Rebuttal to NJVMA’s Declawing Testimony-City the Kitty Official Post

Here is the audio testimony by the NJVMA’s spokesvet to the New Jersey Assembly Committee on Nov, 14, 2016.

Yurkus Testimony Rebuttal-See Link Below

Dr. Mike Yurkus testified before a committee of the New Jersey Assembly committee hearing on November 14, 2016. In that testimony,

Dr. Yurkus made multiple provably false statement. This paper rebuts his testimony. His comments are in orange.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “Declawing should be used only as a last resort.”

But it is not being used that way at all. Most declaws are done on kittens 7 months old or younger, even at 8 weeks old, along with spaying/neutering. Declawing is being used to prevent a problem, not solve one. According to a 2014 survey, “veterinary clinics offer declawing of kittens in conjunction with spaying or neutering as a preventive measure when scratching behavior is not yet a concern.” [Mills KE, von Keyserlingk MAG, Niel L. A review of medically unnecessary surgeries in dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016 Jan;248(2):162-171.]

Preventative declawing specifically violates the written policies of The American Veterinary Medical Assocation, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and the American Animal Hospital Association. However, none of those organizations have any enforcement power, and their policies are only guidelines that many veterinarians completely ignore.

Here is an AAHA and AAFP Gold Level veterinary hospital that says they like to declaw their cats at 3 months old. Animal Hospital Advertising their Declaws

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “The decision should be between vet and client, not regulated by the government.”

Veterinary medicine is regulated already, by the state veterinary practice act: New Jersey Statutes Annotated. Title 45. Professions and Occupations. Subtitle 1. Professions and Occupations Regulated by State Boards of Registration and Examination. Chapter 16. Veterinary Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry.

It is illustrative to look at that law. It states, “45:16-8.1. Practice defined:

Any person shall be regarded as practicing veterinary medicine within the meaning of this chapter, who, either directly or indirectly, diagnoses, prognoses, treats, administers, prescribes, operates on, manipulates, or applies any apparatus or appliance for any disease, pain, deformity, defect, injury, wound or physical condition of any animal, including poultry and fish, or who prevents or tests for the presence of any disease in animals, or who performs embryo transfers and related reproductive techniques, or who holds himself out as being able or legally authorized to do so.

The veterinarian may legally operate on an animal “for any disease, pain, deformity, defect, injury, wound or physical condition…” But nowhere does it state that veterinarians may cause injury to any animal in order to protect furniture, rugs, or drapes.

Declawing is not a medical decision. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and the American Animal Hospital Association agree that there is no medical benefit to the cat. Declawing is a quick-fix for a behavior problem that in nearly all cases is easily resolved by behavior modification or a dozen other humane, non-surgical alternatives.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “NJVMA is not pro-declaw, we are anti-euthanasia and anti-surrender.”

There is not and never has been any evidence whatsoever that declawing causes increased euthanasia of cats, although there is evidence that the opposite is true.

In fact, in the cities where declawing bans were passed at the end of 2009, the rate of cats coming into shelters (and, consequently, euthanasia rates) has gone down.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “Up to 72% of cats relinquished to shelters will be euthanized.”

That’s true, and tragic. However, it has nothing to do with the declaw status of any of those cats. Since declawed cats are frequently found in shelters, it is clear that declawing does not protect all cats from surrender or abandonment.

In fact, declawing has been shown to increase the risk of cats being relinquished to shelters.

“After adjustment in a multivariate model, declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment (OR=1.89;1.00-3.58); this reversal made the effect of declawing difficult to interpret. Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (44/84; 52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (39/134; 29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination (p=0.022).” [Patronek GJ, Glickman LT, Beck AM, et al. Risk factors for relinquishment of cats to an animal shelter. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 1996;209:582–588.]

Many declawed cats that are relinquished to shelters are euthanized before they are put up for adoption and there are many more that aren’t listed on

Also, there are 89 DECLAWED cats in shelters/rescues that are within 50 miles of the NJVMA’s spokesvet’s animal hospital, Middletown Animal Hospital, in Middletown, New Jersey. Here are just a few of them.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “There are a multitude of reasons why cats are surrendered due to inappropriate elimination (house soiling).”

True. But declawing is one of them.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “There are no studies that associate declawing with long-term behavioral problems. There is not one.”

False. Here are a few of more than 10 studies finding long-term behavioral complications from declawing.

“Results of the study reported here supported the hypothesis that onychectomy is associated with an increase in house soiling behavior of cats.” Gerard AF, Larson M, Baldwin CJ, et al. Telephone survey to investigate relationships between onychectomy or onychectomy technique and house soiling in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016 Sep 15;249(6):638-43.

(Out of 39 cats] “six cats that underwent onychectomy would not use the litterbox (house soiling)… and 7 cats had an increase in biting habits or intensity of biting following onychectomy.” [Yeon SC, Flanders JA, Scarlett JM, et al. Attitudes of owners regarding tendonectomy and onychectomy in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001;218:43-47.] Please note that the rate of behavior complications was 13 out of 39; that is, 1/3 or 33%.

