Declawing To Protect Children

by Zachariah Atteberry
(Hannibal, Missouri)

cat claws

To Declaw or to Not Declaw

One particular hot topic question that stirs a lot of discussion is declawing. Many adults find declawing acceptable. They declaw their family cat in order to protect their furniture and their children from being scratched.

If so many people find it acceptable, am I telling you that you should declaw the family cat? No. Declawing should not even be considered if the safety of your children or furniture is an issue.

The cat should be considered as much a family member as anyone else in the family. This implies that the cat should not be treated like a toy that can be thrown around and tortured. Everyone should respect cats for what they are; claws and all. It is also advised that everyone is educated in handling a cat properly. For that reason, it is important too, for you to understand the severity of declawing and how declawing can endanger your child’s health, your cat’s welfare and your belongings.

I believe you when you say that your cat has claws like porcupine quills. But look at your feline’s mouth and you will soon realize that his teeth are also razor sharp. Without claws to warn children that they are being mishandled or are annoyed, they will resort to biting as their natural first instinct. If that happens, your child will surely receive more severe injuries than claws could possibly inflict. Scientific studies have also found that bites are more infectious than scratches.

Almost every well socialized cat that I have came in contact over the years was very good about using a very light warning scratch before resorting to full fledged claws. But your cat will not use the warning system if they do not have claws. It is also important that you supervise most if not all interaction sessions if your child is under the age of six years old.

Safety Is Not The Only Reason

Child safety aside, declawing is notoriously regarded as a mutilation. Declawing, anatomically speaking, is the removal of the first digit of every toe. The pain of declawing is constantly contrasted to the phantom pain that an amputee feels after a limb has been amputated. Unlike mammals that can walk on the soles of their paws, cats are digitigrade and require complete paws to walk properly. Without claws and without that extra warning system, cats can develop a variety of behavior problems. Some behavior problems can include:

  • Aggressive biting and play
  • Urinating outside the box
  • Painful Foot Infections
  • Self-confidence loss
  • Fear of other cats and humans

If you want your children to learn the ideals of being a successful adult, I suggest that you begin by educating your child on how to handle animals respectfully. If handled correctly, an animal should almost never react with hostility. If you do not know the proper method for holding an animal, ask your veterinarian for an example – he should be happy to assist you with a demonstration.
Next, you may wish to teach handling and socialization skills. And don’t only teach your children, teach other people how to handle pets as well. The most important rule is to say “No” when the cat bites or scratches, and leave the cat alone for a while, it tells him that it is not acceptable behavior.

Behavior Modification

I realize that declawing might also be considered as a possibility due to furniture and upholstery damage. There are very simple and effective solutions to furniture scratching that you can learn in minutes. A few of the many useful items to help you steer your cat’s behavior are as follows:

  • A study 30 by 30 scratching post made of sisal rope
  • A variety of cat treats that your cats enjoy
  • A bag of catnip for enticing your cat to use the post
  • A favorite toy to help the cat familiarize himself with the post
  • Double sided sticky tape
  • Nail Trimmers

What you want to do is place the tape on locations you do not want him to scratch. Then you place the post near his most preferred sleeping spot, or his common eating location. Cats want an easy to access location to scratch at after a long sleep or after they have had their dinner. The cat might not take to the post right away.

There are a an abundance of easy techniques that you can use to entice the cat to the scratching post. You can help guide him by scratching the post yourself as a demonstration, sprinkling a little cat nip to entice him, or by playing with him around the post. Nail trimming is also important in cat care. By keeping your cat’s claws dull, his claws won’t be nearly as sharp and pain inflicting.

There are countless other resources online that you may use that can provide helpful tips for this type of training. If you are still having problems, it is advised that you consult a behavioral book such as this one – Twisted Whiskers (click on image to go to Amazon):

Or you can search the internet for additional help and modification methods.


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Declawing To Protect Children

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Jul 12, 2011 Cruel for precious furniture
by: Kath

What a load of rubbish anonymous writes and then at the end we see the real reason he or she has their cats mutilated…the precious furniture!
Any person who thinks that putting a cat through a painful and shocking and unnecessary operation is OK needs to book themselves in for their own finger ends removed.
Yes anonymous,I mean you,see how you would cope!
Laser declawing is no better than any other method,it cripples cats for life.
Take a long hard look at why you have cats as pets because you don’t like cats,you only like adapted cats.
You have deprived every cat you have had declawed of a home with a person who knows cats NEED claws and who would NEVER EVER pay a vet to perform the cruellest surgery ever on any cat.

