The End is Near – Declawing in the U.S.

the-end-is-near

I’ve worked as a veterinary assistant and have heard people ask about declawing their cats. For most of these people, the question was asked nonchalantly, like all we do is put them under long enough to pluck out their claws. Luckily, most of the clinic’s clientele were mortified when the vets would explain that declawing is, in fact, a major surgery where the entire toe tip is amputated.

In the back, I asked the vet for his thoughts on declawing and he recited the American Veterinary Medical Association’s stance, that veterinarians should explain the surgery to owners and that owners should consider it a last resort before relinquishment.

kitty toes have claws

I was young and learning, so I chewed on that for a while. The resident cat expert at that same clinic felt sorry for the one cat that was declawed in my time there, saying that sometimes it just makes them mean. Since then, I’ve seen a journal article that doesn’t agree with that statement, but one isn’t enough. I’m not counting the AVMA’s article, as it presents a bias that ends up acting like a circular argument (they say it’s okay for them to do because their findings say it’s okay). I’m not comfortable citing it.  

Before the argument of whether or not declawing is even okay, there were arguments about which method was more humane. Tendonectomy where they cut the tendon that controls claw extension versus onychectomy which is the total removal of the end of each digit at the knuckle. This article states that while both are painful, neither one is more painful than the other.

Raise Your Claw Against Declawing

I’m done chewing and want to go back to what the veterinarian I worked for said, “…it should be a last resort before relinquishment”. I know the steps it takes to stop a cat from scratching might be too rigorous for some and that declawing might offer a quick and easy solution. I also know the same practice of amputation, when applied to humans, is considered a human rights violation. So, though it isn’t easy to say, I think if a person finds themself on the fence between declawing or relinquishing their cat, I say relinquish them.

The thing we animal welfare advocates get nervous about with relinquishment is the uncertain future adult cats face in shelters. Their future is so uncertain that it is almost certain that they will live their remaining days in a shelter. Maybe this is where we focus on getting better, not by forcing people to live with cats they don’t want or allowing those cats to face amputation, but by making a positive change in shelter life for cats that encourages adult cat adoption through better housing and welfare practices.

Many countries have been moving away from declawing and thankfully we’re starting to see that trend here in the U.S. In 2003 the city of West Hollywood, California was the first to ban the practice. As the ban was upheld more cities in California followed suit, but as of now no state has entirely banned the practice. Recently, I’ve heard rumors that New York and New Jersey are each looking to be the first to fully ban declawing. I’m looking forward to finding out who will be the first and how soon more states follow suit.

If you’re interested in reading more about destructive scratching and ways you can control it, check out my article:

Destructive (1)

 

12 Comments

  1. Your post chimes in perfectly with our blog book giveaway I HAD to comment. Until I began to blog and our reach extended far into the USA I had no idea about this brutal and horrifying practice!!! The thought of the images on City the Kitty’s site, and seeing the Paw Project site reduced me to tears and I will confront anyone who says it is right IT IS SO WRONG!!

    Well done on a good post! Dash Kitten Cew will share!!!

    • Amber

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! It’s a shocking practice and I’m very much looking to seeing it come to an end! Give us a link to your giveaway!

  2. We didn’t have a cat when I was growing up. Many people had their cats declawed and I thought it was routine. Once I learned more about it, I was shocked that vets still do it. I hope that New York will ban declawing and other states will quickly follow suit.

  3. This is such an important topic, I’m so glad the awareness is growing. When I got my 2 cats nearly 20 years ago, it was a very different scenario. Declawing was so common, and often recommended by Veterinarians. I adopted an older cat along with my kitten, Maggie. My older cat being the “accidental adoption” while I was waiting for maggie to come home, LOL! Maggie was a supreme scratcher. Despite having a nice big scratching post, she ruined an antique table, living room curtains, my couch, and other smaller items. I couldn’t handle it and was beside myself at what to do so I had her declawed. I know, I know, don’t hate me too much it was almost 20 yrs ago and we didn’t know better. The thinking back then was that if you’re going to declaw one cat in the household you should declaw any other cats too, as you’ll be leaving the declawed cat “defenseless” against the other cat(s). Heaven help me I believed that crap & declawed my older cat, Mousey as well! Poor sweet Mousey never clawed anything and would never have been any kind of threat to declawed Maggie. I was so mad at my Vet for not telling me how wrong & how stupid that was! I get sick thinking about it, even now all these years later. We didn’t know back then how awful & cruel declawing is and that there are many ways to deal with excessive scratching without declawing! My little Maggie was only a few months old when she was declawed, poor darling. I’m lucky my cats didn’t suffer any after effects, none that I could see anyway. But then again, I wasn’t looking for any after effects. Thanks for raising the awareness about declawing, I so wish the awareness was out there 20 years ago. The memory of declawing my cats still hurts me so badly )- : Sharing my ugly truth to help prevent others from making the same mistake.

    • Amber

      Thank you for sharing, Cathy! I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself! There are so many instances in pet care that owners feel they should defer to their veterinarian. I feel like most of us realize something we could have or should have done better for our pets after the fact. Goodness knows I’ve had those realizations! Again, thank you for sharing 🙂

  4. Practices like declawing, debarking, docking and cropping are cruel practices and must not be done unless it is imperative or benefits the animal. Teaching a cat to not scratch takes some amount of work but it pays of in the end

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