How to care for a declawed cat as they get older

Declawing is an inhumane way to prevent cats from scratching. If you didn’t know that before you read this, I hope you take that away from this article. When a cat is declawed, it’s not like the nail itself is simply removed – it’s not like when you have a chronic ingrown toenail removed and the doctor uses acid to keep it from growing. Cats’ claws are different, and to remove them requires removing the entire nail joint. It’s the equivalent of having your toes all removed at the first joint. Obviously that would require you to balance differently, and over time would cause many health issues. With cats, sadly it’s the same way. Removing this joint causes a myriad of issues as cats grow older. This is why 22 countries as of the time of writing this have banned declawing.


This video does a good job at talking about all the dangerous associated with declawing.

If you have a declawed cat who is getting older and starting to show signs of declawing-associated medical issues, there are a few things you can do to help your kitty have the best quality of life possible.

How to keep your declawed cat comfortable

What does declawing do to cats?

Declawing causes cats to have to change the way they walk. If you had the tips of your toes removed, you’d likely have to shift your center of balance in order to walk. Things like running and jumping would require you to shift your balance back since you would no longer have tip-toes to stand on. Same with cats.

Removing that joint from a cat cause your cats discomfort and pain, and that can lead to other medical issues in the future, such as arthritis.

In addition to physical problems, declawing can cause behavioral problems in many cats. According to Popular Science, in a study of 274 cats of different ages where half had been declawed, declawed cats were seven times more likely to pee outside the litter box, and four times more likely to bite.

These defiant and aggressive actions aren’t shocking when you think about it. If a cat’s in pain, it’s understandable it’s going to act out. I’m sure we’ve all gotten grumpy when we’ve felt sick or in pain, declawed cats sometimes feel this pain constantly.

Sadly, many owners chalk up these behavioral issues as having a “bad cat”, not realizing that their cat is in pain, and end up rehoming the cat or putting it in a shelter. That may be how you got your cat if you adopted it declawed from a shelter. While you can’t heal your cat’s feet, you do have some options to make your cat happier.

How do you make a older declawed cat more comfortable?

  • Check your cat’s paws regularly. Occasionally declawing surgeries are done poorly and parts of the claw can grow back incorrectly. This can cause ingrown toenails essentially, which are incredibly painful. If you notice any strange growths or lumps under your cat’s skin, take them to a vet to have them checked out. Also, gently getting your cat used to you touching their paws will make them more comfortable with having them handled. They might not like it at first, but they get used to it as long as you aren’t aggressive.
  • Get a scratching post covered in carpet. You’re probably thinking, “why does a cat with no claws need a scratching post?” I realize it’s a funny idea, but scratching posts aren’t just to keep a cat’s claws dull, they’re for exercise. The scratching motion helps strengthen your cat’s feet, legs and chest. By “scratching” the post, your cat’s remaining toes will get strengthened, and it will have better grip. Just make sure it’s a scratching post covered in carpet rather than the firm material a lot of scratching posts are made out of, as that will be more comfortable on their feet.
  • Get toys your cat can easily play with. Un-declawed cats use their claws and first toe joint to grab toys like balls, tiny catnip toys, feather wand danglers, etc. When a cat is declawed playing is much more difficult, so many stop playing, which can lead to depression. Declawed cats, when they do play, typically grip with their full legs rather than their paws. Toys like those big stuffed kickers, larger stuffed animals, the wand part of wand toys and wand toys with just a string rather than a small object on the end are much more satisfying for a declawed cat to play with. Also, encourage your cat to bite toys. When your cat realizes she can play with toys using her mouth, you’ll find she’s willing to play with a larger variety of toys.
  • Keep your cat at a healthy weight. Obesity will cause extra pressure on the feet and legs, which will cause extra pain.

Supplements for declawed cats

There are a number of supplements you can give a declawed cat to keep them from experiencing too much pain and discomfort from progressive arthritis or joint issues. The longer your cat has been declawed, the most damage has been done, but it won’t hurt to try some of these anyway. Always check with your vet before adding supplements to your cat’s diet, especially if they’re on other medications.

  • Glucosamine

    Glucosamine is a supplement vets often recommend for cat joint health. If you’ve had a cat with arthritis, you’ve probably had your vet suggest it or read about it online. Declawed cats have been shows to benefit from glucosamine too because it helps keep their joints healthy, slowing the progression of arthritis.

  • Omega 3

    Fish oils are rich in omega 3, which in laboratory studies have been shown to relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis and morning joint stiffness. Declawed cats often suffer the same kind of pain, so adding in fish oil or omega 3 can help lessen these painful symptoms in your cat.

What cat litter should you use for declawed cats?

Why do declawed cats pee outside the litter box? As your cat’s paws are more sensitive than a non-declawed cat’s, every step can be painful at times. Because of this, gritty cat litter can make your cat’s feet feel like they’re stepping on glass. This is why so many declawed cats stop using the litter box, it hurts! Thankfully, if your cat isn’t reacting well to standard cat litter, there are softer cat litters for declawed cats so they can comfortable use the litter box. Here are a few of the most popular soft cat litters for declawed cats.

  1. Okocat Super Soft Clumping Wood Cat Litter

    Most cat litters are made out of clay, but Okocat litter is made out of wood. Not only does this make it softer, but it’s more environmentally friendly than clay cat litter. Okocat is extremely popular for its reasonable price compared to a lot of other wood litters, as well as its superior liquid and odor absorption. As it doesn’t have added fragrance, even sensitive cats (like mine!) don’t mind the scent.

  2. sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter

    sWheat is an extremely popular litter, when I was looking for an unfragranced cat litter for my fragrance-sensitive cat it’s what I had recommended over and over. sWheat, as you can probably guess, is made of wheat, which is renewable and destroys odors on contact. It’s also very fine and soft, making it one of the best litters for declawed cats. Similar to Okocat it’s environmentally friendly, but unlike wood litters sWheat also clumps, which a lot of people prefer to non-clumping litters. Clumping litters are much easier to clean, and you waste less litter in the cleaning process.

  3. Purina Yesterday’s News Non Clumping Paper Cat Litter

    Purina is almost certainly a company you’ve heard of many times before, but have you heard of Yesterday’s News? Yesterday’s News is Purina’s go at an environmentally friendly litter, which is made completely out of paper. When I first adopted my cat, the shelter had all their litter boxes lined in newspaper rather than litter. When I asked why, they said it was cheaper, safer for kittens since there was no danger if they ate it (unlike clay litters which can cause blockages), and it was more gentle on senior cats’ paws. As this litter is made out of paper, the same thing goes – it’s soft for sensitive paws, which will cut down on the chances of your cat going outside the litter box.

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