In order to declaw a cat, each toe must be amputated at the first knuckle, removing bone along with vital tendons and the claw. This operation is controversial, and many veterinarians say it can lead to lifelong complications, lameness, and chronic pain.
For a human, declawing a cat is equivalent to having the tips of the fingers removed at the first joint below the fingernail.
In most European countries and in Britain declawing is illegal and is considered cruel. If you are caught declawing a cat in Israel you can receive a yearlong prison sentence and a fine of around $20,000.
In the U.S. California and New York are some of the first states to recognize the procedure as inhumane.
Declawing is relatively common in the U.S., where roughly a quarter of people’s cats are declawed though most people don’t fully understand what it entails.
There are a few ways to declaw a cat. Most veterinarians use special shears to remove the toes. A scalpel is also commonly used. Recently, some facilities perform the procedure with lasers.
Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D) of New York state is the author of Assembly Bill 1297, which would make it a crime for anyone to declaw cats or any type of animal.
Her ban would allow declawing strictly for medical reasons—like if, the cat’s toes become infected and need to be amputated. But these situations are very rare. Most owners declaw their cats because they scratch.
“This is mostly done because people care more about their furniture than about their cats,” Rosenthal said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States both strongly discourage declawing of pets. Scratching is simply natural behavior for cats, they say, and cats can be trained to use scratching posts instead of digging their claws on the furniture.
Unfortunately, declawing is a good moneymaker for most vet businesses.