Declawing Facts vs Myths & Humane Options


Here’s a 2022 story about why declawing must be banned and how the veterinary associations use weak excuses to try to keep this animal cruelty legal for their declawing veterinarians. HSUS declawing story


Declawing is the amputation of a cat’s first toe bone.

Declawing always causes varying degrees of long term pain and suffering and always harms the health and well-being of a cat. Cats are stoic and hide their pain and suffering until they are in a severe state.

International Cat Care (iCatCare) and its veterinary division the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) consider the declawing of cats for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons to be an act of mutilation and to be unethical. These organizations started the Cat Friendly Practice program which does not allow declawing in their practices in North America and Europe. Declawing is an act of mutilation & unethical


Removal of a cat’s claws and toe bones means removal of a cat’s ability to stretch its its back muscles and changes the way in which the feet hit the ground. This can lead to back problems, including pain and muscle atrophy. Think of it like wearing improper shoes in humans.

Declawing is torture, inhumane, and an intentional act of mutilation. It often causes behavioral issues like biting, aggression, and litter box avoidance because the pain and discomfort that the declawed cat has from their toe bone amputations.

 Declawed cats silently suffer throughout their life in varying degrees from this inhumane amputation procedure.  A study showed that declawing causes chronic stress in cats.

Here are the FACTS about declawing from the Paw Project’s post on facebook. declawing facts

The painful truth about declawing from an expert veterinarian, Dr Jean Hofve. The awful truth about declawing



Here’s an educational video from Jackson Galaxy about declawing. Jackson Galaxy declawing facts

(These are all facts that are backed up by studies and information and this section was reviewed by accomplished veterinarians who are experts in these areas.)

FACT: No matter how declawing is performed, it always involves cutting through ligaments, tendons, nerves, and tissue to remove the last toe bone in a cat’s paw. Declawing is amputation. The guillotine method cuts part of the last bone and claw in a cat’s paw and leaves bone fragments behind.

Removal of a cat’s toe bones and claws means the removal of a cat’s ability to stretch its its back muscles and it changes the way in which their feet hit the ground. This can lead to back problems, including pain and muscle atrophy.

FACT: CATS HIDE THEIR PAIN. Declawing can create chronic pain in a number of ways, and cats, being stoic, deal with it. They appear normal.

They may even get back to playing. They may “pretend” to scratch with their missing front claws. They may climb and jump, but none of it is normal movement because declawing has altered their entire physiology. Their bio-mechanics have changed, and down the road, behavioral problems can arise.

Cats usually only show their pain and suffering when they are in a severe state.

For example, cats with Grade IV dental disease (the most advanced level of tooth decay and dental infection) often do not appear to their owners to act or even eat differently despite a serious medical problem.

Here’s a 2017 study that showed high levels of cortisol in declawed cats.

Higher levels of cortisol is an indication of chronic stress.

(QoL is quality of life.)

Link to this study-

Here’s a 2023 study that shows how bad declawing is for cats.

“A 2023 study looked at muscles in the forelimbs of normal and declawed exotic cats of every size, from a tiny Black Footed Cat
to a 350-pound tigers. They found that the muscles affected by declawing were significantly atrophied—smaller and weaker—in declawed cats. Other muscles did not enlarge or in any other way change to make up for these losses. Big cats lost less muscle than small cats, likely because they were unable to shift as much weight backward from those paws as smaller cats, regardless of pain. ”

Link to study.


Link to how to distinguish pain in cats. Signs of pain in cats

Here’s a link to the facts about how declawing is bad for cats from Dr Jean Hofve who is a veterinarian who is an expert on this issue.

FACT: A younger cat may do better post-operatively than an older cat but it will not protect them from the mechanical changes that result from amputating an entire bone and making them walk on cartilage.

The long term negative issues from declawing a kitten are still the same which are chronic small bone arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken. Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes (neuralgia.)

Here’s a 2017 study that shows the negative issues that declawing causes, no matter how it is performed.

No matter what method, or what age the declaw is performed, it alters the conformation of the feet and physically changes everything about the way a cat walks.

FACT: Declawing doesn’t always keep a cat in a home and it doesn’t prevent a cat from being euthanized. In fact the opposite often happens and declawed cats are often thrown away and many are euthanized because of the behavioral issues they developed from their declaws.

There are immediate and obvious behavior changes in many declawed cats like biting and eliminating outside the litter box. But there are also mental and emotional problems that can develop. Lots of owners of declawed cats report that their pet has become depressed, withdrawn, irritable and even aggressive after being declawed.

