced this firsthand with a cat before. It is best not to give them the pain med even if the vet does offer it."
Here is another "the vet should give you litter made from newspaper. when cats are first declawed they cant use the regular cuz their paws can get infected. The cat I had went crazy for the first couple days after because of the pain. You also have to make sure that he doesnt lick his paws. Good Luck. Hope all goes well."
And here is the reply from the original poster "Thank you. I already purchased the special litter. I'll keep that in mind about the pain meds because when I called to check on him earlier the vet mentioned something about it. They didn't mention the no jumping thing, I'm happy I asked now. Lol" (NOTE THE LOL? How flippant and uncaring can you get?)

You see the ignorance that is floating around the Internet? People passing on dangerous advice to others and causing an unknown number of cats untold pain!

Barbara avatar

Jan 13, 2010 Yes vets who declaw must hate cats
by: Ruth

Just recently someone was boasting on a blog about the wonderful way her vet made sure her declawed cat didn't burst his wounds open when he went home after the operation. He was given NO pain medication so that he had to walk very gingerly and couldn't jump because it was so painful on his newly mutilated feet !
These butchers masquerading as vets who do this certainly forget their oath to harm no animal. Surely that covers not letting an animal suffer pain after a cruel totally unnecessary operation!
Unfortunately I don't have the link to this as after a few doses of 'troops home truths medicine' the page disappeared !
But this is probably happening a lot,some corrupt greedy vets are charging extra for pain medication and some don't think cats deserve any at all and it's disgusting !
Declawing MUST be banned !!
Please anyone who hasn't signed our petition above, do so and pass it on.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

I agree with Susan, vets must hate cats and so must the AVMA who condone this daily abuse of them.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jan 13, 2010 To Susan - Pain Meds
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Susan, what part of the country do you live?

That story about the vets in your area performing declaw surgery without pain meds just about blew my head off! That is the disgusting way of American vets without conscience. It makes good vets, those who refuse to do the surgery, look bad. Grrrrr.....

Jan 13, 2010 Vets hate cats
by: Susan

When the vets around here advertise their de-knuckling prices, they do it WITHOUT the cost of pain meds included, so if the human doesn't have the extra cash, kitty gets nothing to ease the suffering of having the ends of her hands & feet blasted off. Only a human who hates animals could inflict this kind of misery on them. It's so completely obvious that cats have lingering pain from these amputations - how many times have we heard just from the contributors on this (fabulous) website that their de-clawed cats (who were found abandoned or in shelters) hate to have their paws touched, are cantankerous or "bitchy", or can't manipulate their paws in a litterbox - that's due to pain (chronic, intermittent, or phantom). Because of their stoic nature though, hiding their pain & injuries, their silence is misunderstood by vets & cat owners alike as being "fine" - - how can any animal that is forced to walk unnaturally without their last finger digits be "fine"? Veterinarian Nicholas Dodman said that de-knuckling is so painful it is used to test pain meds, yet a high percentage of vets give NO meds - - these vets (and all vets that de-knuckle) hate cats.


Pain Management For Declawed Cats — 2 Comments

  1. are all of you guys retarded I just had my kitten declawed [whom I love very much]and I can tell she is in great pain but it was either that or get rid of her cause I am going to have a new born baby in june and 40 days of pain seems like a small price to pay for a lifetime of love not to talk about food and housing.i to have sufferd in my life I got 3rd degree burns on 82 percent of my body and I didn’t get anything for that oh yeah did I forget I just broke my back about a mth ago and I got sent home with NO pain med either I guess what im trying to say here is id rather have my pinky toes and all my toenails ripped out and just sent HOME rather then just get threw out in the cold or sit in a cage at the pound waiting to die think about both sides before you judge me for having her declawed im not trying to offend anybody here and I can tell it sucks right now for her but beleave me in 40 short days shell be just as happy as she ever was

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