Jul 12, 2011 Declawing is for last resort not for convenience !
by: Ruth

You don’t need to be a doctor or a cat to know that the amputation of ten very essential toe ends is cruel, you only need to be a humane person and I’m afraid you are NOT.
Why did you have your cats declawed ? Surely they didn’t all have serious scratching problems ? Which is the only reason declawing is supposed to be done. It’s supposed to be a last resort !
You obviously don’t know that cats are born with claws because they need them, to walk, to groom and to exercise, as well as for self defence.
Declawed cats are disabled cats, deliberately disabled on behalf of people like you who have it done for your own convenience instead of providing your cats with the scratching posts they need for a fulfilled and healthy life. You also obviously don’t know that cats hide their pain, that they have no choice but to adjust to living without their toe ends. You may think your cats have no problems, you are very lucky that they haven’t avoided their litter box or turned to biting but there is plenty of proof that this often happens, just do some research ! I hope your cats are lucky too in that they don’t develop the painful arthritis many declawed cats do as they age.
Declawing is cruel, it is banned in many countries as animal abuse and hopefully soon will be worldwide.
Vet nurse

Jul 12, 2011 agree or disagree… THAT is the question.
by: Anonymous

Yes this article is very well written, but the author is not a doctor nor a cat, so all his data is based on nothing more than his opinion… I also have an opinion and mine is that I have declawed every cat I have ever had, and I can say if done with the more humane laser method, all of my cats have been perfectly fine as soon as the next day jumping and playing like nothing ever happened. I’ve never once experienced any behavioral changes in my cats nor would I agree that a cat will naturally resort to biting. The cat will still swat or smack before resorting to biting. If your cat is biting, then it was biting BEFORE being declawed. I will say however that I have always ever declawed only the front claws in the rare chance that it ever were to get outside, it would stand a fighting chance because it would be able to use is hind legs to defend, or fight off another cat. I hate how people make this a issue or morality and animal rights, the fact is if you keep your cat indoors PERIOD that is just as inhumane as declawing, because you are taking away the natural instinct to hunt and kill basically taking away what makes a cat a cat. Do what needs to be done for YOUR family and your cat. Don’t let other people make you feel bad for doing what you feel is best for your family or situation, because at the end of the day you will be buying new furniture and paying the ER visit not the people trying to make you feel guilty.

Jun 01, 2011 Brilliant!
by: Leah (England)

What an amazing article!

I was just about to comment hackles up etc as I thought your article was about to state that declawing was ok to protect children! I was about to comment all guns blazing etc and tell you what crap you were talking! But once I started reading I thought wow! Very well written and very educational too!

A brilliant piece of work, hope the word continues to get out there!

May 31, 2011 Education is Key
by: Gail (Boston, USA)

Hi Zach, I concur on your article being very informative and to the point without being preachy. Education is also a key component for future generations.

Whilst assisting adoptions this past weekend at the shelter, 3 ladies came in to view cats. When the youngest asked whether or not we had declawed cats, it opened up a dialogue. Once I explained what it meant to have declaw surgery, giving them the PoC website address for more info and viewing the surgery, they were mortified. They were sincere in believing that declaw surgery was no different than taking off a human finger nail. Once they understood, they were adamant that they would never ever declaw and promised to spread the word to their friends. Mission accomplished.

May 30, 2011 Very good article
by: Barbara

Brilliant Zach, very informative and nicely put, I’m so glad that the next generation of Americans have a conscience and know right from wrong. I think you and your contemporaries will put an end to declawing Zach and what a triumph that will be.

May 30, 2011 No, declawing does not protect children
by: Ruth

A brilliant article Zach and it’s very true that declawing the family cat does not protect the children, that in fact it does just the opposite.
Here in the UK where our vets would never declaw cats even when it was legal, our children grow up learning to love and respect cats knowing they are not toys but living feeling creatures.
A warning scratch from the cat to a child or dog pestering him isn’t dangerous and teaches them that the cat has as much right to a peaceful life as any other member of the family.
As for furniture, if a cat has his own furniture in the form of scratching posts and pads, he has no need to use the couch or chair.
Anyone who doesn’t realse cats are born with claws because they need them and can’t kindly and patiently teach their cat to use a scratching post, is an unfit person to have a cat in their care.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

May 30, 2011 Should Not Even
by: Kylalux

Declawing should not even be considered if the safety of your children or furniture is an issue.