Many owners can’t deal with these behavioral changes and relinquish their declawed cats to a shelter where many of them are euthanized because they can’t find a home.

Many cats are so shocked by declawing that their personalities change from being lively and friendly to becoming withdrawn and introverted. Many declawed cats become so traumatized that they end up spending their lives perched, out of reach of real and imaginary predators against which they no longer have any defense. Removing the toe bones and claws makes a cat feel defenseless.

Here’s a quote from Brenda Barnette, General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Dept., “I am the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Department (LAAS), which operates the public animal shelters in Los Angeles, a city of over 4 million. Los Angeles, where declawing has not been permitted since 2009, has a proud tradition of being on the forefront in the humane treatment of animals.

Since the declaw ban, the number of cats entering our shelters dropped 43.3%. I attribute the decrease in relinquishment of cats to a decrease in behavioral problems, particularly biting and litter box avoidance, which are widely recognized to be the result of declawing and that are reasons for cats to be surrendered to shelters. Furthermore, our adoption rate for cats has actually increased. We at LAAS strongly believe that a no-declawing policy saves the lives of cats.”

VCA and Banfield stopped declawing in all their vet practices nationwide in Jan. and Feb. of 2020.


Here is what VCA said, “Studies have shown that if an owner is intolerant of a cat scratching the couch, it is likely that same owner would be intolerant of the cat not using the litter box or beginning to bite harder and with increased frequency.

Why do cats stop using the litter box and begin to bite? When a cat comes home from having the declaw surgery, that cat might go to use the litter box and find the experience very painful to its recently amputated toe nubs, and then might subsequently decide never to use the box again. That same cat might also begin to bite because it feels that is the only way it can protect itself. Most owners won’t insist on declawing their cat if they understand that declawing is linked to other, far worse, behavior problems than the scratching ever was. 
It is a common misconception among veterinary professionals that scratching behavior is one of the most common reasons for relinquishment of cats to shelters.  Our experience and that of shelter operators has taught us differently.  Other problems, house soiling and aggression, are listed as the top two behavioral reasons cats lose their homes. Scratching behavior is far down the list, right next to reasons like the cat requires too much attention, and scratching is rarely a reason given for relinquishment.”


Here is VCA’s 2020 full declawing position statement-

Here is what Banfield’s 2020 declawing position says,“Current evidence does not support the use of elective declawing surgery as an alternative to relinquishment, abandonment, or euthanasia.”   Link to it- Banfield Declawing Position

AAFP, American Assoc. of Feline Practitioners came out with a new declawing position statement that said, “There is no current peer-reviewed data definitively proving that cats with destructive behavior are more likely to be euthanized,abandoned or relinquished. The decision of whether or not to declaw should not be impacted by these considerations.”  Link to their statement- AAFP Declawing Position

These cats were all declawed and thrown away by their owners.

Here is info from the’s FAQ section.

“The American veterinary literature has contributed only six articles in the past 45 years that examine the link between declawing and behavior problems. The veterinarians are of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. It seems they don’t want to know what the true consequences of declawing are. The articles do find that there are behavior problems that are initiated by declawing, but they ignore how wide spread the problem truly is. “Shelter workers and rescue organizations have a better idea of what is going on with cats that have been declawed. These people are the ones who know that declawed cats are more likely to die. Veterinarians just don’t see the harm they are doing by declawing. If they knew they were sending animals to their deaths, they wouldn’t be declawing,” says Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior specialist and animal rescuer in Berkeley, California.

Many shelter workers have seen the association between declawing and the behavior problems that are the cause for relinquishment. Janet Winikoff, former adoption program manager for The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Virginia, says, “I have seen firsthand the problems associated with declawing. It was not unusual for the shelter to receive surrendered cats who began exhibiting aggressive behavior and refused to eliminate in the litter box after being declawed. Sadly, these cats were typically considered unadoptable and euthanized.”

A widely reported survey by Forgotten Felines and Friends of Caddo Parish in Louisiana found that 70% of cats surrendered to animal shelters for behavioral problems were declawed. Most of these animals are ultimately destroyed. This statistic is again corroborated by a survey of a Delaware animal shelter, reported in the magazine, Animal Times, which puts the number at 75%.