The most recent study of post-surgery problems also reported the highest rates of pain-related complications: up to 23% of cats with ongoing lameness, and 42.3% of cats showing signs of pain when their paws were handled. Owners also reported long-term behavioral changes in cats following declawing (house soiling); resistance to paws being handled; or increased incidence or severity of biting), compared with the same cats’ behavior before the procedure. Clark K, Bailey T, Rist P, et al. Comparison of 3 methods of onychectomy. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2014;55:255–262.]

“After declawing, one cat (4%) began to defecate outside the litter pan and three (12%) began to bite,,, 54% of the cats with behavior problems were declawed.” More than half of cats with reported behavior problems were declawed, yet only 25-30% of all cats are declawed. (Bennett M, Houpt KA, Erb HN. Effects of declawing on feline behavior. Companion Animal Practice.1988;2:7-12.)

“Short-term complications included… changes in behavior, such as inappropriate urination….” (Jankowski AJ, Brown DC, Duval J, et al. Comparison of effects of elective tenectomy or onychectomy in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 1998;213:370-373.)

Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination problems.” Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2001.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “The problem is that declawing is seen as the way it was in the 60s and 70s.”

That’s because, except for the introduction of lasers and modern pain medications, declawing is STILL done the same way it was in the 60s and 70s.

See above references on behavior complications. Please note the dates; all but one (1988) are far beyond Dr. Yurkus’ claim of problems in the 70s and 80s: 1998, 2001, 2014, 2016.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “It is incorrect that the last bone of the finger is removed. The nail bed, the claw bed is removed, detached. Bone is not removed, we do not cut bone.”

Patently, blatantly false. The last bone of the toe is either removed (laser and scalpel disarticulation), or cut (guillotine). That bone is the third phalanx, or P3.

Here is an illustration (from the 2014 Clark paper) showing what is cut in the three declawing techniques:

Here is a recent photo posted by a vet tech student of cat toes that were amputated by the guillotine method. You can clearly see that many of the third phalanx’ have been cut in half. This is an example of declaws that involve the cutting of bone.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “In this day and age, it is either a laser or a scalpel disarticulation. There is no muscle, no bone is cut.”

There are no muscles in the paw, but the third phalanx, which is a bone, is either cut (guillotine) or dissected out and removed (laser and scalpel). The guillotine method is still widely used by about 30% of veterinarians. Because the claw grows directly from the bone, and there is no clear line of demarcation between germinal cells and ordinary bone, the bone must be removed.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “We use nerve blocks… non-steroidal pain killers… we use opiates… before, during, and after these procedures… So, we are doing this the right way.”

That’s good, but it’s not standard. It’s not mandatory. Many veterinarians provide adequate pain management, but this is far from universal.

A study from 2006 found that 12% of veterinarians were still not using any analgesics for any surgery. [Hewson J, Dohoo IR, Lemke KA. Perioperative use of analgesics in dogs and cats by Canadian veterinarians in 2001. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2006 Apr;47:352-359.]

As of 2002, “An accurate estimate of the number of US veterinarians that aggressively treat pain in small animals is not currently available. Anecdotal evidence from talking with practitioners, new graduates, and students would suggest that the percentage is fairly low.” [Hellyer PW. Treatment of pain in dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2002 Jul 15;221(2):212-215.]

In a survey published in 2016, the vast majority (82%) of veterinarians provided just 3-7 days’ worth of pain medications for clients to give at home—even though a previous study demonstrated that cats were painful for at least 12 days post-op (the entire term of the study). Horrifyingly, 1.1% of practitioners do not give any pain meds at all, before, during or after surgery; and 6.6% of practices (163 individual clinics) do not send ANY pain control with clients to give to the cats at home. [Ruch-Gallie R, Hellyer PW, Kogan LR. Survey of practices and perceptions regarding feline onychectomy among private practitioners. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016;249:291–298.]

It is important to note that this survey was conducted among members of the Veterinary Information Network, an online bulletin board and resource for vets. It costs a fair amount of money to belong to it. Only about 1/4 of practicing vets are members; and those who are, are the ones who are interested in keeping up with the profession, and in doing excellent medicine and surgery, according to modern practices.

Unfortunately, a great many veterinarians fall far below this standard.Declawed With NO Pain Meds

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus said a review of declaws studies shows that long-term lameness is only observed in 1% of cats and he has 3 studies to prove this.

Other studies disagree. If we talk about lameness only:

Twelve cats (13.6%) were classified as mildly lame at the long-term recheck. [Clark K, Bailey T, Rist P, et al. Comparison of 3 methods of onychectomy. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2014 Mar;55:255-262.]

Lameness occurred more frequently in cats with disarticulation amputation (14/87, 16%) than in cats with bony amputation (4/80, 5%), possibly due to greater soft tissue trauma. Dehiscence (splitting open of a surgically closed wound) occurred in 22% and 12% of cats, respectively. [Martinez SA, Hauptmann J, Walshaw R. Comparing two techniques for onychectomy in cats and two adhesives for wound closure. Veterinary Medicine. 1993; 88:516-525.]

