Hooray for New York, which this week became the first state to pass legislation banning the declawing of cats. California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are considering similar bans. Declawing is already banned in some cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver.
Cats’ claws are a vital part of their anatomy and their instinctive behavior. They use them to escape from other animals or people who are hurting or threatening them. Cats claw to have fun and exercise, to maintain the condition of their nails, and to mark their territory. They stretch by digging their claws in and pulling against their own claw-hold.
Declawing of cats, or onychectomy, is not at all like clipping your fingernails. It is the amputation of the last bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each front toe. It is the same as cutting off each of your fingers at the first knuckle. Declawing is serious surgery and puts a cat at risk of adverse reactions to anesthesia, gangrene, hemorrhaging, permanent nerve damage, persistent pain, difficulty walking, scar tissue formation, bone fragments, and skin disorders. After surgery, the nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain but remaining invisible to observers. Declawing results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and because of impaired balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats must relearn to walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.
Without claws, even house-trained cats may urinate outside the litter box. Declawed cats may be morose, reclusive, and withdrawn or irritable, aggressive, and unpredictable. Many people think that declawed cats are safer around babies, but in fact, the lack of claws, a cat’s first line of defense, makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to nip more often as a means of self-protection. Declawed cats often develop behavioral problems that eventually lead to their being dumped at animal shelters and killed.
Peace to all the animals with whom we share this planet!