In February 2003, the Gloucester County (New Jersey) Animal Shelter instituted a policy forbidding the declawing of any cat adopted from the county animal shelter. Director William Lombardi, an animal control officer with over twenty-five years’ experience, said, “Eighty percent of the declawed cats that are surrendered are euthanized because they have a behavioral problem. That totaled 300 cats at the shelter last year.” He found that “declawed cats have a greater chance of having a behavioral problem than (non-declawed) cats. When a cat is brought into the shelter because it is biting or not using the litter box, the first thing we ask is, ‘When was it declawed?’”

Cocheco Valley (New Hampshire) Humane Society has also reported a disproportionate number of relinquished cats with behavioral problems having been declawed, and is another of the many animal shelters in the US to adopt a no-declaw policy.”

You can go to Petfinder and see hundreds of declawed cats who lost their homes and who are in danger of being euthanized.

FACT: Their back, shoulder, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves are naturally designed to support and distribute the cat’s weight across its toes as it walks, runs and climbs. A cat’s claws are used for balance, exercising, and stretching the muscles in their legs, back, shoulders, and paws.

They stretch these muscles by digging their claws into a surface and pulling back against their own clawhold – similar to isometric exercising for humans. This is the only way a cat can exercise, stretch and tone the muscles of its back and shoulders. The toes help the foot meet the ground at a precise angle to keep the leg, shoulder and back muscles and joints in proper alignment.

Removal of the last digits in their paws causes the feet to meet the ground at an unnatural angle and that can cause back pain similar to that in humans caused by wearing improper shoes.

Here’s a visual explanation of declawing by a veterinarian. The Truth About Declawing Cats

FACT: The rate of complication is relatively high compared with other procedures. Complications can include: severe, immediate, and possible long-term pain, damage to the radial nerve, hemorrhage, bone fragments that cause chronic inflammation, painful regrowth of deformed claw inside the paw, and chronic back and joint pain as shoulder, leg and back muscles weaken.

Abnormal growth of severed nerve ends can also occur, causing long-term, painful sensations in the toes.

The pad is often displaced backwards, toward the rear of the foot, allowing the weight of the cat’s body to push the end of the second toe bone (second phalanx, or p2), through the thinned tissue on the underside of the foot.

When the toe bone (P3) is removed, P2 becomes directly weight bearing. It doesn’t have the right shape or structure to do that. The cat’s weight is now concentrated on the tiny end of P2, instead of being distributed across the joint and properly supported.

Infection will occasionally occur even when all precautions have been taken.

These complications may occur in combination, invariably resulting in great pain for the animal to stand or walk.

A calculation based on the aforementioned studies suggests that as many as 2.1 to 3 million cats in the U.S. develop litter box aversion after declawing, and as many as 2.8 to 4 million may have increased biting.

Anxiety and pain are major causes of these behavioral abnormalities in cats. Medically untrained cat owners are unable to make diagnoses, especially those that involve subtle or highly insidious clinical signs.

It is also crucial to note that cats have evolved as a particularly stoic species and are known to withhold demonstrative behaviors, even during severe illness.

As just one of many examples, cats with Grade IV dental disease (the most advanced level of tooth decay and dental infection) often do not appear to their owners to act or even eat differently despite a serious medical problem.

FACT: Declawing is a much more painful procedure than spay/neutering.

Here’s what the feline experts with the American Assoc. of Feline Practitioners said in 2007. “Physically, regardless of the method used, onychectomy causes a higher level of pain than spays and neuters. Patients may experience both adaptive and maladaptive pain; in addition to inflammatory pain, there is the potential to develop long-term neuropathic or central pain if the pain is inadequately managed during the perioperative and healing periods.” Spay/neuter/declaw pain levels.

Declawing is the most painful non-therapeutic elective procedure in small animal veterinary medicine.
Here is how the NJVMA rated declawing in 2007 in their NJVMA Animal Welfare Task Force. Guidelines for Preventing, Recognizing, and Treating Pain in the Hospital Setting.
 “Moderately Severe to Severe:”  onychectomy. It was in the same category as cancer pain, fracture repair, limb amputation and many other painful procedures.
Here’s how they rated neutering, “Mild to Moderate: ovariohysterectomy (OVH) (young animals), castration.”

Here is the link to this study.


Studies show spayed and neutered cats lead healthier and longer lives.  Spaying and neutering eliminate the risk of developing future health problems (i.e., pyometra, mammary gland neoplasia, and reproductive tract–related neoplasia), by preventing unplanned breeding. It prevents unwanted animals from being born.


