Declawing Cats Now Banned. The Growing List of States Outlawing This Controversial Practice in 2023


Declawing is a surgical procedure where the entire third phalanx bone, along with attached tendons and ligaments, is removed from each digit on a cat’s paw. This effectively amputates the final toe segment and claws. It is an elective procedure typically done to prevent furniture damage or avoid scratches.

Declawing is a controversial practice that has been banned in many countries around the world. Supporters argue it can prevent destructive scratching behavior in cats. Opponents view it as an inhumane mutilation that permanently disables cats and can cause long-term medical and psychological issues. There are debates around whether declawing violates animal welfare and if alternatives exist.

This article provides an overview of declawing cats, including the medical facts, legal status, reasons for and against, veterinary perspectives, alternatives, and advice for caring for declawed cats. The goal is to comprehensively examine this complex issue to help pet owners make an informed decision.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is defined as the amputation of the last bone of each toe on a cat’s paw, including the claw (The Humane Society of the United States, 2022). The medical terminology for declawing is an onychectomy, which is the surgical removal of the distal phalanges, or end bones, of a cat’s digits (Furnam Pet and Vet, 2022).

During the declawing procedure, the last bone of the cat’s toe is amputated so the claw and nail bed are completely removed. This involves cutting through tendons, ligaments, and nerves to disconnect the last bone from the rest of the toe (The Humane Society of the United States, 2022).

Declawing is not the same as trimming a cat’s nails, which involves humanely clipping the sharp tips off the claw. Nail trims should be done regularly to keep cats’ nails blunt and prevent injury from scratches. Trimming avoids the extreme surgery of amputation involved with declawing.

Arguments For Declawing

Some of the primary arguments in favor of declawing cats include preventing scratching of furniture and humans, convenience, and finding housing that allows declawed cats.

Many cat owners choose to declaw their cats to prevent damage to furniture and belongings. Cats have a natural instinct to scratch and mark their territory with their claws. This can result in them shredding furniture, carpets, drapes and more with their sharp claws. By removing the claws through declawing, cat owners no longer have to worry about cats ruining household items through scratching (Source).

Additionally, declawed cats are less likely to accidentally scratch or injure humans with their claws. This is especially important for households with small children who may play roughly with cats. Removing the sharp claws reduces the risk of painful scratches. Some see declawing as more convenient since owners do not have to trim nails or use scratching posts (Source).

Lastly, many rental properties and apartments have banned cats with claws due to the potential damage they cause. However, landlords will often make exceptions for declawed cats since they do not pose the same risk of property damage. Those looking to have a cat while renting may view declawing as the only option for having a cat in their home (Source).

Arguments Against Declawing

Declawing a cat is considered inhumane by many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations because it removes important parts of a cat’s anatomy solely for human convenience. Declawing involves amputating the last bone of each toe, which is very painful for the cat and permanently disables its ability to exhibit natural scratching behaviors. The surgery often leads to both short-term and long-term physical issues for the cat.

In the short-term, declawing frequently causes pain, infection, and other medical complications from the surgery and recovery process. According to the Humane Society, common side effects include bleeding, swelling, lameness, and back pain (Source). The claws are closely adhered to bone and nerves, so amputation can damage tissue and cause chronic pain. The surgery and recovery is considered so painful that it usually requires strong pain medication.

In the long-term, removing a cat’s claws negatively impacts both behavior and health. Declawed cats frequently suffer from stress, frustration, and increased biting tendencies since they cannot scratch. Scratching is a natural instinct cats use to groom, stretch, mark territory, and relieve stress. Take away this ability, and problems can ensue. Declawed cats may also experience lifelong issues like cysts, joint stiffness, and paw numbness. Since they lose their front line of defense, declawed cats may feel increased stress and anxiety.

Many vets encourage cat owners to explore alternatives to declawing. With patience and effort, cats can be taught to scratch approved objects and leave furniture alone. Pet owners can also use nail caps, scratching posts, trimming, and soft plastic covers to diminish damage. Adopting an already declawed cat is another option to consider.

Declawing Bans By State

A number of states have banned or restricted the practice of declawing cats. Here are the key details on declawing legislation in the US as of 2023:

New York was the first state to ban declawing in 2019, making it a criminal offense to perform the procedure unless medically necessary for the cat’s health (Source). The law faced some initial legal challenges but went into effect in 2020.

Maryland banned declawing in 2022 except for medical purposes confirmed by tests and exams. Violations carry fines of up to $10,000 (Source).

California passed a declawing ban in 2022 that will take effect in 2023. Declawing will only be allowed for medical reasons documented by a vet (Source).

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have active legislation proposed to ban or restrict declawing as of 2023 (Source).

Several other states including Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania considered declawing bans in 2022-2023 legislative sessions but they did not yet pass (Source).

