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What does it mean when a cat goes outside the litter box?

The Truth About Declaw.

Annie Bruce

Any cat who has a litter box problem should see the veterinarian. A urine test should be done and if budget permits, a blood test. A lot of people think "...he looks ok..." Cats usually "look" ok. However, because the cat is urinating outside the box already says that he is NOT ok.

Never assume that a litter box problem is "behavioral" or that your cat is urinating out of spite. Cats are very clean by nature and an inappropriate urination problem is often THE sign that something is terribly wrong. Severe stress or a really dirty litter box can sometimes bring on small bouts of litter box problems but in most cases a medical condition is the culprit.

Declawing is a medical procedure that has caused many cats to urinate outside the box.

What is declawing?

Declawing is actually "de-toeing" or "de-fingering": Claw, bone, tendons and ligaments are amputated to the first knuckle of each toe. It compromises the feet of an animal who uses those feet to cover up the most potent urine in the world.

Declawing Facts

A study of 163 cats that underwent onychectomy (declawing), published in the Jul/Aug 1994 Journal of Veterinary Surgery, showed that 50% suffered from immediate postoperative complications such as pain, hemorrhage, and lameness; and long-term complications, including prolonged lameness, were found in nearly 20% of the 121 cats who were followed up on in the study.
In a study published in the January, 2001 JAVMA, 33% of 39 cats that underwent onychectomy developed "at least" one behavior problem immediately after surgery, with the most common problems being litter box problems and biting.

In a recent study published October, 2001, JAVMA by Dr. Gary J. Patronek, VMD, PhD., 'declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment.'

A recent national survey of shelters from the Caddo Parrish Forgotten Felines and Friends indicates that approximately 70% of cats turned in to shelters for behavioral problems are declawed. It is clear that declawing a cat by no means guarantees it a home for life; it frequently results in abandonment at a shelter, on the streets, or destroyed.

From the Summer 2002 issue of PETA's Animal Times: 'A survey by a Delaware animal shelter showed that more than 75% of the cats turned in for avoiding their litter boxes had been declawed.'

In my own three-year experience, 95% of calls about declawed cats related to litter box problems, while only 46% of clawed cats had such problems÷and most of those were older cats with physical ailments. Of my calls, only declawed cats have cost their owners security deposits, leather sofas and floorboards. And it's mostly declawed cats that have been prescribed pain killers, anti-depressants, tranquilizers and steroids.

Two-thirds of my calls are about litter box problems. In 90% of those cases, the cat is declawed, sick or old. In 7 years, only 3 people have called about a 'scratching-the-sofa problem' . . .yet countless of 'healthy' declawed cats have peed on sofas. Complaints (drugs, time, expenses, damage, losses, etc.) concerning declawed cats were much worse than clawed cats.

You say declawing doesn't save time or money or cats, why?

Declawing is the #1 reason why cats urinate outside the litter box. I get over 25 times the number of calls about declawed cats peeing on sofas/beds/carpet than I get about cats scratching sofas. Nobody wants a cat who pees all over the place, bites or costs a lot to own.

Urine runs deeper than claws. With claw damage you can reupholster/recover or hide. With urine damage, you may have to throw it away. In some cases, even floorboards are replaced, security deposits and leather sofas are lost. This extensive damage typically does not occur with owners of clawed cats!

People call me about cat problems. Calls are via animal shelters, pet shops, veterinarians, referred and advertising. Ninety-five percent of declawed cat owners are calling about a peeing problem.

Important notes about litter box calls

1. Most of the declawed cats were under age 8 when the litter box problem began.

2. ** Clawed cats with litter box problems were more likely to be sick or older than declawed cats. Onset of a litter box problem for a clawed cat was usually over age 10 and often even older. In most cases of a clawed cat with litter box problem, owners reported symptoms that indicated a potential illness. Many of the declawed cats had already seen a veterinarian and had medical problems ruled out. (Note: Two owners had previously hired a behaviorist.)

3. Severe urine damage was reported by some cat owners. In each case, culprit was a declawed cat:
Two families had to replaced their carpets twice, as well as their floorboards.
Three other homes had their first and second carpets destroyed.
Two women lost their rental security deposit.
Three people lost leather sofas.

4. Nearly every cat owner who called me about a litter box problem was considering giving up the cat, putting it outside, locking it in the basement or euthanasia.

5. Most declawed cat owners had not been informed of what the operation entailed or any risks associated with declawing. Nearly every declawed cat owner told me they would never have their cat declawed again.

Any home that has a declawed cat runs higher risk of property destruction and having to relinquish the cat. Never declaw any cat and adopt clawed cats only.

Doesn't declawing saves cat lives?

False. Thousands of declawed cats don't have homes AND have ruined furniture. Contrary to popular belief declawing endangers a cat's life because nobody wants a cat who is destroying valuable property with urine or chewing.
Most people who call me about declawed cats, don't want to keep them.

Some cats have had to be put to sleep after being declawed because they couldn't walk. And sometimes the claw will try to grow back or loose bone will cause infection, requiring subsequent painful and expensive operations.