  • Prevent the heat cycle
  • Prevent spotting
  • Prevent roaming tendencies
  • Prevent the uterine infection known as ‘pyometra’
  • Prevent development of mammary tumors


  • Prevent potential for aggressive behavior
  • Reduce or prevent marking/spraying
  • Prevent roaming tendencies
  • Prevent testicular cancer from developing
  • Prevent enlarged prostate development

Declawing is a cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary amputation procedure that actually causes many unpredictable, potentially life-long health problems and harms the well-being of a cat.

FACT- Many veterinarians purchase the $40,000 laser machines and they need to do a lot of declaws to pay them back. Many of these vets say that laser declaw is more humane, is less painful, quicker healing, and less invasive. These are all lies.

Laser declawing involves burning through ligaments, tendons, nerves, and tissue to remove the last toe bone in a cat’s paw.

The body then has to take longer to bridge the gap at the incision site and heal versus with a scalpel blade incision where the incision forms a clot and has less work to bridge the gap between the incision site.

The mechanics of the surgery are similar to the scalpel technique, although the laser cauterizes the blood vessels by burning them as they are cut. It is a difficult technique to master; there is a steep learning curve and even with experience, complications still arise.

Along with all the other potential surgical complications, severe burns to surrounding tissue and bone can occur.

Contrary to claims, using a laser does not reduce pain. Laser declawing has not been shown to be less painful immediately post-op; all the complications that occur with other techniques also occur with lasers; and the long-term effects are the same as other techniques. (Holmberg 2006, Mison 2002.)

A study reported in the September 1, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Association by Mison, et al., reported that lasers offered no benefit over the more conventional methods of declawing, stating “differences in discomfort and complications between groups treated via scalpel versus CO2 laser were not clinically relevant.”

Levy, et al. (1999), found that complications (bleeding, limping, swelling, infection) were generally worse in the laser onychectomy (declawing) group, compared against blade onychectomy in the first 2 days after surgery. Laser declawing can result in 4th degree burns.

The long-term pain and other problems with the laser declaw procedure remain the same as with the other methods.

An employee at the vet practice where the 2017 American Association of Feline Practitioners AAFP President, Dr. Lauren Demos’ works, Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in Waterford, Michigan, said that they don’t use a laser for their declaws because it can, “scar the tissue really bad, it can burn the tissue and there can be delayed healing as a result of that.”

Info below is from

The Truths and Myths About Laser Feline Declaw Surgery

There is a lot of talk about laser surgery being used in veterinary medicine,
especially when it comes to feline declaw surgeries.  Unfortunately, a
lot of what is said or even posted on web pages is a lot of hype.  There
have actually been very few scientific studies, especially blinded
studies to prove a lot of what is said about laser surgery.  Below is a
list of truths and myths about laser surgery for you to review, so that
you can make up your own mind on if laser surgery is what it says it is.

Statements made by laser surgery advocates:


1.) Laser surgery is less bloody than standard scalpel blade surgery.

-This is true; there is less blood with laser surgery than
with standard scalpel surgery.  This is because the laser instantly
cauterizes or burns the vessels as they are encountered.  That being
said electrosurgery or radiosurgery units can achieve the same results
that lasers can, and with less time and anesthesia.


2.) Laser surgery is less painful than standard scalpel blade based surgery.

-This is probably the biggest false statement made by laser
advocates.  With proper pre and post surgical pain control and nerve
blocks, there have been no scientific studies showing that show cats
having laser declaw surgeries are any more or less painful than those
having scalpel blade or electrocautery declaw surgeries.


3.) Cats recover faster from laser surgery than with traditional declaw surgery.

-Once again this is a false statement that has been promoted
recently. There is no scientific proof that cats recover any faster from
laser declaw surgeries than with scalpel blade or electrosurgery
(radiosurgery) units.  In fact a recent study showed that when you use
lasers or radiosurgery an area or tissue surrounding the tissue is
burned (cauterized).  The body then has to take longer to bridge the gap
at the incision site and heal versus with a scalpel blade incision
where the incision forms a clot and has less work to bridge the gap
between the incision site.  Another study showed that Ultra
High-Frequency Radiosurgery did less tissue damage around the incision
site than either the laser or traditional radiosurgery.  (Reference –
Radiosurgery: An Alternative to Laser in Veterinary Medicine (VET-340)
Western Veterinary Conference 2004 A.D. Elkins, DVM, MS; DACVS
Veterinary Specialty Center, LLC Indianapolis, IN, USA)


Disadvantages to laser surgery:

Time; in many cases laser declaws require more time and more anesthesia
time.  More anesthesia time can increase the risk to the patient (the
pet) while under anesthesia.

