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An Act Prohibiting Inhumane Feline Declawing
S. 190: An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing
MSPCA Position: Support Sponsor: Senator Mark Montigny Status: Reported out favorably from the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure and referred to Senate Ways and Means.
This bill prohibits the declawing, onychectomy, dactylectomy, or phalangectomy of a cat. Declawing involves the removal of the claw and the first bone of the toe. The operation is usually performed on the front feet, and is in fact an amputation comparable to the removal of all ten human fingertips at the first knuckle. The MSPCA encourages pet owners to seek alternatives to the declawing of cats, and the MSPCA’s hospitals do not perform declawing operations for non-medical reasons. If passed, Massachusetts would join New York and Maryland in banning the declawing of cats.
Why are claws important to a cat?
A cat’s remarkable grace, agility, and sense of balance are due in part to its retractable claws, which allow the cat to establish footing for walking, running, springing, climbing, and stretching. A cat’s claws are also its best defense mechanism—a declawed cat let outside would have no way to defend itself if need be.
Why do cats scratch?
The outer part of a cat’s claws regularly become frayed. When cats scratch, they pull off this outer part and expose sharp, smooth claws. Scratching is also a way of fulfilling a strong instinctive need to mark territory. Not only do cats mark objects by visibly scratching them, but the scratching deposits secretions from glands in the feet that can be smelled by other cats. Scratching can also provide valuable stretching and foot-muscle exercise.
What is declawing?
The standard declawing procedure calls for the removal of the claw and the first bone of the toe. The operation is usually performed on the front feet, and is actually an amputation comparable to the removal of all ten of the human fingertips at the first knuckle. The cat often experiences pain in the recovery and healing process, and sometimes experiences persistent pain.
What risks are associated with declawing?
An incorrectly positioned cut during declawing surgery can remove too much of the toe, taking with it part or all of the toe’s pad. But if the whole claw is not removed, misshapen claws can grow back. In addition, if a bone fragment is left at the surgery site, it may become a source of infection. Both claw re-growth and infection necessitate additional surgery. Post-surgical blood loss is another concern, but great care must be taken that bandages are wrapped tightly enough to control the bleeding but do not cut off circulation.
A declawed cat must never be allowed outdoors, as the cat’s ability to defend itself or escape from danger has been seriously impaired.
During the post-surgical recovery process, a declawed cat could find it painful to walk on litter, leading to the development of a life-long aversion to using the litter box.
What are alternatives to declawing?
Introduce a scratching post
Buy or make a scratching post that is tall enough so that the cat can stretch completely when scratching, and stable enough so that it won’t wobble when being used. It should be covered with a heavy, rough fiber like the back side of carpeting. Make the post a fun place to be by placing toys on or around it, or by rubbing it with catnip, and put it in an accessible area. If you’re trying to discourage the cat from scratching a particular piece of furniture, try placing the post in front of it, gradually moving the post aside as the cat begins to use it regularly.
Train with a dual approach: encourage the cat to claw the right things and discourage the cat from clawing the wrong things. Each time you bring a cat to a scratching post or they go on their own, praise them, pet them, and spend a minute playing at the post. If the cat begins to scratch where they aren’t supposed to, call the cat by name, firmly say “no,” and move the cat to the scratching post. Put the cat’s front legs up on the post and make scratching motions with them. Or keep a spray bottle filled with plain water handy and squirt the cat on the back when they claw on the furnishings.
The favorite household scratching area can be made less attractive by attaching double-sided sticky tape or a piece of cotton scented with bath oil.
Keep the cat’s nails trimmed
Cutting the nails regularly may help keep a cat from scratching furnishings, or at least reduce the damage done by scratching. Get your kitten used to having their feet handled and their nails trimmed while young. With an older cat, it may help to begin by handling the cat’s feet under pleasurable circumstances. Then introduce the clipping procedure by approaching the cat while they are relaxed—or even napping—and clip only one nail per session. Praise your cat while you clip the nail, and reward them with a treat.
If you’re in doubt about what the proper nail length looks like, watch your veterinarian trim the nails. The only equipment necessary is a good pair of cat nail clippers. Never use scissors, which can tear the nail.
Slide the blade onto the nail you will be trimming. Before cutting, look for the pink “quick” that runs down the center of the nail. The clipper blade should be placed about an eighth of an inch forward of the quick, and the nail clipped with one smooth squeezing action of the clippers.
Be extremely careful not to cut into the quick. If this happens, the cat will experience pain, and bleeding is likely. The bleeding may stop without assistance, or you may need to hold a soft cloth on the nail or apply a little styptic powder. If you trim a small amount of nail every couple of weeks, the quick will tend to recede.
The MSPCA hopes that you will carefully consider whether or not to declaw your cat. It is a painful procedure that can have serious consequences for your pet. If you have questions about declawing or training your cat, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll do our best to help you establish and maintain a happy relationship with your feline friend, while keeping both your furnishings and your pet intact.