Get Michigan to Ban Declawing. (Like many other countries and cities)
The term declaw is misleading –making one think an animal doctor is magically making a cat’s nails disappear, leaving all furniture worries behind. But not only is this elective surgery actually a painful amputation of the last bone in each toe (similar to removing the tip of your fingers), but also has lasting negative effects—as we’ve seen with the thousands of cats who come through our door each year.
Unfortunately, many families aren’t made fully aware of the risks associated with declawing, but we’re hoping to help change that! Please read on to see the research and many humane and effective alternatives to declawing.
The Risks of Declawing
Chronic pain. Botched surgeries. Bone fragments left behind. Arthritis. We see cats who are inclined to bite and those that don’t want to use the litterbox. We’ve had to do reparative surgeries, and some cats have to be on lifelong pain medication. Also, sadly, many declawed cats are euthanized in shelters because they are deemed aggressive or because of intractable litter box problems. But these behaviors are often secondary responses to pain and stress of not being able to express the natural behavior to scratch.
But you don’t have to take our word for it; studies show declawing leads to not just short-term pain and risk of infection, but a higher risk of chronic pain and behavioral problems such as biting and litter box problems. That’s a big part of why this elective surgery is also opposed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, discouraged by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and outlawed in so many countries, several cities, and now the state of New York. And leading health authorities, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Public Health Services agree that declawing cats to protect humans is “not advised.”
Why do cats scratch?
By nature, cats have an important need to scratch. Through scratching, they’re scent-marking and expressing emotion. Scratching serves many psychological and physiological needs by providing comfort and expression through kneading and allowing valuable stretching and foot-muscle exercises. Cats scratch to relieve stress and to express happiness and excitement. They also use claws to protect themselves and escape wild predators, dogs, and others who may do them harm. Even indoors, a cat without claws faces dangers, as their balance is impaired, resulting in a gradual weakening of their leg, shoulder and back muscles, and making them more susceptible to injurious falls.
Alternatives to declawing
A variety of alternatives exist to manage natural scratching behavior. Here are some easy and effective strategies:
- Provide a space for cats to scratch—e.g., scratching pads, posts and other appealing structures for the cat to use. Employ behavior modification techniques such as placing catnip or favorite wet food on top of them to induce the cat to use them. Just as we give our dogs “chew toys” so that they don’t eat our shoes, kitty needs things she can scratch, too!
- To protect furniture, use deterrents such as double-sided tape (e.g., Sticky Paws®). Covering the claws with soft temporary pads (e.g., Soft Claws®) is another good option.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly in order to blunt the tips. To do this safely, owners should be familiar with cat behavior and proper handling techniques to avoid being scratched or causing injury to the cat. When trimming, go slow and be patient. Stressful or painful experiences for the cat will likely lead to even more of a challenge in the future when trying to trim your cat’s nails.
- Using positive reinforcement, redirect your cat’s attention/scratching to a toy or scratching pad/post when the cat scratches at furniture.
- Consider using Feliway, which is available as a room plugin or a spray and mimics the scent of a cat’s facial pheromones. It’s useful for getting cats to stop urine marking and, as such, is believed to help with cats who mark with their claws, too.
- Still set on living with a declawed cat? Sometimes we have cats in the shelter already declawed before they came to the shelter. Just ask. We are here to help!
Get Michigan to be the 2nd state (behind lots of countries and cities) to Ban Declawing
Michigan State Representative Nate Shannon introduced legislation that, if it became law, would mean Michigan would lead the nation to outlaw declawing cats, banning a cruel and unnecessary mutilation.
Some mistakenly think declawing is harmless, surgical removal of nails, but declawing actually removes toe bones—resulting in both short-term and chronic pain and other well-documented health issues. We’ve witnessed this in our shelter; declawed cats often have physical and behavioral problems that are a secondary response to pain and to the stress of losing their natural and important need to scent mark. Declawing cats does not protect them from relinquishment; rather, it puts them at greater risk to be turned in to a shelter because of the resulting problems. Furthermore, the CDC and National Institutes of Health agree declawing cats to protect humans is “not advised.” See more about the issues from declawing here.
Based on research showing clear detrimental effects, both the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) are against declawing as an elective procedure. It is also illegal in numerous countries and cities, and it is opposed by all major animal welfare organizations.
Please take a second to email your representative letting them know declawing must stop, and the great state of Michigan can lead the way in protecting our companion animals.