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The Law: To Declaw or Not to Declaw? That is truly the question

The declawing bill in Albany has passed the Senate after sparking a lot of debate. New York becomes potentially the first state to ban the practice unless medically necessary. Some people, including the republican senator sponsoring the bill, say the practice is not humane but most veterinarians believe the decision should be left up to the cat's owner.

Declawing is a very serious procedure. We will not take a position whether a cat should or should not be declawed. However, we feel strongly that an owner should know what is involved before ordering his cat to go through it.

The procedure is known as onychectomy and it is the amputation of the entire last joint of each toe.

Reasons not to declaw:

  • Risks of surgery - Like any surgery, there are risks of anesthesia complications. The cat's life is potentially in danger every time they go in for surgery. Minimizing that risk and restricting it to necessary procedures protects your pet. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine reported that 50% or more of cats who have been declawed develop serious post-surgical complications.

  • Pain - Most vets will send your cat home with adequate pain medication but as anyone who has had surgery can attest, perfect pain control is impossible and you can't explain to your cat why it has to hurt. Some cats, especially with the older procedures, seem to experience ongoing chronic pain, like a phantom limb.

  • Recovery time - The recovery time depends on the type of surgery used, with the newest laser procedures being the fastest, but it can last weeks with the older style slicing procedures. Some cats seem to take a while to relearn to walk slightly differently.

  • Potential behavioral changes - When deprived of their front claws to scratch with, some cats resort to biting or even become aggressive for the first time. Biting is just as dirty as scratching and the punctures can become infected. Other cats may regress in litter box training or become more picky about what styles of litter they're willing to use.

Reasons to declaw:

  • The landlord requires it. - If you rent, it may be a requirement to show proof that the cat is declawed. Landlords try to protect themselves from the damage a cat's claws can do to their carpet and walls. This leaves the owners with little choice but to declaw the cat or abandon a beloved family member. Sometimes this new policy takes effect when you renew your lease and new rules are included.

  • Scratches and Infection to the humans in the household. - Cat scratches can easily become infected because of the amount of bacteria under their nails. If a cat is prone to scratching when startled, declawing protects you and your children from the injuries. Many declawed cats will simply try to scratch with their soft declawed feet rather than resort to biting.

  • Behavioral modification failed. - Most veterinarians recommend attempting behavioral solutions before declawing the cat and there are some options that can be helpful for most cats. A few don't yield to the program though. Sometimes the choice is between getting the cat declawed or spending large amounts of money repairing ongoing, never-ending damages.

Do you think declawing should remain an option or should it be outlawed in New York? If it is outlawed, would people desperate to keep their pets take them out-of-state? Will there be a rise in the homeless cat population as people who would have kept a cat after getting him declawed abandon him instead?

Comment below to share your thoughts about declawing cats or contact us for your pet care needs.

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