If the operator is not careful thermal necrosis or burns can occur with
both laser and radiosurgery.  This risk is not present with traditional
scalpel blade surgery.

Requires protective eyewear for all persons within the surgical
environment. Eyewear is typically uncomfortable and fogs which inhibits

Dedicated laser operator is required to position the laser in “Ready”
or “Standby” modes as well as to manage parameter adjustments.

Fragile fiber optic or articulating arms can be a hindrance to the
movement in and around the surgical field, not to mention present
hazards to the operating personnel.

Ten to forty-fold price differential over radiosurgery instruments. 
Thus this is passed on to the client for the declaw procedure

FACT: Declawing veterinarians make easy money from this barbaric amputation procedure and it is regularly added to a spay/neuter procedure in a package deal. Most declawing veterinarians refuse to learn the latest facts about declawing and that it is harmful to a cat. Declawing is a billion dollar business in America and that’s why the America veterinary associations lobby to keep declawing legal for their veterinarians. Around 80% of veterinarians in America declaw cats. Around 5000 cats a day are declawed in America.

Declawing is banned in 42 countries. The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and other European veterinary organizations call declawing mutilation and unethical. Canadian veterinarians are voting to ban declawing and so far they have made it illegal to declaw a cat in 6 Provinces.


A peer reviewed study in 2021 from the British Columbia SPCA finds no increase in cat relinquishment following ban on declawing.

 Declawing was banned in New York State in July 2019 and there hasn’t been an increase of cats in shelters or cats being euthanized in that state. Here is a June 26, 2020 statement from the biggest animal shelter in the world that is based in New York.  North Shore Animal League America.

“We are approaching the one year mark since the ban went into effect on July 22nd, 2019.  We have not seen an increase in owner surrendered cats as a result of the ban.   NSALA supported the ban and did not provide declawing services in our Pet Health Centers even before the ban went into effect.  There are many other humane options to address the cat’s innate need to scratch.  We have seen firsthand the damage caused by declawing both physically and behaviorally when owners want to surrender their declawed cats.  We are happy to know that this practice has stopped in New York.

Joanne Yohannan, Senior Vice President of Operations, North Shore Animal League America”

Here’s another statement from Animal Care Centers of NYC .

“June 26, 2020

Anyone thinking that the declawing ban would lead to an increase in cat surrenders in New York City might be surprised to learn that ACC, the only open-admission shelter in NYC, has actually seen a decline in cat intake. At the same time we have seen a 25% increase in the amount of direct adoptions our organization has processed over the past year. The ban does not seem to have affected people’s desire to adopt cats in their natural state.

Katy Hansen

Director of Marketing and Communications 

Animal Care Centers of NYC”


In the California cities where declaw bans were passed in 2009 and in Denver where declawing was banned in 2017, the rate of cats coming into shelters (and, consequently, euthanasia rates) consistently went down (see the chart below with the data). Declawing did not cause even the slightest increase in relinquishments due to the bans. In addition, unpublished data show that, specifically, the surrender of declawed cats to shelters where bans were in place also went down. [Hofve 2010, 2016]

Here’s a quote from Brenda Barnette, General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Dept., “I am the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Department (LAAS), which operates the public animal shelters in Los Angeles, a city of over 4 million. Los Angeles, where declawing has not been permitted since 2009, has a proud tradition of being on the forefront in the humane treatment of animals.

Since the declaw ban, the number of cats entering our shelters dropped 43.3%. I attribute the decrease in relinquishment of cats to a decrease in behavioral problems, particularly biting and litter box avoidance, which are widely recognized to be the result of declawing and that are reasons for cats to be surrendered to shelters. Furthermore, our adoption rate for cats has actually increased. We at LAAS strongly believe that a no-declawing policy saves the lives of cats.”

Declawing was banned by veterinarians in Nova Scotia in 2018. We asked the SPCA Nova Scotia’s Director of Programs & Administration in March of 2019 if they had more cats coming into their shelter after the ban on declawing.

She said, “We’ve seen very little impact, some critics thought we would see an increase in owner surrenders for destructive scratching however that has not been the case.”