May 30, 2011 Thanks
by: Michael

Hi Zach. Thanks for your welcome contribution. I agree. I think the most important aspect of cats and children is that children should be taught how to handle a domestic cat. If handled properly a cat will not scratch. I guess that is obvious.

It is strange that people would rather cut off the toes of their cat than spend a little time teaching their child to handle and respect their cat.

The process of teaching a child to handle a cat properly has wider benefits than preventing declawing. It teaches a child about animals and how we can live in harmony with them.

Michael Avatar

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About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!


Declawing To Protect Children — 10 Comments

    • No problem. Don’t worry about it. The important thing is that you commented and make some interesting points. Thanks for visiting.

  1. I’ve always been against declawing, but we have a cat (a former feral) that is about 98% great. However, every now and again he’ll attack, and he always goes for your face. I’ve been patient with it when it was just my husband and I, but now we have a 2 year old daughter. She is incredible with our cats. We have one that’s well socialized and it’s I believe me how well she knows to treat her gently. The second one is a scratcher so she’s not allowed to let her. On occasion she’s tried to scratch my daughter when she’s just minding her own business but it’s been ok. The third was a feral and he can be unpredictable so she knows to leave him alone. But he’s attacked her, her FACE, twice. When he attacks he doesn’t just tap and run off. He swipes, claws out and bats at you repeatedly. The first time he got her in a few spots, luckily nothing permanent (she was 15 months old). Tonight she was jumping on the couch (but not doing anything to him) and he was about a foot away on the top of the back cushions when he started going at her. Luckily it was a clumsy hit and I was close enough to push him off and he didn’t leave a mark. What concerns me is that he’s done this without her messing with him. We are. It talking about a child that is mistreating a cat! I’ve always been against it but I’m ready to declaw. My first responsibility is to her and at this point, I don’t think she’s safe. I hate the thought of it, but he can do some serious damage to her and it would be my fault for not making a change. I don’t think my husband is convinced yet, but I regretfully think it’s going to have to happen.

    • I understand your argument and as you say your child’s safety is the top priority. My observations are these (no offence intended whatsoever):

      I would not describe your ex-feral cat as “attacking”. It would seem to be more about play but I agree cats can hurt a person in play. You say the other cat is a “scratcher”. I guess all cats are scratchers at heart.

      You have inadvertently created the situation whereby you have a domesticated feral cat and a 2-year-old daughter in the same home together. I guess, in an ideal world, that could have been avoided. And now the cat is too pay the heavy and painful price of that malfunctioning arrangement which you created. Is that fair?

      I’ll leave it at that. For me there are no circumstances which justify declawing. There are ways around things such as claw caps and making arrangements so that child and cats are not left alone (which may be impractical, I understand that).

      • A dog, no matter its size, that repeatedly attacks a member of a household is immediately destroyed. It cannot be adopted-out to another person without signing many waivers of responsibility for the safety and well-being of other humans — it is destroyed. As is right. If you want to domesticate a species of animal you destroy that which is harmful or a risk to humans and only breed those which are not.

        To put an animal’s life above that of a human only makes you a self-evident sociopath and psychopath.

        If the choice is between having an harmful animal destroyed or declawing it, what then is your choice. Those are the only two options you get.

