The American Animal Hospital Association strongly opposes the declawing of domestic cats and supports veterinarians' efforts to educate cat owners and provide them with effective alternatives. If you are considering declawing your cat, you must first be provided with complete education about feline declawing, including the anatomic details of what a declaw surgery entails (i.e. amputation of the third phalanx - last bone in toe (P3)) and the importance of proper pain management. In addition, alternative to surgery and the risks and benefits of surgery need to be discussed.
Declawing is now banned in some states in the U.S., including New York.
The following is Cherry Ridge Veterinary Clinic' Position Statement on Feline declawing: We will consider doing feline declawing of the front paws only after education of our client (see below).
Scratching is a normal feline behavior. Cats scratch to:
(1) condition their claws by removing old nail sheaths,
(2) scent mark objects with the glands on their paws,
(3) visually mark objects by leaving shredded matter as evidence,
(4) stretch and exercise their forelegs, and
(5) enjoy a pleasant sensation.
Cat owners can promote appropriate scratching behaviors by doing the following:
A. Provide suitable implements for normal scratching behavior. Examples include scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects, implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching, and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching.
B. Place appropriate scratching objects near scratched furniture and make them more attractive than the furniture. Additionally, place scratching objects near resting areas so the cat can stretch and scratch after resting.
C. Train cats through positive reinforcement (e.g. treats, use of catnip, verbal praise, etc.) to use the above implements.
D. Trim cats' nails every one to two weeks.
E. Consider artificial nail caps (soft paws).
F. Avoid harm to themselves or cats by avoiding engaging in rough play.
G. Provide appropriate feline environmental enrichment, which must be implemented for successful behavioral modification. Repetitive or increases in scratching behavior of indoor cats may be related to anxiety, stress, attention seeking, or lack of perceived security in their environment. Anxiety can be exacerbated by owner punishment, thus driving the cat to increase scratching behavior in the same or other locations.
H. Consider using synthetic facial pheromone sprays and/or diffusers to to help relieve anxiety or stress. Application of synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feli-scratch or Feliway) on the desired scratcher has been shown to induce scratching behavior on an appropriate target. In addition, deterrent materials (e.g., double-sided sticky tape, foil, plastic) may be placed on the undesired scratching object.
As veterinarians, we are obligated to provide cat owners with complete education about declawing. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:
1. Declawing is not just removal of the claw; it is a major surgery involving amputation.
2. Declawing is rarely a medically necessary procedure. There are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure, including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, side effects associated with analgesics, hemorrhage, infection, and pain.
3. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised people.
Declawing may warrant consideration as an alternative to relinquishment or euthanasia, but only after extensive education and presentation of other strategies to manage scratching behavior.
This statement does not apply to claw removal when medically necessary to treat conditions such as tumors or chronic infections.
If declawing is performed, the procedure must follow current best practices for amputation, including multimodal pain control before, during, and for an appropriate length of time after the surgery.
Also, declawed cats should be kept indoors all the time, except if directly supervised while outside. For the safety of the declawed cat, avoid having aggressive cats in the same house.
AAHA believes the current data regarding behavioral issues following declaw are insufficient and will evaluate new scientific information as it becomes available.
The Cat Community: https://catfriendly.com/scratching
Environmental Enrichment: https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats
Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov
Cat Healthy: http://www.cathealthy.ca
Environmental Enrichment: http://catvets.com/environmental-needs
FELINE DECLAW EDUCATION VERIFICATION FORM (you will be asked to sign this in our office)
____ I am aware scratching is a normal behavior and alternative training and management options are available to control undesirable scratching.
____ I have been made aware of and discussed the alternatives to declawing with my veterinarian.
____ I am aware that declawing is an elective orthopedic procedure involving the amputation of the third toe bone and claw. While the claw is no longer present, I am aware that my pet may still exhibit scratching behavior.
____ I certify that I am the legal owner or authorized agent of the owner.
____ (Include surgical release language here or as an attached form)
In constitution with my veterinarian, I have made the decision to have my pet declawed because (check all that apply):
____ Reasonable attempts to utilize the recommended alternatives have failed.
____ The procedure was recommended by a physician due to a health condition of a household member.
____ Declawing is required to keep my pet at my place of residence.
____I am unable to attempt the recommended alternatives.