“43 cats showed lameness that persisted from 1-54 days. Long term follow up was done for 121/163 cats; one cat showed prolonged lameness (96 months) [Tobias KS. Feline onychectomy at a teaching institution: a retrospective study of 163 cases. Veterinary Surgery. 1994; 23:274-280.]

“…there is an exceptionally high complication rate, 50% in the immediate postoperative period (during hospitalization period) and 19.8% in the late postoperative period (the period following hospital discharge). (Cooper MA, Laverty PH, Soiderer EE. Bilateral flexor tendon contracture following onychectomy in 2 cats. Can Vet J. 2005 Mar;46(3):244-6) The authors suggest that tendon contracture, a newly-documented declaw complication, may have been seen previously but classified as “long-term” lameness.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus , “We are seeing more cats and doing less declaws… a survey of 100 practices found that the average is 9 declaws per year…” In his own practice “We’ve only done 2 this year. We don’t do that many because we train people not to do them.”

It’s great that Dr. Yurkus says he and his colleagues in his practice are following AVMA policy and educating people as to the alternatives. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for every New Jersey veterinary practice. Also, his own practice stated two times on a facebook post that they’ve done 4 declaws this year. In a telephone study, his own vet tech said that declawing is a regularly performed and common procedure at Dr Yurkus’ Middletown Animal hospital.

In a telephone survey of 110 veterinary practices in New Jersey, only 12 suggested any alternatives or even asked why the client wanted the cat declawed. Of the practices that declaw cats, 72% performed multiple declaws each month, which means a minimum of 24 per year. This same 72%, or 70 practices out of 97, stated they perform declaws “routinely”, “commonly”, or “frequently”—far more than 9 per year. Declawing Study

The truth is, all reasons for non-medical declawing have non-surgical alternatives. There are many humane choices will still protect both human and feline health, as well as sofas and Persian rugs. We wonder how many of them Dr. Yurkus and his colleagues are actually discussing with their clients.

Scratching posts, mats, corrugated cardboard, logs, softwood boards, sisal rope
Training (yes, cats CAN be trained!)
Regular claw-trimming
Rotary sanders (Peticure, Dremel)
Nail caps (SoftPaws, Soft Claws)
Emery scratching boards (Emerycat)
Double-sided sticky tape (Sticky Paws)
Non-stick furniture protectors (Corner Savers, Fresh Kitty Furniture Protectors)
Pet repellent sprays
Access restriction (upside-down vinyl rug runner)
Remote aversive devices (ScatMat, Ssscat)
Phermones (Feliway)
Furniture covers (blankets, towels—anything loose will not be appealing to your cat!)
Those who absolutely insist that no cat of theirs will have claws, can adopt an already-declawed cat (there are many of them in shelters and rescues).
Despite Dr. Yurkus’ claims, studies show that the numbers of declawed cats are not declining, and have remained stable for several decades.

There is no evidence that the procedure is becoming less popular. It is at least maintaining itself in the population and may be making inroads in younger and younger kittens. For those vets seeing fewer and fewer declaw clients, those cats are simply being declawed elsewhere, with perhaps poorer surgical technique and the cheapest array of pain medications. Mills KE, von Keyserlingk MAG, Niel L. A review of medically unnecessary surgeries in dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016 Jan;248(2):162-171.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “There are people with children, people with blood disorders, people with transplants, who are on immune-therapy, or blood thinners, where a cat even playfully scratching them can lead to a life-threatening infection. These people can’t take those risks so they have to surrender their cats or they may not adopt a cat unless it can be declawed because of where they live, in a home or facility where the cat has to be declawed to be there.”

Yet, in Great Britain, all the countries of the European Union, Israel, New Zealand, and Australia, there are also such people, but declawing is illegal in all of them. No physicians’ organization or even the CDC recommends declawing.

As to housing, federal guidelines specifically allow cats in federally subsidized housing, and do not require declawing. Some landlords do require it, but moving into such a place is always a choice. In California and Rhode Island, it is against the law for landlords to require declawing as a condition of having a cat. If declawing becomes illegal, lease clauses requiring declawing will become invalid: problem solved.

It should be noted that dogs (and rodents, and rabbits, and turtles, and other pets) also have claws, they frequently scratch up people, floors, and furniture, but nobody is declawing dogs or any other animal.

There are many humane alternatives that do not involve amputating cats’ toes.

Re-homing a cat is not the worst thing that can happen. The risk of serious pain for the rest of a cat’s life must be taken into account. Right now there are 2,826 declawed cats sitting in shelters on petfinder. Declawing isn’t saving cats’ lives, and it’s not keeping them in their homes. Re-homing doesn’t mean failure, and it should be considered a valid option and not equivalent to death.

Four to 10 % of shelter adoptions fail; and about 4% of cat owners say they would get rid of their cat if it couldn’t be declawed. Not every cat is a perfect match; there are plenty of incompatible adoptions. If re-homing is necessary to save a cat from a potential lifetime of pain, that may be the best alternative for that cat.