2018 quote to from Heather Cammisa the Pres. & CEO of a large shelter in NJ, St Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. “My communications to legislators and others included statements that destructive behavior is not a significant reason for surrender, nor is it a top call to our pet helpline and therefore that a ban, in our expert opinion, would not increase relinquishment (and the corresponding alarm of euthanasia), as is claimed by some in the veterinary community.”

Most shelters and rescues in America are against declawing and want it banned. If they thought it would increase the amount of cats who are relinquished, then they wouldn’t be for a ban on declawing.

Top 10 reasons why cats are relinquished to shelters.

Council on Pet Population Study1998

1. Moving (8%)

2. Landlord not allowing pet (6%)

3. Too many animals in household (11%)

4. Cost of pet maintenance (6%)

5. Owner having personal problems (4%)

6. Inadequate facilities (2%)

7. No homes available for litter mates (6%)

8. Allergies in family (8%)

9. House soiling (5%)

10. Incompatibility with other pets (2%)

FACT: People with health issues should not declaw their cats.

Declawing is not recommended to protect humans from cat scratch fever. Information from VCA about cat scratch fever and declawing.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), American Cancer Society, National Hemophilia Foundation, and infectious diseases experts do not recommend declawing cats for any human health reason or to protect humans from scratches.

On April 25, 2023 the CDC sent us this info. “Thanks for reaching out to CDC. We do not recommend declawing cats to prevent the spread of diseases.
Although cat scratches can spread some germs, the best way to prevent the spread of diseases between cats and people
is to be a responsible pet owner and practice healthy habits around cats. This includes taking your cat to the veterinarian regularly,
taking precautions to prevent bites and scratches, and washing your hands frequently.”

CDC information on their website.

Prevent cat scratches and bites

Cat bites and scratches can spread germs, even if the wound does not
seem deep or serious. For example, cat scratch disease can happen if a
scratch only breaks the surface of the skin. We don’t know exactly how
many people are bitten or scratched by cats each year because incidents
often aren’t reported. However, we do know that about 20-80% of reported
cat bites and scratches become infected.

How to prevent cat bites and scratches
  • Be cautious with unfamiliar animals. Approach cats with care, even if they seem friendly.
  • Avoid rough play with cats and kittens.  Rough play causes cats to be defensive toward people.
  • Avoid rough play when animals are young. This will lead to fewer
    scratches and bites as animals become older. Studies have shown cats
    generally bite when provoked.
  • Trim your cat’s nails regularly. If you need help, ask your veterinarian.
  • Parents should tell children to let them know if they are ever bitten or scratched by any animal, including cats.”

This is an old argument that has been considered and discarded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association; the provinces of Nova Scotia, Labrador, Newfoundland, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta; eight municipalities in California; and Denver, Colorado—who have all banned declawing. Why? Because no human health authority supports declawing.

VCA Animal Hospitals banned declawing on Feb. 21st, 2020 and issued a policy statement. Here is a paragraph from this policy.

“The Centers for Disease Control, the WHO, the National Institutes
of Health, the US Public Health Service, and the Canadian Medical
all agree that declawing cats belonging to owners who are
immunocompromised is “not advised.” AAHA and AAFP agree. We do not
believe that declawing a cat to protect human health is a valid reason,
and in fact, it could quite possibly give people a false sense of
security and put these people in jeopardy of being bitten, which is
usually far more threatening to the health of a human than a scratch
be. If the declawed cat were to stop using the litterbox and leave
excrement in other parts of the house, that, too, is dangerous for
immunocompromised people. We believe common sense methods of protecting
oneself from cat scratches are enough. Declawing is not the solution.”

Declawing cats is not recommended by any known human health expert. The argument that this
practice should be preserved to protect owners is not supported by any of the medical literature,
which acknowledges the importance of the human-cat bond while focusing on the danger of cat bites,
not scratches. This argument is also not born out in any of the countries or localities that have passed
declaw bans without this unnecessary and non-medically indicated exemption.
Medical Literature and Guidance

American Cancer Society – “It’s best if you can avoid bites and scratches while you are getting cancer
treatment…. Get your dog or cat’s claws trimmed often so that you’re less likely to be scratched.
Scratches should be cleaned and covered until they heal… If your pet bites and breaks the skin, call
your doctor. All bites carry the risk of infection and can require hospitalization even in people with
normal immune systems. It’s likely you’d need antibiotics and maybe other treatment, depending on
the location and severity of the bite. Cat bites are especially likely to become infected, because their
long narrow teeth can make deep puncture wounds that are hard to clean.”

