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Cat Not Using Litter Box After Declaw: Why And How To Fix It

Some cat owners are faced with the constant shredding and destruction of furniture, drapes, or clothing, which may prompt them to choose a declaw procedure for their cat. 

Scratching is a normal cat behavior, and they don’t do it out of spite, but rather to remove the dead husks from their claws, to stretch, or to mark their territory. Veterinarians caution pet owners about declawing because it can lead to a different set of behavior problems that may turn out to be worse than shredding your expensive leather couch.  

However, sometimes the scratching can be too much for owners, especially owners who have tried other avenues to alter their cat’s scratching habits. When this is the case, they may decide to go the surgery route with a declaw. One of the many negative side effects of this decision is that cats will no longer pee and poop in the litter box. There are several reasons for this, and also simple solutions as well.

What is a cat declaw?

It is a surgery that involves removing entire bones from your cat’s paws, and is essentially cutting off of each digit at the last knuckle. Below are the many different kinds of declaws.

Surgical amputation

The traditional method is amputating the digits with a scalpel or a guillotine, closing with stitches or surgical glue, and then bandaging the feet.

Laser amputation

Another method is done with a laser, where a beam of light cuts through the tissues as it amputates the digits, then the surgical sites are closed with surgical glue and bandaged.


A tendonectomy is where the tendon that allows the claws of a cat to extend and detract is chopped so it can no longer function. This way the cat keeps her claws but cannot use them to scratch. Unfortunately, this method can lead to an increased amount of thick claw growth, requiring more nail trims. 

Why is my cat not using the litter box after a declaw?

Declawing often leaves the paws of a cat extremely tender and sensitive. While your cat is healing from the surgery, abrasive or hard litter can cause pain, discomfort, and even lead to infections. Small, sharp particles might stick into the surgical wounds, leading to complications.

shredded newspaper for cat litterFor this reason, veterinarians recommend shredded newspaper, or pine pellet cat litter, or paper litter.  Shredded paper is cheap, but your cat may be unfamiliar with its texture and be reluctant to use it. 

Pine pellet cat litter and wood-based pellet litters are eco-friendly, often dust-free, recycled, non-tracking, and these pellets won’t get stuck between your cat’s paws or cause irritation. Paper pellet cat litter is made of recycled paper, absorbs liquids efficiently, and these pellets won’t cause painful irritation between your cat’s paw pads. You will also want to use a litter box that is easy to get into to make your cat as comfortable as possible with their sore paws.

How do I get my cat to use the litter box after a declaw?

Your veterinarian will offer you suggestions regarding post-op declaw care for your cat. These instructions will include recommended cat litters. Because cats are creatures of habit, and typically don’t like change, it’s important to plan. If you and your veterinarian have decided on a declaw procedure, try to get your cat used to the new litter weeks beforehand to prevent litter box problems. If you decided to use pine or recycled paper pellets, offer this type of litter several weeks before the declawing surgery to get your cat used to the new texture.

Try placing a second litter box with the new litter next to the old box, and take note of how often your kitty uses the new litter. If she is using the new litter, then you can remove the old litter after a few days. It’s important to gradually introduce your cat to the new litter, and ensure that she is comfortable using it. It may take experimenting with different brands of pine, wood, or recycled paper litters.

Veterinarians recommend that owners pursue different avenues before considering a declaw surgical procedure as declawing procedures can result in behavior problems (such as biting), litter box avoidance, lameness, and infection.

How do I stop my cat from scratching?

There are several things cat owners can do to redirect their cat’s scratching habits away from furniture and other household items.

Keep your cat’s nails trimmed regularly

Simply cutting your cat’s nails when they get too long can do wonders in preventing damage from your cat scratching things around the house.

Provide scratching posts, boards, or other items around your house

cat climbing on cat treeAnother way to reduce scratching is to get a scratching post, or other materials such as cardboard, carpet squares, or wood. 

There are a wide variety of items available both online and at your local pet store.

Offer toys and enrichment activities

Owners can also distract their kitties from shredding the house by offering cat toys, puzzles, and other enrichment products that can keep your cat’s interest.

Soft paws and plastic nail caps

Another option is to ask your veterinarian about putting soft plastic caps on your cat’s nails. These are rubber-like caps that are glued onto your cat’s nails, and usually need to be replaced once every 6 weeks.

Sticky tape

Special tapes such as Sticky Paws are also additional products that can help deter your cat from scratching. These products are made of double-sided sticky paper or fabric which sticks to your cat’s paw upon contact. Cats typically don’t like sticky surfaces, so coming into contact with this product can make for an unpleasant experience for your cat.


It takes several weeks for a cat to recover from a declaw procedure, and owners need to know that regular litters, clumping, and non-clumping, are detrimental to the healing process. The small clay granules can get stuck between pads and infiltrate the surgical areas, setting your cat up for possible infection, irritation, and pain. 

In helping your declawed cat to be more comfortable using the litter box, consider the variety of paper and pelleted litter available, and if you have any questions, consult your veterinarian.