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus, “Some groups supporting this bill say that declawing always results in pain or negative consequences… this is absolutely false.” (Displays a study showing a picture of the declawing procedure and claims that it’s not done that way any more.)

Anatomical Changes in Declawed Cats

The most recent study of post-surgery problems also reported the highest rates of pain-related complications: up to 23% of cats with ongoing lameness, and 42.3% of cats showing signs of pain when their paws were handled. Owners also reported long-term behavioral changes in cats following declawing (house soiling); resistance to paws being handled; or increased incidence or severity of biting), compared with the same cats’ behavior before the procedure. [Clark K, Bailey T, Rist P, et al. Comparison of 3 methods of onychectomy. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2014;55:255–262.]

One common long-term complication of onychectomy is claw regrowth, with rates reportedly from 3.4% to 15.4%, depending on the study and the method of claw removal. One study found that claw regrowth was more common with use of a nail clipper than with use of a scalpel or laser (15.4% vs 6.5% and 3.4%); but claw regrowth occurred regardless of technique. This is the so-called “pebble in the shoe” issue. All the time that claw is growing—up to 15 years—it is causing pain. Other long-term complications include persistent lameness and signs of chronic pain. [Clark K, Bailey T, Rist P, et al. Comparison of 3 methods of onychectomy. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2014;55:255–262.]

In fact, there is even such a thing as “Chronic Pain Syndrome of Onychectomy [Declawing]” A noted veterinary pain specialist has found that “Feline patients who have had onychectomy (declaw) may experience chronic pain. Owners of such cats usually report one of several concerns, the most common of which is fear that the cat is still in pain, especially in the fore paws, because it seems to walk very lightly on those feet, as if walking on nails or glass. Another common concern is behavioral changes, which may include decreased activity, decreased appetite, or increased aggression. The inciting cause for these presentations within days to months to years is usually the lack of adequate acute pain control in the immediate postoperative period.” Yet the veterinary profession has yet to acknowledge the existence of such a syndrome. [Gaynor JS. Chronic pain syndrome feline onychectomy. NAVC Clinician’s Brief. April 2005.]

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus compares declawing to neutering and says. “The discomfort level is no more than in a neuter than it is in the declaws that are done properly.” Pain and Declawing

Meanwhile, the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ policy on declawing states:

“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.” [AAFP Policy Statement on Declawing, 2007.]

NJVMA’s Spokesvet Dr Yurkus and Veterinarians like to point to the surveys of clients after having their cats declawed. Most clients say they are pleased with the outcome of the surgery.

However, long-term follow-up is lacking in the vast majority of cases. How pleased will those clients remain if their cat is still obviously painful in 6 months, or 2 years?

How pleased will they be if they’re in the unlucky 15% whose cats regrow their claws, requiring more surgery to correct it?

How pleased will they be if they are among the 33% whose cats develop a behavior problem, like biting or peeing on the bed? Quite a few clients do become displeased at some point, because a lot of older declawed cats are being surrendered to shelters. In fact, it’s likely that clients who are intolerant of scratching behavior to the point of having their cat declawed will also be intolerant of any behavioral complications that may arise months or years later.

Also if you go to facebook and in the search bar at the top, type in the word “declaw”, and click on “Latest”, you will see a post about every minute, of a cat owner who is throwing away or trying to give away their declawed cat. There have been a total of 3644 declawed cats in the last 6 months that are being given away by their owners. (June 2016- Dec. 2016) Declawed Cats Thrown Away Facebook Page







Dr. Nicole Martell-Moran of Paw Project Indiana Removes Sharp Bone Fragments From Declawed Steve Cat

This is Steve from the Johnson County (Indiana) Animal Shelter. He was taken to see Dr. Nicole Martell-Moran (Paw Project IN State Director) at the Cat Care Clinic of Indianapolis for a paw evaluation. He was relinquished to the the shelter for not using the litter box. The staff also noticed him holding up one paw frequently.

After examination and Xrays large bone fragments were found. Once the fur was shaved away from his toes an open sore was also found where the sharp bone left behind was poking through. Thanks to the Paw Project he received corrective surgery today and is resting comfortably. Wish him luck in his recovery!

#AVMA2016 #AAFP #CatVets #AVMAvets #AVMA #AVMATellTheTruth #AAHA #AAHAHealthyPet #ACVBbehavior #StopDeclawingCats #BoycottVetsWhoDeclaw #StopLegalAnimalCruelty #VetEconFact #NYSVMS #vettech #GreedOverCompassion #AVMAhatesPETS #Declawing #AAHA2016 #CELasers #onychectomy #AAHAday #WorldsWorstDoctor #aesculight #AVMAconv #BlogPaws #vcapethealth #banfield #LaserDeclaw #Laser #CO2Laser

Is Middletown Animal Hospital In New Jersey (Dr. Michael Yurkus-Against The No-Declaw Bill) Buying Their Customer Reviews? You Decide

Is it a coincidence that all these businesses that Tiffany C, Kevin S, Scott H, and Tamara B visited and REVIEWED are the same people that reviewed Middletown Animal Hospital? These businesses are in different states, yet, they are reviewed by the same people.

