Cat Declawing – Just the Facts, Cat
There has been quite a bit of discussion recently within the veterinary community in New York State regarding a bill banning the declawing of cats within the state which has been introduced in the state assembly. Assembly Bill A01297 can found on the following link:http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A01297&term=2015&Summary=Y&Text=Y
This bill would make New York State the first state in the nation to ban this procedure. Some localities in California and elsewhere have restricted this surgery, but none on the state level. While the procedure remains somewhat controversial, there is great misunderstanding about what it entails. Here are the facts supported both by the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (on whose board of directors I serve as the representative from Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Putnam and Dutchess Counties) and the American Veterinary Medical Association:
FACT: Declawing is a major surgical procedure performed only by a licensed veterinarian while the patient is under general anesthesia. It does involve amputation of the last part of each toe in order to completely remove the nail bed and prevent the claw from re-growing. It is similar to removing the end of each finger at or just beyond the last knuckle. Because of this it is never a decision that is taken lightly.
FACT: The procedure is painful. With up-to-date pain medications and protocols we are able to minimize the pain just as in any surgical procedure whether performed on animals or humans. We use regional nerve blocks with drugs like Novocain, and injectable and oral pain medications similar to those given to humans after major surgery. Cats respond well to these medications and are up and walking on their feet the same day. Full healing takes about two weeks after which there is no indication of further pain.
FACT: While it does involve amputation of the end of the toe it is not a disfiguring procedure. Once completely healed it’s virtually impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.
FACT: Declawing a cat does not change its behavior. A declawed cat will still use a scratching post and rub its paws on furniture, etc. This is actually a territorial behavior as a cat is rubbing scent glands in its feet on surfaces to send messages to other cats – “Hey I’m here”. They do not do this to sharpen their claws. A declawed cat will jump normally, run and play like every cat. They even seem to do well outdoors. I have seen declawed patients still able to climb trees and hunt. Behaviorally it’s impossible to tell a declawed cat from one with claws.
FACT: Declawing a cat can save a life. Humans that have suppressed immune systems, bleeding disorders or are more susceptible to infections are at risk from becoming ill from even an innocent small cat scratch. Declawing a cat can allow such a person to continue to enjoy sharing a house with a cat while reducing the risks involved. If a declawed cat is less likely to be left outdoors or turned over to a shelter because of these health risks or destructive behavior, the procedure can even save that cat’s life too.
FACT: Declawing is a rarely done procedure. As people have become more aware of behavioral modification techniques and sensitive to what’s involved in this surgery, it’s become a very rare occurrence. Our hospital performs less than five per year. The decision to proceed with declawing a cat is never taken lightly. We always discuss alternatives with our animal lovers. We are able to determine alternatives to declawing in most cases.
Declawing a cat is a serious procedure. It should never be taken lightly. It is not cruel, inhumane and dangerous. Performed properly with great pain modification it can improve the lives of both cat and cat lover. It doesn’t need to be legislated out of existence. The veterinary community already has taken steps to perform this only when absolutely necessary.