Have you noticed a lot of news articles, blogs and Facebook posts about cat declawing lately? Why are so many people talking about it?
My name is Dr. Hugh Chisholm. I’m a retired veterinarian who worked exclusively with cats for over 25 years. I am also Atlantic Canada’s Director for The Paw Project. I’m ashamed to admit that I performed a few declaw surgeries early in my career. I always felt bad about it but it was accepted as a legitimate procedure for so-called “problem cats.” One day I was talking to a colleague from Vancouver who had a “No Declaw” cat hospital. As soon as I heard that, I decided I’d performed my last declaw surgery. My staff was ecstatic!
Cat declaw surgery has been a routine procedure in veterinary hospitals for decades however many veterinarians are no longer willing to perform the procedure. Declawing is illegal in many countries including the U.K., Brazil, Germany and Australia because it is considered inhumane. As our understanding of cat behaviour and pain has improved, we can no longer defend this as a reasonable method for dealing with cat claws.
Scratching objects is a NORMAL feline behaviour which prevents the claws from growing too long and digging into the pads of the feet. Scratching also leaves a visual signal and a scent mark to inform other cats that someone occupies the territory. It is important for their physical and mental health that cats, like all animals, are able to perform normal behaviours.
What do veterinarians do when they perform a declaw surgery? The short answer is… amputation x 10. The last bone on each front digit is surgically removed along with the claw. It would be equivalent to amputating the end of each of your fingers at the joint behind the fingernail.
Here’s a LINK to a short animated video that demonstrates the procedure (don’t worry, there’s no blood).
Declawed cats can suffer from a multitude of problems including infection, re-growth of claws, chronic pain in their paws, pain in other joints due to a change in the way they bear weight as well as behaviour changes due to chronic pain including biting, house soiling and depression.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association recently revised its position statement on declawing in cats. They even changed the title from declawing to partial digital amputation “to better reflect the nature of the procedure.” The CVMA President, Dr Troy Bourque, says “…it is evident that felines suffer needlessly when undergoing this surgery…” The CVMA has also stated “…from an ethical viewpoint, the CVMA views this surgery as unacceptable as it offers no advantage to the feline and lack of scientific evidence leaves us unable to predict the likelihood of long-term behavioural and physical negative side effects.” Strong words from a generally conservative body! You can read the complete document HERE. Sadly, this position statement carries no legal weight because veterinarians in Canada (and the USA) are regulated at a provincial (state) level. Each provincial veterinary association will need to adopt a declaw ban in order for it to be complete.
The Tuxedo Party of Canada believes that it is time for North American veterinary associations to ban declawing of cats. You can help by contacting your provincial or state veterinary association and demand that they stop allowing this abuse of cats to continue.
If your provincial/state veterinary association refuses to ban cat declawing then lobby your provincial/state government to pass a law ordering veterinarians to stop performing the procedure. The Tuxedo Party has made it an election issue in the current Nova Scotia provincial election – you can follow our progress on our Facebook Page. We are one step away from being the first province/state in North America to have declawing banned!
We encourage you to contact your own veterinarian and ask them if they perform declaw surgery. Tell them you are against the procedure and encourage them to stop. Some people have even changed veterinarians over this issue.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on humane ways to deal with cat claws.