Who knows how many more get abandoned or re-homed? Since scratching is perceived as a serious problem that warrants amputation or death, then peeing and biting often justify letting the cat outside, abuse, then abandonment. Most people call me are wanting to get rid of their declawed cat. They did not know that healthy, clawed cats typically don't have expensive or time consuming problems.

What about adopting that cute little declawed or tendonectomized cat in the shelter who needs a home?

Homes ARE important, after all, the sofa was. I cannot risk your valuable property just so a potentially dangerous cat gets a pretty place to live. Millions of cats are destroyed each year - YOU need a nice home and a cat who is safe to keep, and cheap and fun to own. Declawed cats are not cheap or easy to own.

I won't allow a declawed cat in MY house then say your home is safe to have one. It would be illegal and immoral for me to recommend declawed or tendonectomized cats based on the damage data and the abuse it has caused many cats.

Cats get destroyed anyway. For every declawed cat you see for adoption, there was more likely one that was brought in that was put down for behavioral problems. (And who knows how many are abandoned?) We need to save the cats who deserve homes - not promote a dangerous product. The sooner people stop buying a product, the sooner others will stop making it.

Cats deserve GOOD environments, not homes who think 'death and declawing' are good choices. Confinement, abuse, neglect and abandonment will be rationalized as choices 'better than death' when someone thinks amputation is ok. When a clawed cat is confined, neglected, abused or abandoned, he has better defenses to deal with bad situations.

Some people may think my position hurts declawed cats getting homes. . .but wasn't declawing suppose to 'save homes, save lives? It has not. I'm NOT the one performing this operation or producing handicapped cat. I never suggest it, even as "last resort" . I'm not the one abandoning the declawed cat on the streets or at shelters. (Plenty of declawed cat owners call me up wanting to get rid of their cat.)

People who care more about a sofa may be more likely to dumped their declawed cat in the street or at the shelter. After all, when someone compares a scratched sofa to death - a peed on sofa is much, much worse. Many people have called me and said their declawed cat ruined their floorboards with pee or computer cords by chewing on them.

Saving a declawed cat sacrifices not only a clawed cat a good home, but the future of ALL cats is put at stake when we accept abuse as a resort when owning cats. Adoption of declawed cats supports an already tragic policy and encourages barbaric practices. Again, in order for a bad product to be removed from the market, we need to stop buying them.

He's never peed outside the box before. Why now?

It's really common for me to hear that "my declawed cat is fine. . . for awhile. Then he pees outside the box." Cats are like people. Some react differently to having bones and ligaments amputated. And it takes a while for the muscles and health to deteriorate after becoming disabled.

Phantom limb pain may have a role in litter box problems of the declawed cat. Some declawed cats react on certain days, such as when the barometer changes. Cats have been known to sense earth quakes before scientific machines do.

But my cat will be living indoors only and I don't want my stuff damaged.

Cats were living indoors a lot longer than declawing has been around. Cat litter hit the market in 1945. Declawing started in late 60's. There was NO declawing when I was a kid. In just 35 years, it's estimated that over 45% could be declawed in the US today.

The sad part is: Your home and cat is more at risk when declawed. People who call me about declawed cats have lost a lot MORE furniture because of cat pee and most often don't want to keep the cat.

A cat who lives indoors-only, needs additional space and exercise. One way to accommodate this is to use carpeted cat trees. Without claws, the cat is more inclined to fall off carpeted trees and hurt himself, and may not be able to respond as quickly in the event of disaster. Such as in event of fire, firemen will open doors to allow pets to escape.

My cats live indoors and are trained and expected to use the scratching post. It's important my cats build their muscles, health and confidence, by using the scratching post.

Indoors or outside, there is simply no reason to be treating cats this way. It's better off for cat, owner AND home if his claws are intact. The declawed and tendonectomized cat is too dangerous to harbor.

I've owned declawed cats all my life. My cats don't have litter box problems, nothing "bad" ever happened to them. I didn't want my skin or furniture scratched. My cat pees now but I don't believe you, it has to be something else. . .

Since you've owned cats for so long, maybe it's time to start learning how to get them to listen and build strong muscles? I don't have a college degree and I get my cats to listen and obey my words without wasting money on declawing, squirt bottles, clickers, drugs or food treats. Post training 's a lot more fun than shifting through cat litter.

I've owned cats over 42 years. I know clawed cats don't have the same problems. I consider my home too important to risk housing a declawed cat.

I heard declawing wasn't approved by some organizations and many countries have made it illegal, who?

Those opposed to declawing include the The Animal Protection Institute, San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Cats International, The Animal Protection Institute, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, the Cat Fanciers Association and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons members refuse to perform the operation. The RCVS guidelines specifically states: "A veterinary surgeon must not cause any patient to suffer by carrying out an unnecessary mutilation."

Declawing and tendonectomy is cruel mutilation - which by law, should is already illegal. Yet this law is being ignored.

Declawing is either illegal or considered inhumane: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Wales. These countries do not have shelters full of cats because they have claws or litter box problems.