All these businesses utilize DemandForce for their marketing. These four reviewers are just a SAMPLE, most ALL the reviewers on Middletown Animal Hospital Facebook Page can be found on other veterinary, medical, spa, dental, and auto businesses in other states.

Is it a coincidence that all these businesses that Tiffany C, Kevin S, Scott H, and Tamara B visited and REVIEWED are the same people that reviewed Middletown Animal Hospital? These businesses are in different states, yet, they are reviewed by the same people.

All these businesses utilize DemandForce for their marketing. These four reviewers are just a SAMPLE, most ALL the reviewers on Middletown Animal Hospital Facebook Page can be found on other veterinary, medical, spa, dental, and auto businesses in other states.


This screams “We bought our reviews”

Declawed Cats Do Not Stay In The Home-Facts & Figures

Declawed cats do not stay in the home, because they develop complications that are costly and unwanted such as litter box aversion, re-surgery, biting, and life-long medications.

Fact: 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.

This page was started in June 2016 and there are thousands of unwanted declawed cats on Facebook alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association refuses to acknowledge the facts and figures because declawing is a billion dollar industry. Their journals and policies are not accurate and they refuse to ban this horrific procedure that many countries consider a felony crime.

The following is incomplete, it was too time consuming to document unwanted declawed cats.

DECLAWED CATS UNWANTED BY PET PARENT(S)-1,187-Many do not give a reason, many use the ‘allergy excuse’
DECLAWED CATS WITH COMPLICATIONS-71-This does not include the sub-album of Paw Project cats who needed re-surgery on their paws. Litter box aversion is caused by cats who have bone pieces and/or claw re-growth inside their paw pads which takes years to grow.
DIABETIC DECLAWED CATS-72-A rescue’s veterinarian said declawing causes diabetes because of excess cortisol (a chemical in the cat’s body) because of constant pain. Too much cortisol has an effect on the pancreas. Diabetic cats need daily doses of insulin.

#AVMA2016 #AAFP #CatVets #AVMAvets #AVMA #AVMATellTheTruth #AAHA #AAHAHealthyPet #ACVBbehavior #StopDeclawingCats #BoycottVetsWhoDeclaw #StopLegalAnimalCruelty #VetEconFact #NYSVMS #vettech #GreedOverCompassion #AVMAhatesPETS #Declawing #AAHA2016 #CELasers #onychectomy #AAHAday #WorldsWorstDoctor #aesculight #AVMAconv #BlogPaws #vcapethealth #banfield #LaserDeclaw #Laser #CO2Laser


Declawed Adult Cat Found-Malnourished-Weighing 4-5 Pounds

img_5041Declawing: A Rational Look

Vet Organization’s Declaw Policy Gets Updated Studies Pertaining to Declawing (Annotated) Relief for Declawed Cats Rare Cats, Common Cats, and Declawing Physical Consequences of Declawing May 17, 2013
By Jean Hofve, DVM

There are few feline issues as controversial as declawing. There is a great deal of myth and misinformation out there about it. If you are considering having this surgery performed on your cat, or if a veterinarian has suggested it, please read this article first to learn more about this major surgical procedure. Isn’t it worth a few minutes of your time to make sure that you make a rational and informed decision?

Declawing is not a simple or routine surgery. It should never be done as a “preventative,” especially in kittens. Despite their reputation for independence, cats can readily be trained to leave the sofa, curtains, or carpet untouched. Using surgery to prevent or correct a behavioral problem is expedient, but it is definitely not the smartest, kindest, most cost-effective, or best solution for you and your cat. Your veterinarian has an obligation to educate you as to the nature of the procedure, the risks of anesthesia and surgery, and the potential for serious physical and behavioral complications, both short- and long-term.

Why do people declaw their cats?

To protect furniture or other property (95%)
They don’t know that a cat needs a scratching post
They don’t want to try to train the cat
They tried one or two things to train the cat but it didn’t work
Their other cat is declawed and they want to “level the playing field”
To stop the cat from scratching them
Their friend’s or family’s cat is declawed
They have always had declawed cats
Their veterinarian recommends it
Because they just do not know any better
Many people report that they are happier with their cats after declawing, because it makes the cats “better pets.” Unfortunately, as many people discover too late, declawing may cause far worse problems than it solves—research suggests that more than 30% of cats develop more serious behavior problems, such as biting and urinating outside the litterbox—after surgery. There are many better ways to treat behavior problems other than radical and irreversible surgery.

Veterinarians say that offering declaw surgery “keeps cats in their homes.” This is simply not true. Shelter workers can attest that declawed cats who do develop behavior problems often lose those very homes. Individuals and organizations that trap and neuter feral cats know that a great many of those “feral” felines are actually homeless declawed cats that have been banished to the outdoors, abandoned, or simply dumped. According to one shelter: “Through the years, we have seen many declawed cats surrendered to our shelter for behaviour issues that can be related to being declawed. Over the past two years, 75% of the declawed cats that were surrendered to us had behavioural problems. In that same time frame, only 4% of clawed cats were surrendered to us for the same behavioural reasons.” (Cats Anonymous, Orton, ON)

What is declawing?

