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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.

iCatCare and ISFM support the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Code of Conduct in calling for legislation to be passed wherever possible to prohibit the performance of non-therapeutic surgical procedures, including declawing.

Background to the position:

  • Scratching is a normal feline behaviour and is associated with territorial marking as well as conditioning of the claws and digits. Claws are also an important means of defence against attack from other animals.
  • Declawing may lead to acute and chronic pain, lameness, and other surgical complications. Recent evidence suggests declawed cats are more likely to suffer back pain (possibly secondary to altered weight bearing from the declawing) and behavioural changes such as increased biting behaviour, inappropriate urination or defecation, over-grooming and aggression.
  • Owners can provide appropriate resources within the home environment (such as scratching posts, cardboard boxes, etc.) and encourage cats to use these for scratching
  • Positive reinforcement (use of treats, catnip, synthetic scratching pheromone etc.) can be used to encourage scratching on appropriate rather than inappropriate resources
  • Provision of access outdoors may help to reduce scratching behaviour within the home environment
  • Regular trimming of the claws will help to minimise any household damage and the risks of human scratch injuries
  • If there are additional concerns, it may be possible to use temporary synthetic nail caps that are replaced on a regular basis

Even if future improvements in surgical techniques can negate some of the adverse effects associated with declawing, iCatCare and ISFM believe this procedure is unethical other than if required to manage a medical condition and should be banned.

Research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, concludes that declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain, manifesting as unwanted behaviours such as inappropriate elimination (soiling/urinating outside of the litter box) and aggression/biting. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviours are common reasons for relinquishment of cats to rehoming organisations) but also has health implications for their human companions, as cat bites can be serious.

The article is currently free to read here.

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