A photo of a sleeping cat (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).
Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced laws this year to ban cat declawing, which many animal advocates and some veterinarians say is a cruel disfigurement of the cat’s body and impairs its natural instincts to climb and climb. scratch.
Last year, Maryland joined New York, which banned declawing in 2019, as the only states to ban the practice. But some US cities, including Washington, DC; Pittsburgh and Allentown, Pennsylvania; Austin, Texas; denver; Madison, Wisconsin; Saint Louis; and eight California cities have their own bans, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And almost 40 foreign countries do it too.
Opponents of the bans, including groups representing other vets, argue that declawing is sometimes appropriate for cats and their owners. In the latter group are people for whom deep scratching by cats could hinder their ability to work, such as infectious disease laboratory workers. They also say blanket bans undermine veterinarians’ ability to make medical decisions based on a pet’s needs.
Opponents of declawing point to a published study in 2018 in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery about the procedure It found that declawing cats resulted in a “significant increase in the odds of developing adverse behaviors” such as biting, licking raw fur and skin, showing aggression, urinating and defecating in inappropriate places, and showing signs of back pain
“It is an unnecessary and painful mutilation that results in decreased mobility, chronic pain, and mental anguish that can manifest in avoiding a litter box and hiding out of a feeling of vulnerability,” PETA spokeswoman Catie Cryar wrote in an e-mail to Status line.
Cryar said the term “declawing” is a misnomer because the procedure involves the removal of tendons, bones and muscles, not just nails. She said it’s similar to taking a person’s finger off at the first knuckle.
The American Feline Medical Association agrees. That group’s policy says that most declawing is not medically necessary and that “scratching is normal feline behavior.” The cat veterinarians group said owners should receive instructions on safe ways for cats to scratch, such as training them to use designated scratching posts instead of furniture.
But in some states, vets have helped defeat proposed bans.
In Virginia, for example, a bill that would have banned declawing cats was, as the committee chair put it, “gently put on the table” in a 6-4 vote after testimony against Susan Seward, representing the Veterinary Medical Association from Virginia.
Seward said veterinarians are often asked to declaw a cat “due to the owner’s medical needs,” citing two HIV-positive clients who wanted to minimize the risk of bleeding from the cat’s scratching. She said another vet in the Fairfax County area, near Washington, DC, works in a biohazard area and any animal bite or scratch could put him out of work for two weeks or until his wounds heal.
“We are simply asking the committee to trust that Virginia veterinarians will do the right thing,” and to give animal doctors discretion, he said. “We ask that you, in effect, not criminalize vets for performing a procedure.”
Virginia Democratic Del. Wendy Gooditis, who sponsored the bill, told a hearing that she has owned dozens of cats, including declawed cats she adopted from a shelter. Echoing PETA language, she urged her colleagues at a January hearing to “watch your hands; it is the equivalent of having your fingers or toes chopped off with the first knuckle.”
She said cats without claws are “more prone to bite. They are no longer that fluffy pet that sits on your lap while you watch Netflix.” And, she added, “a cat scratch … is much less dangerous to health than a cat bite.”
Last month, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill prohibit declawing; Senate committees are now considering it.
State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, the Democrat sponsoring the ban in the Illinois House of Representatives, said her intent is “not to challenge veterans or experts. I don’t see how this would hurt the relationship between the vets and the owner,” she said in an email to status line. “There are other ways to build relationships, not by hurting the animal.”
Hernández said he is hopeful the Senate will act quickly, arguing that people who decide to declaw their cats are more concerned about their furniture than the welfare of their animals.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives also passed a bill last month that would prohibit declawing. Republican state Rep. Mike Bordes, the lead sponsor, made a similar argument at a hearing last month, arguing that “most people have their cats declawed to save their furniture. … It is used for convenience, not for medical purposes.”
Bordes called the procedure an “old barbaric treatment” for cats. When questioned by committee members, Bordes said he did not have statistics on how often the procedure is performed in New Hampshire, but said some vets have urged him to sponsor a ban because they don’t want to do it.
Dr. Jane Barlow Roy, a New Hampshire veterinarian who represents the 400-member American Veterinary Medical Association in the state, said the group’s membership is evenly split on the issue.
But, he said, passing a law “takes away the ability to make decisions about health care that we have worked so hard to build. … This would elude our professional judgment.”
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The charge We’re Not Kittens: States Could Move to Ban Declawing of Cats first appeared in Montana Journal.