ASPCA – “We do not consider the potential for exposure to zoonotic diseases from cat scratches
(including in households with immune compromised people) a valid justification for declawing a
resident cat. Notably, in providing recommendations for reducing the zoonotic risk associated with
pet bites and other exposure to pet saliva, urine and feces, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service suggest simple measures such as sanitation, hygiene,
careful selection of pets and changes in animal contact. These recommendations do not include

AAFP – “While it has been suggested that onychectomy is acceptable to prevent spread of zoonotic
disease(s) to immunocompromised people, current research demonstrates the greater value of
proper hygiene and parasite control in the prevention of most common zoonoses. In households
where cats come into contact with immune-compromised individuals, extensive education about
zoonotic disease potential should be discussed and documented in the medical record. Of note, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not advise declawing cats owned by HIV-infected
persons; rather, these individuals ‘should avoid rough play with cats and situations in which scratches
are likely.

AAHA – “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list declawing as a means of
preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised individuals.”

CDC: “Research has shown that cats can provide emotional support, improve moods, and contribute
to the overall morale of their owners. Cats are also credited with promoting socialization among older
individuals and physically or mentally disabled people.” While acknowledging the importance of the
human-cat bond the CDC has no recommendations to declaw cats; rather, they state “When getting a
new pet, avoid animals that are sick, feral, or young (cats and dogs under 6 months old). These
animals are more likely to carry diseases that can make you sick.”

CMA – “Exercise caution when playing with cats to limit scratches; keep cats’ nails short (declawing is
not recommended)”

Canadian VMA – “It has been suggested that PDA be performed on cats in order to decrease the
health risk to immunocompromised humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
does not list PDA as a means of preventing disease in either healthy or immunocompromised

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the HIV Medicine
Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America: “Declawing is not advised, but individuals
with HIV should avoid rough play with cats and situations in which scratches are likely.”
NIH: In an extensive article analyzing the risks of pet ownership, while the agency advises against
immuno-compromised individuals from owning very young animals (under the age of 6 months) due
to increased behavioral issues and notes the danger of a cat biting an individual, there is no mention
of declaw as a suggested or appropriate risk management action.

Existing Bans
● The state of New York has banned declawing and doesn’t allow exceptions for human health.
● Declawing is prohibited in Los Angeles (CA), San Francisco (CA), West Hollywood (CA), Santa
Monica (CA), Berkeley (CA), Beverly Hills (CA), Burbank (CA), Culver City (CA), Denver (CO), St.
Louis (MO), Austin (TX), Pittsburgh (PA), St. Louis County (MO), and Madison (WI). None of
the local laws allow exceptions for human health.
● Canada – In the provinces of Nova Scotia, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward
Island, Alberta, Newfoundland & Labrador, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, declawing is
prohibited and none of the provinces allow exceptions for human health.
● Mars Veterinary Health – The 2000+ VCA, Banfield, and BluePearl clinics operated by Mars
Veterinary Health and which employ 10,000+ veterinarians, announced in 2020 that they
“must always do the right thing for our patients and…can no longer support declaw
procedures in cats….” Mars Veterinary Health does not allow exceptions for human health.
● The World – Declawing is not permitted in much of the world. Many countries, such as the
United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Austria, and Sweden, have laws that prohibit declawing.
None of these laws allow exceptions for human health.

More information.

  • From Johns Hopkins University: “You need not declaw the cat” in homes with HIV+ patients. [Bartlett 2001]
  • From the United States National Institutes of Health: “For people with weak immune systems… avoid rough play with cats that could lead to scratches or bites.” [NIH]
  • “Do not tease or provoke a cat. Most scratches and bites come from cats that are provoked.” [American Academy of Family Physicians]
    • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend declawing cats of HIV+ or immune-compromised individuals, but suggests keeping claws trimmed, keeping the cat indoors, adequate flea control, adopting a cat over 1 year of age, and avoiding rough play as the best ways of preventing cat-scratch disease and other infections that could occur from scratches. [CDC]

Moreover, declawed cats are more likely to bite, and cat bites are usually deeper and far more dangerous than scratches. Many studies show this, but the most recent, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, found that declawed cats are, on average, 4.5 times more likely to bite, and up to 8 times more likely to be aggressive (hissing, lunging, and biting), than clawed cats.

The truth is that declawing very clearly puts human health at risk.

