Declawing a cat, also known as onychectomy, is a surgical procedure that involves the amputation/removal of a cat’s claws.
The primary motivation for this procedure is usually to prevent a cat from scratching using his or her claws, reducing the risk of damage to people and property.
Sometimes the procedure is also done by owners who are worried about their cat attacking local wildlife, although the most common reason is typically to prevent scratching and damage from claws.
While it may seem like a convenient way to protect furniture and prevent scratching, declawing a cat can have serious physical and behavioral consequences for the animal.
I know I might get some criticism in the comment section for saying this, but declawing a cat is a decision that is almost always made to benefit the human owner and not thje cat (the only exception being if a veterinarian has recommended the procedure on sound medical grounds – for example sometimes declawing is carried out in the case of cancerous tumors on the nail beds, which is a completely legitimate reason for declawing).
So, can you declaw a Bengal cat? And – perhaps more importantly – should you? In this article, I am going to share my view.
In A Hurry? Here’s What You Need To Know:
- Declawing is a major procedure for your Bengal cat, with life-long and life-altering implications.
- Declawing is illegal/prohibited in many jurisdictions, so it might not even be possible where you live.
- Even if you can legally get your Bengal declawed, you shouldn’t do it UNLESS a vet has recommended the procedure.
- Declawed cats cannot easily defend themselves, escape from threats etc, and the procedure can lead to substantial behaviour changes.
- If your Bengal cat is damaging furniture with their claws, the correct solution is behavior modification through positive reinforcement, as well as providing outlets for scratching e.g. scratching posts (read my guide here to the best scratching posts for Bengal cats for more information).
Declawing Legality Varies
The first thing to note is that the legality of declawing varies depending on where you live.
For example, here in New Zealand ‘cosmetic declawing’ (i.e. having your cat declawed out of convenience’s sake) is prohibited by the Veterinary Council of New Zealand’s Code of Conduct. The surgery is only allowed if it is medically necessary and potentially if all other avenues for behavior modification have been pursued and the only alternative is euthanasia of the cat (reference).
I’m not an expert on American law, but the legality of cat declawing seems to vary greatly state to state. For example, New York outlawed the process not too long ago (source).
If you’re going to consider declawing your Bengal, the first thing to check is whether or not it is actually legal where you live (and by legal I mean whether a trained, registered veterinarian will perform the procedure with no risk of legal consequences).
If you are unsure of the legality, you are probably best placed to contact a licenced vet clinic/practice in your area, which should be able to advise.
Why You Should Not Declaw Your Bengal Cat
However, even if you can technically, legally declaw your Bengal, here are five reasons why declawing a cat is not a good idea (in fact, it’s a terrible idea unless you need it done for a bona fide medical reason)
Declawing is a painful and invasive procedure
During the surgery, the bone, nerve, and joint capsule of the cat’s claw are all removed. This can cause immediate and long-term pain for the animal, and can lead to complications such as infection, nerve damage, and chronic lameness. If declawing is performed, it is imperative that it is done by a trained and qualified veterinarian and will the right pain relief and technique.
Declawing can affect a cat’s physical abilities
Cats use their claws for balance when climbing and jumping, and declawing can make these activities much more difficult, or impossible in some cases. Declawed cats may also have a harder time defending themselves against predators (or escaping them by jumping and climbing – oftentimes escape is a cat’s preferred way to get out of a dangerous situation). A declawed cat shouldn’t really be allowed outside, due to the difficulty they face in defending themselves.
Declawing can lead to behavioral problems
Cats may become anxious or aggressive after being declawed, as they no longer have their claws as a means of protection. Declawed cats may also stop using the litter box, as the process of scratching and digging in the litter can be painful for them. This can even result in a regression in terms of toileting behavior etc. Removing a cat’s claws is pretty much the same as removing part of each finger on a human; imagine the impact that would have on the way you interact with the world!
There are safer, more humane alternatives to declawing
Instead of declawing, there are several ways to protect furniture and prevent scratching. These include using scratching posts, applying nail caps (although nail caps/covers are generally seen as being unfair and somewhat inhumane – I’ll write a separate article on these soon) and regularly trimming your cat’s nails. These options allow your cat to keep its claws while still providing protection for your belongings and minimising the risk of damage to your property.
Declawing is illegal or considered inhumane in many countries
In the United States, declawing is legal in many states, but it is banned in several cities and countries, including Australia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. These bans are in place because declawing is considered inhumane and unnecessary. Many jurisdictions rightly recognise that cats – like all animals – aren’t inanimate objects that are there only to serve their human owners, and it isn’t right to force such an invasive procedure owing to inconvenience for humans.
Long story short, you will struggle to find a single humane society that accepts the need for non-medical declawing, and the vast majority of vets are opposed to it too.
If you are planning on declawing a Bengal cat – or any cat – because it is causing you headaches with its scratching (but there is no underlying medical problem necessitating the removal of the claws) then I implore you to “think again”.
Ultimately, the most common reason for declawing a Bengal cat (or any cat, for that matter) is one of convenience for the owner.
While having a cat scratch your furniture, curtains etc is not nice, declawing is really the “nuclear option”, and even in jurisdictions where this is allowed, it should be avoided.
Instead, if you are having problems with your Bengal cat scratching, then you need to look at alternative solutions such as:
- Rewarding positive behavior with treats
- Ensure you have desired outlets for scratching (and reward your cat for using them) e.g. investing in scratching posts for your Bengal cat
- Never punish, yell at, or hit your cat for scratching where they shouldn’t
This article has much more advice on getting your Bengal cat to stop scratching. The main thing to bear in mind is that declawing your Bengal is not really an acceptable solution to stopping scratching.
Recap – Can You (And Should You) Declaw A Bengal Cat?
In conclusion, declawing a Bengal cat is a potentially painful and certainly invasive procedure that can have serious, life-long physical and behavioral consequences for the animal.
Instead of declawing, there are several alternatives that allow your cat to keep its claws while still protecting your belongings from damage from errant scratching.
Declawing is also illegal or considered inhumane in many countries. Even in areas where it is legally permitted, many vets will not carry out the practice unless it is a medical necessity for the health and wellbeing of the cat in question.
For these reasons, it is important to consider the well-being of your cat before deciding to declaw.
If you haven’t figured out from this article, I’m opposed to declawing Bengal cats for the sake of protecting furniture and avoiding the odd scratch here or there – if your Bengal is causing problems with their scratching, then you need to exhaust every potential avenue of behavior modification first.
What are your thoughts on declawing? Feel free to leave a comment below. However, please be respectful of alternative viewpoints on this sensitive issue.