Cats Are Digitigrades! Stop Declawing Digitigrades!

by Susan
(Ohio, USA)

Mushu's front declawed paw pads are hard, dark, irritated, and misshaped.

"A digitigrade is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes...".

Have you noticed that many pro-declawers and veterinarians use the argument that cats walk on their paw pads so they don't need the last digit of their fingers and toes for walking? Not true! Cats are digitigrades whom walk on their "tippy-toes" like ballet dancers.

Imagine walking on the ends of your hands and feet all of your life without the last digits!

You can clearly see in the above photo of Mushu, the declawed shelter cat I live with, how the paw pads in his front declawed paws have broken down after years of being forced to walk on fingers robbed of their last digit. The paw pads in his hind clawed toes are plump, pink, and healthy - the way they should be! The pads in his front declawed paws are dark, hard, irritated, and misshaped.

Pads are for cushioning, not walking! It's not hard to imagine what the physical impact this unnatural walking has on the entire cats skeletal system & balance over the course of a cats life.

These definitions of digitigrade and digitigrade locomotion explain it better than I can!

From wikipedia:

"A digitigrade is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds (what many assume to be bird knees are actually ankles), cats, dogs, and most other mammals, but not humans, bears, and a few others (cf. plantigrade, unguligrade). They are generally quicker and move more quietly than other mammals".


"Digitigrade locomotion:

Digitigrade locomotion is the sort of walking cats, dogs, and most other mammals engage in, excepting humans, bears, and a few others. While humans usually walk with the soles of their feet on the ground (plantigrade locomotion), digitigrade animals walk on the tips of their toes, or, in more precise terms, their distal phalanges and middle phalanges. Digitigrade locomotion is responsible for the distictive hook shape of dog legs, for there are anatomical differences between a plantigrade and digitigrade limb. Digitigrade animals have relatively long carpals and tarsals, and the bones which would correspond to the human ankle are thus set much higher in the limb than in a human. This effectively lengthens the foot, so much so that a digitigrade animal's "hands" and "feet" are often thought to correspond only to what would be the bones of the human toe or finger. Because so little surface area needs to get off the ground, and also because of the added length of the foot, digitigrade locomotion tends to be swift.
Some furries claim that walking on tip-toe, the human version of digitigrade locomotion, feels more natural to them than resting their whole foot on the ground."


"Unlike most mammals who walk on the soles of the paws or feet, cats are digitigrade, which means they walk on their toes. Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat's weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs."


Note: the bottom two quotes are repeated verbatim for accuracy. The site owner argues fair use as this is an educational site and an accurate definition is important. The top quote is also verbatim and it is licensed.

Update 5th Jan 2010: Here are some more photos. The first two show the misshapen front paw pads of a declawed cat and the third one down shows the healthy rear paw pads of a paw with claws:

Hard damaged paw pads - photo: Susan Woodhouse

Hard damaged paw pads - photo: Susan Woodhouse

Healthy paw pads of hind feet that were not declawed
- photo: Susan Woodhouse

Cats Are Digitigrades! Stop Declawing Digitigrades! to Declawing Cats

Comments for
Cats Are Digitigrades! Stop Declawing Digitigrades!

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Dec 31, 2009 Digitigrades
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Thanks Susan, for the information on digitigrades and the photo of Mushu's paws. The picture tells it all - poor thing. I suppose a human equivalent to declawing (or rather de-toeing) would be removing half of our feet and walking on the heels only. Who would ask for that?

Dec 30, 2009 To Susan
by: Ruth

Thank you Susan for this very informative article.Hopefully it will convince some people who wouldn't otherwise be convinced, of the stark reality that declawing is cruel and that cats paws are mutilated for life.
I don't think many people know how hard you work at your own expense, to educate people about the truth of declawing and how much you are doing towards getting it banned !

Dec 29, 2009 Informative and needed
by: Jan Plant

Thank you so much for this article.It's articles like these that give our cause some claws!I realize a few people who visit here believe us to be a bunch of ranters and uneducated,yet with great articles like this how could anyone be uninformed? Thank you Susan!

Dec 29, 2009 Response to Susan
by: Helmi Flick

Excellent information, Susan! Thank you so much. Now I understand, anatomically. Your post gives a lot more weight, in my opinion, to why no cat should ever be declawed unless there is a medical reason for the cat (badly infected or damaged claw, for example).

I trim my cats' nails every month to six weeks. They are used to it and really don't mind it as long as I clip their nails quickly and don't make a big fuss about it. Two of the four actually like it for the focused attention they get from my husband, Ken, and me! It's hard to get them off Ken's lap when I'm finished!

But this article is why POC is such a valuable site. Thank you again, Susan and Michael.

Dec 29, 2009 Useful
by: Michael

Thank you for a very useful article, Susan. We (or at least, I) need reminding.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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