Declawing, which is rightly described as “de-toeing” when the same procedure is done to chickens, is the amputation of each front toe at the first joint (hind foot declaws are not commonly done but would be equivalent). This is necessary because, unlike a fingernail, the claw actually grows from the first toe bone. The procedure is so excruciatingly painful that it was once used as a technique of torture, and even today it remains the primary test of the effectiveness of pain medications. Physical recovery takes a few weeks, but even after the surgical wounds have healed, there are other long-term physical and psychological effects.

For the surgery itself, the cat is put under general anesthesia and the toes are prepared with antiseptic soap. A tourniquet is placed on the cat’s leg and tightened to prevent excessive bleeding. Using a scalpel, the surgeon grips the tip of the claw wittourniquet declawh a small clamp, and uses scalpel to carve around the third phalanx, cutting through the skin and severing tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. In another technique using a guillotine blade (Resco), a sterilized veterinary nail clipper is used to cut the tissues photos can be seen at A scalpel should be (but is not always) used to remove the last piece of bone. If this is not done, the claw can regrow, although it will be deformed. The wound is typically closed with sutures or surgical glue, but some vets rely on bandages to control the bleeding. Tight laserdeclawburnsbandages restrict the normal response of the tissue to swell, causing intense pressure and pain. LASER surgery is 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, and complications can still arise. The photo at right shows the burns from a LASER surgery.

In cats, the claws grow directly from the bone. If even the tiniest piece of the bone is left in the socket, it can become infected and/or regrow, both of which are very painful.

Here’s a video of a Rescue declaw.

This surgeon is quick and competent; and has obviously done hundreds if not thousands of declaws. It only takes him 4 minutes and 36 seconds to cut and rip ten individual claws, bone and all, from the kitten’s paws, glue the wounds shut, and bandage the feet. (He does not remove the bone fragment that causes so many regrowth problems later in the cat’s life.)

Are claws so important to a cat’s well-being?

Claws perform a number of vital functions for the cat. By scratching various surfaces, cats create a visual and scent identification mark for their territory. Claws provide psychological comfort through kneading, help the cat climb to safety or a secure vantage point, and help the cat fully stretch his back and legs. A declawed cat never again experiences the head-to-toe satisfaction of a full body stretch!

What are the potential complications of declawing?

Surgical complications: Not everyone is having a good day, not every surgeon is careful and competent, and not every surgery goes well. Poor technique, a mistake in positioning, problems with tourniquets (including irreversible nerve damage), and inexperience are just a few of the things that can go wrong during declawing amputations.

Post-surgical complications: Abscesses and claw regrowth can occur a few weeks to many years after surgery. Chronic or intermittent lameness may develop. In one study that followed cats for only 5 months after surgery, nearly 1/3 of cats developed complications from both declaw and tendonectomy surgeries (digital tendonectomy is a procedure whereby the tendons that extend the toes are cut; it’s sometimes promoted as an “alternative” to declawing. However, because these cats require constant maintenance and frequent nail clipping to prevent injury, most are eventually declawed anyway). Biting and urinating outside the litterbox are the most common behavior problems reported, occurring in over 30% of cats.

The photo on the right shows complications from declawing a 6-week old kitten. Because she kept bleeding after surgery, bandages were applied; they Kitten post-declawwere too tight. Subsequently, the skin on her lower legs and feet as well as paw pads became necrotic (dead) and sloughed off.

Pain: It is impossible to know how much chronic pain and suffering declawing causes, because cats are unable to express these in human terms. However, we can compare similar procedures in people. Virtually all human amputees report “phantom” sensations from the amputated part, ranging from merely strange to extremely painful (about 40% of such sensations are categorized as painful). Because declawing involves at least ten separate amputations, it is virtually certain that all declawed cats experience phantom pain in one or more toes. In humans, these sensations continue for life, even when the amputation took place in early childhood. There is no physiological reason that this would not be true for cats; their nervous systems are identical to ours. Cats are stoic creatures, and typically conceal pain or illness until it becomes overwhelming. With chronic pain, they simply learn to cope with it. Their behavior may appear “normal,” but a lack of overt signs of pain does not mean that they are pain-free.

Declawed MushuThis declawed Abyssinian cat (left) shows 4 distinct signs of pain: (1) half-closed eyes, (2) pulled-back whiskers, (3) holding the right front foot up, and (4) placing the left front foot over the edge of the counter so there’s as little weight on his painful toes as possible.

Joint Stiffness: In declawed (and tendonectomized) cats, the tendons that control the toe joints retract after surgery, and these joints become essentially “frozen.” The toes remain fully contracted for the life of the cat. In cats who were declawed many years ago, the toe joints are often so arthritic that they cannot be moved, even under deep anesthesia. The faChanges in anatomy after declawingct that most cats continue to make scratching motions after they are declawed is often said to “prove” that they do not “miss” their claws. However, this behavior is equally well–and more realistically–explained as desperate but ineffective efforts to stretch those stiff toes, legs, shoulders and backs.

