Paw Project Position Statement on Declawing

The Paw Project Position Statement on Declawing of Cats

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The Paw Project considers the declawing of cats to be mutilation, unethical, unnecessary and inhumane.

Declawing is never in the best interest of the cat.

Declawing is the non-therapeutic amputation of all or part of the last phalanx in cats’ toes in order to remove the claw to prevent cats’ natural scratching behavior. Declawing is a surgical procedure designed to change a behavior. Behavior issues should be addressed with behavioral and environmental modification as well as education. Surgery should be reserved for addressing anatomical pathology, such as a tumor or deformity. This would be more properly termed a phalangectomy. There is no such thing as therapeutic “declawing.”

There is no scientific evidence that shows declawing cats protects them from relinquishment, abandonment, or euthanasia. Declawed cats are often found in shelters and rescues, or even outdoor colonies. Declawing does not save cats’ lives.

Declawing cats does not protect human health. Scientific studies have found that declawed cats bite more often and harder than their clawed counterparts. A bite wound is unquestionably more dangerous to immunocompromised people, children, or the elderly than a cat scratch. Major health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Public Health Services, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America all agree that declawing cats to protect humans is “not advised.”

No matter how the surgery is performed, declawing is an unnecessary and cruel, permanent procedure. No amount of pain control or surgical technique (including vaporizing lasers) can negate the fact that healthy tissue is being amputated and this is not in the best interest of the cat. Even if future advances in surgical techniques are able to eliminate some of the adverse effects associated with declawing, the Paw Project believes this procedure is unethical other than if required to manage a medical condition.

The Paw Project believes that legislation must be passed whenever possible to ban declawing. Veterinarians in the USA have failed to regulate themselves and therefore the legislature must step in to protect animals.

 

Background

  • Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. It is a visual and olfactory marking of territory, usually to let other cats know that this territory is taken. It is also a way to hone the claws and stretch the shoulders and back.
  • Cats need their front claws for their first line of defense. A swipe is a powerful way to keep an adversary at arm’s length. They also need their front and back claws in order to climb to get away from a potential threat.
  • Cats’ claws can be trimmed by taking off the sharp tip. This might help decrease the amount of damage the cats can do to furnishing.
  • Declawing is known to lead to acute and chronic pain, in fact, it is listed in veterinary pain management textbooks as causing severe pain. As a result of declawing, many cats will have permanent or intermittent lameness and other surgical complications.
  • A recent peer-reviewed journal article on declawed cats showed that they are more likely to suffer chronic back pain (probably secondary to altered conformational stance and a shift in weight bearing to avoid the pain in the paws from the declawing) and behavioral changes including increased biting, inappropriate litter box, aggression, and over-grooming.
  • There are now data that show that declawed cats have higher levels of cortisol in their tissues than their clawed counterparts. Increased cortisol is the measurement to denote chronic stress.
  • Cat guardians must recognize that cats need to scratch and therefore provide appropriate surfaces within the house for the cat to scratch on. Cardboard, sisal, carpet, and wood scratchers are often accepted by cats. The cat should be allowed to decide which surfaces are best for the cat. If the cat is scratching the carpets, a carpet scratching post is indicated. If the cat is scratching the wooden legs of a table, a wooden scratching post might be best. In each case, the cat should decide. Scratching posts must be placed in prominent areas of the home because the cat is marking territory and needs these markers to be readily accessible. Scratching posts must be sturdy and allow the cats to stretch their entire body when using one. Some cats prefer vertical scratching surfaces while others prefer horizontal scratching surfaces. Letting the cat decide will ensure the most success.
  • Positive reinforcement with use of praise, love, attention, and treats should be used to encourage the cat to scratch in the appropriate spots. Squirt guns, loud noises, and throwing things at the cat are not good ways to train the cat.
  • Certified Cat Behaviorists are available in most parts of the country, either through online consultation or in-home visits.
  • Cats are trainable, especially if the right motivator is presented to them.
  • Vinyl nail caps are a good way to buy time while the cat is being trained.
  • Cat Scratch Disease is caused by flea excrement getting into any wound. If the fleas are controlled, the disease is controlled. The cats (usually kittens) must have proper flea control and veterinary care.
  • Unlike spay and neuter surgeries that help cats avoid medical conditions and the death of many due to over-population, declawing never helps cats.