Trim your cat’s nails, use common sense and care when playing with your cat, keep your cat indoors, and wash scratches with soap and disinfectant.

See your veterinarian for the proper treatment if your cat has fleas. Cat Scratch Fever is caused by fleas.

For more information about human health issues and declawing, please click on this link. 

Why you shouldn’t declaw for human health reasons

Banfield- Banfield’s Declawing Position

VCA- VCA’s Declawing Position

American Association of Feline Practitioners- AAFP’s Declawing Position

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The UK animal welfare legislation legally restricts mutilations to animals (i.e. procedures which interfere with sensitive tissue or bone structure) unless they are carried out for the purposes of medical treatment. It is not appropriate for procedures to be carried out for the sole convenience of the owner or for purely cosmetic purposes. The considerations are further detail in Chapter 27 of the supporting guidance to our Code of Professional Conduct.

 The declawing of cats is a prohibited procedure under the animal welfare legislation, and therefore can only be undertaken for the purpose of the animal’s medical treatment.

While declawing of cats is not specifically mentioned in our guidance or the Act, it can only be carried out for the purpose of medical treatment, and as mentioned it would be a matter for the professional judgement of the veterinary surgeon in charge of the case as to whether the procedure is necessary for the purposes of medical treatment, such that it would not be considered a mutilation.

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 2022 position statement on declawing.

Organizations that ultimately support declawing.

The AVMA. AVMA’s Declawing Position

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Declawing Position  More about why AAHA allows declawing in their accredited hospitals. Why AAHA Puts Profits Over The Welfare of Cats

The ASPCA doesn’t support anti-declawing legislation. Their position statement is being used by pro-declaw vets & their associations to stop the anti-declawing legislation. . ASPCA’s Declawing PositioThe ASPCA is helping declawing vets

Claws and the toe bone that they are attached to are an important part of cat’s anatomy. Most mammals walk on the soles of their feet, but cats
are different. They are digitigrade, which is another way of saying that they walk on their toes.

Their entire bodies are engineered for toe-walking: their backs, shoulders, paw and leg joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are designed to distribute a cat’s weight across its toes.

Cats use their claws for many things: balance, exercise, grooming, itching, walking, and stretching. If a cat is stiff, it sinks its claws into a
surface to create an anchor from which to stretch its back, legs, and neck. This is the only way a cat can exercise many of its back, leg, and
neck muscles.

Cats need their claws for protection. Not only do cats use claws to swipe at predators (including dogs in the neighborhood that might chase them) in self-defense, they are also used to climb trees and escape danger.

Cats need their toe bones and claws for many aspects of their physical and psychological health and well-being.

Cats naturally scratch to promote nail health, stretching for exercise which leaves their spine and joints flexible, and for relieving stress.

Declawing is banned in 42 countries and not performed in most of the rest of them.

2018- VCA Canada banned declawing.

2019- New York State banned declawing.  St. Louis banned declawing.

2020- VCA U.S. banned declawing.  Here’s their declawing policy and lots of ideas for the humane options.  VCA Declawing Policy

2020- Banfield Pet Hospitals banned declawing.

2021- American Association of Feline Practioners (AAFP) banned declawing in all their CAT FRIENDLY Practices.

7 Provinces in Canada have banned it. Nova Scotia, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Newfoundland & Labrador, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

8 cities in CA. West Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Burbank.

Denver, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Madison, WI banned declawing.

2021- Mission Veterinary Partners (MVP) banned declawing in all their animal hospitals.

2021- St Louis County banned declawing.

2021. Dec. 31. Fear Free Pets banned declawing in their practices.

April 2022- MARYLAND’s Governor signed the anti-declawing bill. Declawing will be banned in October 2022.

 15 states have introduced bills to ban declawing.



Humane alternatives to declawing

Here are some great links to the easy, humane options which are sturdy scratching posts, scratching pads, nail trims, deterrents like double sided tape and Feliway, Soft Paws, etc.

Scratching educational material by the Assoc. of Feline Pratitioners Scratching Information & Material

HSVMA’s printable poster & flyer HSVMA poster

Dr. Christianne Schelling’s Declawing Alternatives

American Assoc. of Feline Practitioners printable brochure-Alternatives to Declawing

The Paw Project’s printable brochure- Facts about Declawing

Here are links to our favorite scratching posts and scratchers. These are companies who are 100% against declawing so please support them!

Purrfect Post

Catastrophic Creations