Arthritis: Research has shown that, in the immediate post-operative period, newly declawed cats shift their body weight backward onto the large central pads of the feet, and off the sore toes. This effect was significant even when strong pain medication was given, and remained apparent for the duration of the study (up to 40 hours after the surgery). If this altered gait persists over time, it would cause stress on the leg joints and spine, and lead to damage and arthritic changes in multiple joints. One large study showed that arthritis of the elbow is very common in older cats. When contacted, the researchers admitted that they did not ask or record whether the cats were declawed, perhaps preferring the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy so as not to anger those many veterinarians who make a lot of money from declawing.

Litterbox Problems: Experts say that declawed cats have more litterbox problems than clawed cats, and the statistics prove it. Not many people would choose urine-soaked carpeting (or floorboards, sofa cushions, walls, bedding, or mattresses) over a few scratch marks, but this is a distressingly common outcome. In one survey, 95% of calls about declawed cats related to litterbox problems, while only 46% of clawed cats had such problems – and most of those were older cats with physical ailments that accounted for the behavior. Some households with declawed cats have spent thousands of dollars replacing drywall, carpets, and subfloors to repair urine damage.

Biting: Some experts believe that cats who are declawed are likely to become biters. Many declawed cats do seem to “notice” that their claws are missing, and turn to biting as a primary means of defense–not a good choice for a cat in a home with children or immunocompromised individuals.

Change in Personality: This is a common complaint: “my cat has never been the same.” A friendly, delightful kitten may become a morose, fearful, or reclusive cat, never to recover its natural joy, grace, and love of exploration.

Neglect, Abandonment, Relinquishment, and Abuse: Declawing that results in biting or inappropriate elimination outside the litterbox may result in the cat being permanently locked in the basement, dumped at a shelter, or simply abandoned. Many cats are exiled to a life outdoors because of abandoned cat these unwanted behaviors. There, they also risk injury or death by dogs, cars, wild predators, disease, poison, and other hazards of outdoor life; even more so than clawed cats who retain their primary defenses. People who work with feral cat Trap-Neuter-Release programs often find declawed cats in their traps–cats who should never have been outside at all. These cats once had homes, but were abandoned in an alley or field–almost certainly due to behavior problems resulting from declaw surgery. The claim by veterinarians that “declawing keeps cats in their homes” clearly isn’t true for these declawed cats who lost their homes and were abandoned to an uncertain fate. There is no way to know how many cats are dumped this way, but based on experiences in Denver, a typical urban environment, the number is likely in the many thousands.

Death: There is always a small but real risk of death from any general anesthesia, as well as from bleeding or other surgical complications. Declawing that results in biting or litterbox avoidance can soon get the cat relinquished to a shelter. Such behaviors make these cats unadoptable, and after a few frightening days alone in a cage, most will be euthanized. For exiled cats, it is unfortunately common for outdoor cats to be stolen and used as defenseless live bait to be torn apart by fighting dogs being “blood-trained,” or sold to laboratories or biological suppliers. It’s an ugly reality that a tame, friendly, declawed cat makes an ideal experimental subject.

What about LASER declawing–isn’t that better?

Laser declawing causes the same long-term consequences as any other method.

Why do so many veterinarians suggest declawing cats?

Many veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada have become accustomed to performing the declawing procedure without thinking about–or even recognizing–the common complications. Some even recommend declawing kittens at the same time they are spayed or neutered, whether or not they have developed destructive scratching habits. However, this goes against the express written policy of the American Veterinary Medical Association. All the top veterinary behaviorists agree that declawing should not even be considered until all other options, including training and deterrents, have been sincerely tried and failed. Veterinarians who, for example, declaw young kittens are violating this AVMA policy. Several telephone surveys have found that every single veterinary clinic contacted was willing to declaw a cat without providing–or even offering–behavior counseling or alternatives to the surgery. They did not ask whether training or alternatives had been tried. They didn’t even ask if the cat had a scratching post. These clinics are in direct violation of AVMA policy.

Who says declawing is a bad idea?

Declawing is illegal or considered extremely inhumane in dozens of countries around the world, including most “civilized” nations. It is against the Conventions of the European Union. In countries where declawing is legal, such as New Zealand, Thailand, and South Africa, it is just “not done.” Declawing is common only in the United States and Canada.

Since animal shelters and humane societies are prime dumping grounds for cats with behavior problems, shelter workers and volunteers have a realistic and practical view about whether declawing keeps cats in their homes, or creates worse difficulties. A survey of major shelters and humane societies around the U.S. found many who are firmly against declawing, and some will not even adopt a cat to a person who intends to declaw. Against declawing are the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, Massachusetts SPCA, Denver Dumb Friends League, San Francisco SPCA, SPCA of Texas, and the Animal Welfare League (the Midwest’s largest humane society, located in Chicago). The SPCA of Los Angeles puts it in no uncertain terms: “We do NOT support, nor condone, the act of declawing cats. It is cruel, unnecessary, and inhumane.” The Cat Fancier’s Association, the world’s largest pedigreed cat registry, opposes declawiAnother declaw complicationng as “without benefit to the cat” and involving “post operative discomfort or pain, and potential future behavioral or physical effects.”

