Declawing pet cats was once a common practice, even the norm. Fortunately, the opposite is now true and many veterinary associations and clinics denounce the surgery (though many stipulate unless it is necessary for medical reasons). Recently there have been bills proposed to city lawmakers and even at the state level across the U.S. to legally ban declawing. As the debate about declawing gains momentum, ACR has curated key facts about this procedure that reveal just why it should be banned, everywhere.
Is Declawing Cats Illegal? How Can I Keep My Cat’s Claws Healthy?
The surgical name for declawing-- onychectomy, or “nail removal” — doesn’t describe what really happens during declawing. In a declawing procedure, a cat’s foot bones are amputated at the first joint of the toe.-
What happens during a declawing procedure?
Veterinarians may use a scalpel, electrosurgery, laser surgery, surgical scissors, or a sterile pair of sharp nail trimmers to break off the bone at the last joint. If this is not done properly, declawing may lead to nerve damage or bone spurs, which are incredibly painful bone outgrowths. After the bones are severed, the cat’s toes are closed with surgical glue, the paws are bandaged, and the cat stays in the hospital for two days.
After the bandages are removed, the cat returns home. But they do not return to their daily routine. Declawed cats must use paper litter for two weeks after the surgery to keep their usual litter from getting stuck on the toes. Not all cats will use paper litter. Some cats may refuse to use their litter boxes at all after declawing because it is too painful to dig after this procedure.
Declawing causes cats animals lifelong pain. Many cities have succeeded in banning declawing procedures, and these communities have taken the first step towards promoting healthy scratching behavior.
Where is declawing banned?
Declawing is outlawed in the United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries. You can find a full list of nations that ban declawing here. At least one bill to ban declawing statewide has been proposed in almost every U.S. state, but it may take years before we see widespread anti-declaw legislation in this country.
The first state to ban declawing was New York in 2019. In contrast, a number of cities in California including Berkley, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Culver City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Monica have banned declawing within their borders but the state as a whole refuses to do the same. In fact, California SB 762, passed into law in 2009) makes it impossible for cities to ban declawing or any other area of veterinary ‘expertise’ that had been common practice before 1/1/2010. Thankfully, the list of aforementioned cities had banned declawing before that date.
What are some alternatives to declawing?
There are many alternatives to this painful procedure.
How can I get involved with declaw legislation?
There has been some important progress in attitudes and treatment of community cats in Illinois. Most notably, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is no longer banning the trap-neuter-return (TNR) of feral cats on its lands. This adds Illinois to the list of states with ordinances that promote TNR (Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Utah, This will save the lives of many feral cats as the alternative of TNR programs is to euthanize the cats. Although the Department’s decision has been opposed by the Illinois Chapter of the Wildlife Society, which believes that free-roaming cats threaten native small animals such as birds and that TNR is not effective in decreasing feral cat populations, there are an overwhelming amount of studies that prove otherwise. “One peer-reviewed scientific study showed that in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, a “trap-neuter-return” program resulted in an average of 54% decrease from initial population levels of free-roaming cats and an average 82% decrease from peak levels.” (source)
The City Council of LaSalle, Illinois recognizes TNR as a viable solution to the city’s cat overpopulation dilemma. They signified their trust in TNR about one year ago by making a $500 donation to the most prevalent local animal welfare organization and practitioners of TNR, Safe House Animal Rescue League. After several years of TNR work, key problem areas have seen a significant drop in numbers of feral cats. Canal Street, for example, was once crowded with feral cats and kittens but now it is difficult to find any kittens there. Kudos to LaSalle for embracing TNR for their community cats!
Solutions for City Rats!
In Chicago, Illinois, the Tree House Humane Society animal shelter has released 1,000 sterilized and vaccinated feral cats throughout the city as a response to rat overpopulation. The shelter states that the cats chosen for this program, called “Cats at Work,” are too wild to be adopted out or kept long-term in the shelter. Essentially they are practicing TNR but showcasing it to city residents as an ecofriendly solution to their rat problem. Although the shelter is being strategic, they are not being dishonest! Urban environments that lack community cats usually experience an overgrowth of their rat population because city rats have very few other predators. We hope that the service the released cats are providing for Chicago will inspire the people there to treat them with respect and compassion.
The cats are put to work at businesses that are approved for putting out food and water for the cats, and providing shelter and care. In most cases the cats become beloved members of the community!
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.