California is calling for legislation to stop the declawing of cats.

Declawing IS abuse. There is absolutely no reason to declaw or tendonectomize any cat.

What can I do if my declawed cat is urinating outside the box?

Assuming your cat has no other medical conditions that could be causing his problem (again, ANY cat who urinates outside the litter box should see a veterinarian, a medical issue should be ruled out because cat-pee is a sign of illness). Here are some additional tips that may help get a declawed cat back to using his litter box:

Make sure his feet are checked regularly by the veterinarian for loose bone or infection which could cause pain for him while using the litter box.

Never hit, spank or squirt any cat, this will only make matters worse. Gently direct the cat to his litter box.

Put less litter in the litter box. Then slide the litter to one end so that half the box is bare.

Give the declawed cat some stress vitamins found at many health food stores.

Organic catnip twice a week may helps some declawed cats.

Many more tips and resources are listed in Cat Be Good to help get your declawed cat to use his box.

The best advice for avoiding litter box problems and trouble is to stop owning declawed cats. There are millions of cats who are put to sleep every year who will learn the scratching post and won't need you to clean the litter every hour or cost a lot of money. I have fostered dozens of abused and abandoned cats from shelters and it's safe, cheaper and best to own clawed cats. They learn quickly what is expected of them.

What about a tendonectomy, declawing by laser and other surgeries?

It is claimed that cats who are declawed by laser are "able to walk sooner" after the operation. Even with laser technology, it still means the cat is now permanently and forever made to walk on his knuckles. Declawing, no matter how it is performed, makes the cat physically challenged and that puts a strain on the cat owner. It's much easier on the owner if her cat is able-bodied.

A tendonectomy is a new procedure that cuts the tendons in the cat's toes so he can't retract his claws or scratch. The owner still has to trim his nails. Do NOT choose this option because it is still crippling the feet of an animal who uses his paws to cover his waste. Many veterinarians nowadays are trying to push this new procedure, claiming it's "more humane". NOT! There is absolutely NO behavioral reason to disfigure any cat's feet. YOU need your cat to scratch his post to off-load his anxiety, frustration or happiness and to build strong muscles. Exercise affects behavior, health and confidence.

Sometimes when a cat develops a biting or peeing problem, owners have reported that the veterinarian will remove teeth, or remove the olfactory bulb that allows your cat to smell, or shorten his penis to help stop his peeing problems. The latter caused one of my clients to have horrible spraying problems and cost her in floorboards and drywall - repairs costing way more than any sofa. Clawed cats found for adoption in your local animal shelter do not need declawing, tendonecomy or other barbaric operations to manage his behavior. Cats are very smart and easy to train.

Why can I do to help end declawing?

Look for veterinarians who refuse to declaw or tendonectomize cats (visit the websites below)

Spread the word. Most people don't know it's an amputation. Or that declawed cats pee a lot. You may be saving someone's carpet, security deposit and cat, if you speak up.

Help support "The Paw Project", a non-profit agency working to end declawing of all cats, large and small.

Why do you say that declawing is NOT "last resort"?

When a cat develops a litter box problem he will most likely be locked in one room, put outside (without claws), surrendered to a shelter, abandoned, or put down. Only the later is truly "last" resort.

Why not lock the cat in one room to train him to his post? Or put him outside if he can't be trained? All too often the cat is first declawed then locked up or put outside - without claws to fend for himself. Nobody wants to adopt a cat whose peeing all over the place.

It's really easy to get a cat to listen. After all, cats are smarter than dogs and have better hearing than dogs or humans. I can make cats behave without declawing, squirt bottles, clickers or drugs. It's very easy. You don't need rocket science or destructive surgery to get a cat to listen. Just common sense: good diet and exercise habits.

If you really want to save your home and it's contents, and continue to promote the message that cats are smart and trainable: Don't hurt the feet of a cat! And adopt clawed cats only. Cats need claws to cover horrible urine and to build and strengthen important muscles. He'll learn to use a scratching post very easy. Scratching post training is fun, clean, and takes just seconds a day to teach to him. Cats are very smart and trainable.

For more information on declawing, please visit these websites:

The Paw Project - dedicated to ending delcawing of all cats, large and small. Non-profit organization led by a veterinarian, dedicated to ending declawing: The Paw Project, PO Box 445, Santa Monica, CA 90406 phone 1-877-PAWPROJECT (1-877-729-7765) - directory to declawing sites on the Internet - comprehensive anti-declawing website - has a no-declaw web ring - hall of fame/shame veterinarians - more declawing information

For more information, please order this comprehensive book about declawing:
The Shocking Truth About Declawing Cats by Harriet Baker (The Cat Catalyst, Inc., 2000, soft cover, 290 pages)

Send $23 (includes $3 S&H) to:

The Cat Catalyst, Inc.
613 Sea Street
Quincy, MA 02169-2811
Phone: (617) 472-9618

Listen to Leo Bloom about 'Declawing' on Animal Radio®

Leo founded a website called the 'Declaw Hall of Shame' and

it highlights bad veterinarians giving bunk advice to their patients.

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