In 2006, the USDA–normally an extremely conservative federal agency–amended the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit declawing of exotic carnivores, saying that it “can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the animal and may result in chronic health problems.” In 2007, after much legal wrangling, the California Supreme Court upheld a ban on declawing enacted by the city of West Hollywood, CA, in 2003.

How can I stop unwanted scratching behavior without declawing?

Provide an appropriate place to scratch:

Cats of any age can be trained not to scratch furniture or other objects–including people–although it is easier if the cat is trained as a kitten. Amazingly, many people do not even know that they should provide a scratching post for their cats; nor do they realize that in many cases, they have to train the cat to use it. Because scratching is such a deeply ingrained instinct in cats, if there is no appropriate spot, they will be forced to substitute furniture or other objects.

To decide on a strategy, watch where your kitten or cat likes to scratch. Does she go for a long belly-stretch on the carpet, or does she prefer vertical surfaces like the arm of the sofa or the back of a chair? Try to imitate her favorite spots with acceptable scratching options.

Ai vertical scratching post should be at least 28-36″ high to allow the cat to stretch to his full height. Many cats prefer natural soft wood, such as a section of bark-covered log or a cedar or redwood plank, or posts covered with sisal rope, which is more popular with cats than the carpeted surfaces of many posts. The post must be very sturdy and stable; if it wobbles, your cat is unlikely to use it. Rubbing the surface with catnip, or using a catnip concentrate spray, may enhance the attractiveness of the post. For the more adventurous types, there are cat trees in dozens of sizes and colors, with features such as hidey-holes, lounging platforms, dangling toys, and other creative amenities. Like to do it yourself? There are plans for easy-to-make posts on the Internet or in many cat books. Don’t be too quick to discard a shabby, well-worn post–that’s when it’s the most attractive to your cat!

No space for a cat tree? There are many other options available, such as clear sticky strips to apply to the furniture, and other deterrents, as well as a multitude of smaller cat-attractive scratching posts, mats, and other distractions that will protect your possessions. Many cats prefer to scratch on rugs or other horizontal surfaces; inexpensive cardboard scratchers are popular with these cats. Be sure to replace these periodically so they provide adequate resistance to the claws.

With scratching posts, as in real estate, think “location, location, location.” Start with the post near kitty’s favorite scratching object, and gradually (by inches) move it to its final destination.
See our articles on “Cats and Claws–Living Happily Ever After” and “Declawing Alternatives” for more details and ideas.

Make the unacceptable object undesirable:

This may be as simple as throwing on a slip cover, or draping a thick towel, fleece, or blanket over the arm of the sofa. What kitty likes about upholstery fabric is its resistance–this is what allows him to get the grip needed to stretch. If he hooks his claws into material that gives, or immediately pulls off and falls on his head, he’ll lose interest in no time.

Another simple (and perhaps more esthetically pleasing) plan is to use double-sided tape, such as Sticky Paws. This product has a special adhesive that does not damage the furniture, but feels disgusting to the cat’s sensitive paw pads. It may need to be replaced every month or so as dust and hair accumulate on the tape’s surface, but for many cats one or two applications is enough to dissuade them permanently.

Purrfect Paw is a clear plastic protector for the corners of furniture without the stickiness of other products. A similar product is “Sofa Savers.” Call for information at 972-790-6658.

Padding for the Paws:softpaws

For aggressive or unremitting scratching, replaceable soft plastic caps for the claws called “Soft Paws” are a good solution. These caps are glued onto the nail; they’ll come off by themselves after a few weeks and need replacing. They come in fun colors (as well as clear) and really do the trick. While you’ll probably want your vet or groomer to apply them the first time, it’s not that hard to replace them at home [instructions].

It’s best to never play or roughhouse with your kitten or cat using your bare hands (or even covered-up hands!). You definitely don’t want her to get the idea that biting or scratching human skin or body parts is okay. And while it’s fun to watch the kitten attack your wiggling toes under a blanket, when he’s 15 pounds with razor-sharp, inch-long fangs, it’s not nearly as amusing. Serious aggression problems require assistance from your veterinarian, or your friendly behavior consultants at Little Big Cat!

Of course, conscientious nail-trimming [click here for instructions] will keep the claws blunt and minimize the damage that kitty can do to fabrics, furniture, and fingers.
Last but not least . . . .

We know that there are a few individuals who will always declaw their cats. Their own personal convenience and the safety of their belongings is their top priority, and whether or not it causes suffering to the cat is not a significant concern. (Whether they should have a cat at all is a debate for another time!)

If you have a declawed cat, it is not too late to undo at least some of the damage. Spirit Essences offers “Declaw Remedy” to help heal both the physical and psychological truama that occur with declaw surgery.

Fortunately, most people truly love their feline companions and want to do what’s best for all concerned. If you are one of these wonderful people (and if you’ve read this far, we’re pretty sure you are!), please think carefully about this beautiful little animal who trusts you and relies on you for her very existence. Please make the humane choice – and DO NOT DECLAW!

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