      • Well, yes in an ideal world that situation would not be created, but you are assuming a lot. The actual situation is that my cat Jack was rescued by a dear friend right before a blizzard. Jack had an orange sized wound on his back and that’s why they rescued him. They ended up needing to move and couldn’t take him so I took him since they had no other option for him. I guess I could have let him get euthanized or tossed to the street, but we took him in and love him. We did not have a child then so it wasn’t a problem. By your assessment, when I got pregnant I should have adopted him out? Turned him in to the humane society? What do you suppose we should have done? Not get pregnant for the next 8 years or so that my cat is alive? I’m older so that would have meant I never had a child.
        So that you know, the two times he scratched my daughter, my cat and daughter were not alone. We were all there with them but he was showing no signs of aggression. The most recent time, she was jumping up and down in place and he was a foot or so away. Out of nowhere he scratched at her face and kept scratching until we broke it up which was only a couple of seconds. Luckily, no damage was done that time. That does not sound like play to me. The first time he scratched at her, she was on the couch with my husband and she reached out and pet him very lightly, then drew back to my husband. Several seconds later when there was no reason to think there was any danger, he reached over and repeatedly scratched at her face/head. That time he did draw blood but luckily nothing permanent. Again, that’s not play. Since that first time, she has not been allowed to touch him in any way at all. Unfortunately, the second time (when she was jumping without having any interaction with him) she was not touching him at all so what is frightening to me as a mother is that it’s not predictable.
        What I would say to you (no offense) is that it’s easy to make blanket statements and not actually understand every scenario that falls under that blanket statement. I love Jack, but its my primary job to protect my child.
        Do I want to declaw Jack? No.
        Did I purposely create the situation I’m in? No.
        Should I make him an outdoor cat and let him fend for himself so that I don’t have to declaw him? I can, but then that’s cruel, isn’t it?
        Should I let my daughter continue to live in a situation where she is in danger because of an unpredictable cat? No.
        Should I adopt him out? I don’t think he’s adoptable because he’s about 10, has had a lot of medical conditions and has scratched a child twice. Unless you’re offering.
        It’s very easy to sit at a computer and make judgment calls and fill in the blanks to the parts of the story they don’t know.

        • I cannot believe that you are putting the life of your cat above that of your own child. Are you not even aware that cat’s Toxoplasma gondii parasites can make your own child autistic, blind, or die if ever requiring any chemo-therapy or other immunosuppressive therapies during your child’s entire life? If your child is female then she has 2X’s the risk of committing suicide during her life even though she suffers from no mental or emotional illnesses.

          And this doesn’t even begin to address the other diseases that your cat might have already transmitted to your child by breaking your child’s skin and drawing blood.

          There is something seriously wrong with you. You yourself shouldn’t have been allowed to breed–indeed, not even your parents should have been allowed to breed if this is how little value you place on even your own offspring’s life over that of any cat on earth by even beginning to question whether that cat’s life is more important than your own child’s. Seek counseling–after you have had that cat destroyed to save your child’s life.

          • Wow! “Dr. albert Corsaire”! I didn’t know I had the good grace to be in the presence of an all-knowing, omnipotent blogger. How wonderful it must be to go through life knowing everything that will occur before it does or to know the right answer and course of action in each and every instance! Had I possessed such qualities I would have known she would have been scratched before it happened! Too bad that I am not cut from such cloth and that my daughter is doomed to have a merely mortal mother. I guess my love and care for her will not suffice in protecting her, and that I have somehow failed as a parent for not predicting that my cat would scratch her.
            I must say that I also applaud your truly inspirational way of getting very important information out there! I have always found that using ugly, hurtful words, insults and scare tactics is the BEST method for productive discourse.
            Bravo to you! But of course, you already knew that.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with this article. The only time that I have ever been injured by a cat was by my grandmother’s declawed cat. I was really young back then and I (stupidly) chased the cat around the house. She didn’t give me much in the way of a warning. She bit me and hissed through a mouthful of finger. Now that I am older (and wiser), I pity the poor kitty because she must have felt defenseless and afraid.
    My (anti-claw) mother also talks about how her declawed cat started biting when he got older. She euthanized him, because back then (the 1990’s) she was under the impression that he was addicted to catnip. Now, I think he might have had arthritis brought on by declawing.
    My current (claw intact) cat has never injured anyone. However I believe that if he was declawed, he would probably become a biter as he is already overly nervous and high strung (he was a feral cat). Losing his main line of defense might have made him go off the deep end.
    The purpose of this (rather rambly) post is to emphasize that declawing can and does cause negative consequences. Think and research this before doing it. We have the whole of the Internet at our disposal. We should use it.

    • Thanks Alyson for visiting and supporting the anti-declaw lobby. People who don’t like declawing, don’t like because it is totally unnecessary 99.99% of the time and a cruel mutilation for the person’s convenience.

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