These U.S. States Just Said No to Declawing Cats – Find Out Why

Introduction

Declawing cats is a controversial practice that involves surgically removing a cat’s claws by amputating the end bones of their toes. While some pet owners believe declawing makes cats better house pets by preventing them from scratching furniture or people, many vets and animal welfare organizations strongly oppose the practice. They argue that declawing is inhumane since it involves removing an important body part of cats and can cause long-term medical issues. As a result of the controversy surrounding this procedure, declawing cats has been banned in several U.S. cities and states as well as in many countries around the world.

What is Declawing?

Declawing is the amputation of the last bone of each toe on a cat’s paw. It involves surgically removing the claw and toe bone (Falange) so they do not regrow (1). This process is typically done for reasons such as preventing property damage or injury from scratching, but it is extremely controversial. Rather than amputating the toe bone, less invasive alternatives include regularly trimming claws or using plastic caps over the nails.

(1) https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/why-declawing-bad-your-cat

Arguments Against Declawing

Many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations argue that declawing cats is inhumane because it causes unnecessary pain and permanent harm. Declawing involves amputating the last bone of each toe, which contains tendons, ligaments, and nerves. This is not like trimming nails; it is surgery done under anesthesia that removes important parts of the cat’s normal anatomy. The surgery and recovery is very painful for cats.

Declawing can also negatively impact cats both physically and mentally. It increases the risk of long-term medical issues like back pain, arthritis, and litter box avoidance. Cats use their claws for balance, exercise, and stretching their back and leg muscles. Without claws, cats may become less active. Declawed cats are also more likely to bite since their primary defense mechanism has been removed.

The Humane Society, PETA, and many veterinary organizations oppose routine declawing as an unnecessary, primarily cosmetic surgery that provides no medical benefit to cats. They view it as mutilation done purely for the convenience of pet owners. There are many humane alternatives to declawing that do not involve surgery, like regular nail trims, scratching posts, nail caps, and training.

Arguments Supporting Declawing

While declawing has received increasing scrutiny in recent years, some arguments continue to be made in support of the procedure. One of the most common reasons owners choose to declaw is to prevent cats from scratching furniture or people. Declawed cats are less likely to damage household items like sofas, carpets, curtains and more with their claws [1]. This makes declawing an attractive option for owners who want to protect their belongings. Additionally, declawed cats may be viewed as more adoptable since they don’t present a scratching risk [2]. Some argue this makes declawing ethical in order to increase adoption rates. However, alternatives like regular nail trimmings and scratching posts are recommended instead of declawing to protect furniture.

Prevalence of Declawing

According to the AVMA, approximately 25% of owned cats in the United States are declawed. This equates to around 8.4 million cats that have undergone the procedure. Declawing is most prevalent among indoor-only cats, with estimates ranging from 22% to 50% of these cats being declawed. The procedure peaked in popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s, but has been steadily declining over the past decade due to increased awareness of animal welfare concerns.

However, declawing remains a common practice in many areas of the United States. Some estimates suggest around 25% of cat owners still choose to declaw their cats. The procedure remains legal in most states, with only New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island having banned the practice.

States Where Declawing is Illegal

Currently, only two states have banned the practice of declawing cats: New York and New Jersey. New York was the first state to ban declawing in 2019, when lawmakers voted to make it illegal for veterinarians to perform the procedure unless it is medically necessary. This made New York the first state in the country to make declawing cats illegal. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both the state Senate and Assembly before being signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The law makes an exception for cases where a veterinarian deems the procedure medically necessary, such as for disease, injury, or infection.

New Jersey followed suit in 2020, when Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law banning elective declawing procedures on cats and imposing fines up to $1,000 on veterinarians who violate the law. The New Jersey bill, called Nosey’s Law after a declawed rescue cat, made exceptions for procedures that are medically necessary to treat physical illness, disease, injury, or infection. The law was championed by animal welfare advocates who argued that declawing is an inhumane procedure that causes unnecessary pain and behavioral problems in cats.

Cities Where Declawing is Illegal

Even in states where declawing is still legal, some major cities have passed local ordinances to ban the practice within city limits. According to PETA, the following cities in the U.S. have banned declawing cats:

  • Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Austin, Texas
  • Berkeley, California
  • Beverly Hills, California
  • Burbank, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

These major cities have passed bans despite declawing still being legal at the state level. Animal welfare advocates have pushed for city-level bans as a stepping stone towards wider state or national bans.

International Bans

Many countries around the world have banned the declawing of cats, viewing it as an inhumane practice. According to PETA, declawing cats is illegal in the UK, including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Other European countries that have banned declawing include France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.

Outside of Europe, declawing bans exist in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Israel and Turkey. In North America, declawing is only legal in Canada and the United States. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes declawing except for “medical necessity.”

Workarounds

In areas where declawing cats is banned, there are some humane alternatives pet owners can consider instead. One option is regular nail trimming to blunt the claws. Using standard nail clippers designed for cats, owners can trim the sharp tips off the nails every week or two. This reduces scratches without removing the claws entirely. Another alternative is soft plastic caps called nail caps that cover the nails. Products like Soft Paws or Soft Claws are applied with non-toxic glue and last 4-6 weeks before needing replacement as the nails grow. Nail caps prevent scratches and damage while allowing the cat to still use its claws naturally.

There are also deterrents like double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, or citrus smells that can be placed on furniture to discourage scratching. Providing appropriate scratching posts, pads, and cat trees for nails and climbing is also essential. With patience and positive reinforcement, cats can be trained to scratch acceptable surfaces. Ultimately, regular nail care and cat-friendly furniture allow cats in no-declaw areas to keep their claws while preventing destruction.

Conclusion

The practice of declawing cats is controversial, with proponents arguing it prevents cats from destructive clawing behavior, while opponents view it as an inhumane procedure that permanently disables cats. Several US states and cities have outlawed or restricted the procedure, though declawing remains legal in most of the country.

Key points covered in this article include:

  • Declawing surgery involves amputating the last bone of each toe, which permanently removes claws but also impacts balance and mobility.
  • Veterinary groups discourage declawing except as a last resort, noting alternatives like trimming claws and using scratching posts.
  • Declawing bans have been passed in a handful of states like New York and California, as well as cities including Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
  • The US lags behind many other developed nations that prohibit declawing entirely.
  • Though declawing remains prevalent, awareness of its impacts has grown as more locales move to restrict the procedure.

With valid ethical arguments on both sides, the declawing debate seems poised to continue as pet owners, vets, and lawmakers weigh medical factors, animal welfare, and quality of life impacts.

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