Is Paper Litter the Best Litter for Declawed Cats?

For those who have adopted or rescued a cat who has already been declawed, the choice of litter requires some special consideration.

Declawed cats often have overly sensitive paws.

Walking on and digging in coarse litter can be painful for them. Cleaning bits of litter dust stuck between their toes may cause discomfort. 

Granular, plant-based litters like shredded paper work well because of their soft, forgiving texture and because they’re dust-free.

Is paper litter the best option for declawed cats?

You may have heard recommendations for the use of paper litter for declawed cats. Typically paper litter is recommended specifically post op, while a cat recovers.

Once healed, declawed cats may use other types of litter — but not just any type. 

Declawed cats often suffer from chronic pain in their paws. Even if your cat seems okay, it may not be the case. Cats instinctively hide pain to prevent seeming like easy prey.

Walking on and digging in rough, coarse litter and cleaning litter dust from between their toes can be an uncomfortable or outright painful process for declawed cats. 

You should avoid litters that produce excessive amounts of dust, pelleted litter, and any litter with jagged edges, like silica crystals and coarse clay.

A soft, fine-grained litter with little to no dust will help make their litter box as comfortable as possible.

Granular paper litter is virtually dust-free, and has a soft, forgiving texture. Other low-dust, plant-based options like those made from corn, grass and wheat make fine options as well.

Homemade, DIY shredded newspaper litter is another viable option, though it isn’t as convenient to use as commercial varieties. 

Sad declawed cat in red cat carrier

Before you declaw your cat

Before going on, it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for when you decide to declaw a cat.

Declawing isn’t the simple removal of a cat’s claws. 

It’s the brutal amputation of all ten of a cat’s front toes, cutting through muscle, nerves, and bone. Declawing fundamentally changes the structure of a cat’s feet, causing irreversible damage.

Many cats who have been declawed suffer through the remainder of their lives with chronic nerve pain, altered gait patterns, and difficulty with instinctual behaviors, like digging. 

Declawing a cat should never be seen as a convenient solution. It’s an outdated, barbaric mutilation of an animal.

Alternatives to declawing

When someone is considering declawing their cat, it’s generally for one of two reasons. 

To prevent damage to household items, like furniture and carpet. Or to prevent scratching family members and other pets.

While these behaviors are undesirable and even potentially dangerous, declawing is never justified.

To prevent unwanted behaviors or to minimize their effects, consider the following alternatives to declawing your cat:

  1. Make your cat feel safe. When a cat scratches a person or animal, it’s usually because they are scared or communicating displeasure. Children or other pets may be playing too rough with them, people might be picking them up against their will, etc. Respect your cat’s preferences in regards to physical contact. And make sure your cat has a quiet place they can escape to where people and other pets cannot bother them.
  2. Cat Scratchers. Scratching is a natural and healthy behavior for cats. Make sure your cat has plenty of things they are allowed to scratch like scratching posts, scratching mats, and cardboard scratching boards.
  3. Training. Though training cats works best when they’re kittens, it’s entirely possible to train adult cats to avoid unwanted behaviors as well. 
  4. Nail caps. Nail caps can help make these unwanted behaviors less harmful. Nail caps are soft, vinyl coverings that are adhered to your cat’s claws, preventing scratches from damaging you or your furniture. As an added bonus, they’re kind of cute!
  5. Rehoming. While it may be difficult to accept, as a last resort, rehoming your cat is more humane than declawing. If you decide to go this route, never take your cat to a shelter that euthanizes animals. There should be a no-kill animal organization near you, such as the Humane Society, ASPCA, or other animal rescue.
Cat scratching tree outside and cat scratching post inside

How long should you use paper litter after a declaw?

Following a declaw surgery, it’s commonly recommended to use a non-clumping, paper cat litter or a homemade shredded newspaper litter for at least two weeks. 

Again, defer to your veterinarian’s specific discharge instructions.  

What should you do if your cat won’t use paper litter after a declaw?

If your cat won’t use paper litter following a declaw, you have a few options.

Start by trying a different non-clumping paper litter. A different variety may offer a texture or scent that your cat will find acceptable.

If pain is causing your cat’s aversion to the litter box, DIY shredded newspaper is particularly gentle on paws.

In worst-case scenarios, some have reported luck replacing litter entirely with a pee pad liner in the litter box until their cat has fully recovered.

Going immediately back to a clay or clumping cat litter is never an option, as it may exacerbate pain and lead to infection. 

Final thoughts

Declawing can cause chronic pain in a cat’s paws for the remainder of their life. It should never be done. 

If you rescue or adopt a cat that has already been declawed, they’ll need a soft, low-dust cat litter to maximize comfort. 

Granular paper, corn, wheat, and grass litters tend to match these criteria. 

Following a declaw, a non-clumping paper litter is commonly recommended for at least two weeks. Defer to your vet’s specific discharge instructions. 


About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.