Enforcing Declawing Bans

Declawing bans are enforced through legislation at the state level. Violators may face fines or other penalties for breaking the law. However, enforcement relies heavily on public reporting of violators. For example, in New York where declawing has been illegal since 2019, the agriculture department relies on complaints to identify violators of the ban.

Some of the key challenges with enforcing declawing bans include:

  • Lack of awareness – If the public doesn’t know about the law, violations may go unreported.
  • Difficulty monitoring veterinary practices – It’s not feasible to proactively monitor every veterinary clinic.
  • Proving violation – Veterinarians may try to hide or disguise declawing procedures to avoid penalties.
  • Penalties not severe enough – Small fines may not deter violators if they can profit more from continuing to declaw cats.

To strengthen enforcement, states can increase public education about declawing bans, implement steeper penalties for violations, and require veterinarians to report data on claw removal procedures. However, bans will rely heavily on public engagement to identify violators. Continued advocacy is needed even after bans are passed.

Veterinary Perspectives

Many veterinarians have strong opinions on declawing cats. According to the AVMA, declawing should only be performed as a “last resort” when alternatives have failed and the owner’s health or safety is at risk from scratching [1].

In a CBS News article, the president of the California Veterinary Medical Association stated, “There are better alternatives to declawing, including routine nail trims, scratching posts, deterrent sprays and glues, and behavior modification.” [2]

Many vets feel declawing involves significant pain and have concerns about appropriate anesthesia and analgesia, according to a study in the National Library of Medicine. Some vets refuse to perform the procedure due to ethical concerns. [3]

Overall, veterinary perspectives on declawing vary. Some view it unethical and advocate for bans, while others feel it can be an appropriate last resort if done properly. Most agree alternatives should be tried first and adequate pain management is essential.

Alternatives to Declawing

There are several effective and humane alternatives to declawing a cat. These include:

Trimming Nails

Regularly trimming your cat’s nails can help blunt the tips and reduce any damage from scratching. A good guideline is to trim nails every 2 weeks. Use special sharp nail clippers designed for cats and be careful not to cut the quick of the nail, which contains blood vessels and nerves. Just trim off the sharp tip.

According to Old Farm Veterinary Hospital, “Trimming your cat’s nails regularly is an important step in avoiding unwanted scratching.”

Scratching Posts

Providing sturdy scratching posts and cat trees allows cats to satisfy their natural scratching instinct. Place the posts near furniture or areas the cat is scratching to help redirect the behavior. Use posts made of sisal rope or cardboard, which cats prefer over carpet.

The Just Cats Veterinary Clinic recommends “Ensuring your cat has places where it is allowed to scratch, such as scratching posts.”

Nail Caps

Nail caps like Soft Paws are plastic covers that fit over the cat’s nails to prevent scratching damage. They last 4-6 weeks before needing replacement as the nail grows out. Proper application is important.

According to City Way Animal Hospital, nail caps “are an excellent alternative to declawing that keeps the claws blunt and people’s furnishings claw free.”


With positive reinforcement and redirection, most cats can be trained not to scratch furniture. Provide appropriate scratching posts, use verbal corrections when catching unwanted scratching, and reward desired scratching behavior.

As Old Farm Veterinary Hospital states, “Training is essential for redirecting scratching to appropriate areas.”

Adopting Declawed Cats

There are many declawed cats in need of adoption. According to Declawed Cats in Need of Homes, a Facebook group by The Paw Project (, there are thousands of declawed cats looking for forever homes across the US and Canada.

If you’re considering adopting a declawed cat, it’s important to understand the special considerations. According to Shadow Cats TNR (, declawed cats can develop medical and behavioral issues. For instance, declawed cats may experience chronic paw pain or sensitivity, arthritis, and litter box avoidance. Declawing can also lead to increased biting and anxiety.

It’s recommended to speak with your veterinarian about the cat’s specific needs. Provide soft bedding, avoid rough surfaces, keep nails trimmed, and use litter that’s gentle on paws. Be patient and understanding of any behavioral issues. With love and care, many declawed cats can live long and happy lives in their adoptive homes.


In summary, declawing cats is a controversial practice that involves amputating the end bones of a cat’s toes. The procedure can cause numerous health and behavioral issues for cats. As a result, declawing has been banned in many states, cities, and countries around the world.

The main arguments against declawing include increased risk of back pain, infection, and other physical ailments. Declawed cats may also exhibit behavioral problems like litter box avoidance and aggression. Many veterinary organizations oppose routine declawing since it goes against a vet’s oath to animal welfare.

Alternatives like trimming claws and using scratching posts are safer options for cat owners. Adopting a declawed cat is still an option, but owners should provide proper care to keep the cat comfortable. Overall, routine elective declawing is frowned upon by many experts, leading to various legal bans.

While some cat owners still choose to declaw, the trend is shifting toward bans and alternatives. More states may soon join the list prohibiting elective declawing. The debate will likely continue, but an increasing amount of evidence points to declawing being inhumane and unnecessary in most cases.

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