International Cat Care-Declawing Is An Act Of Mutilation



International Cat Care has released a position statement on the declawing of cats which calls for the procedure to be banned. The charity, together with its veterinary division the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), considers the declawing of cats for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons to be an act of mutilation, and to be unethical. Although already illegal in many countries, this procedure is still a surprisingly common practice in some, where it is performed electively to stop cats from damaging furniture, or as a means of avoiding scratches. The operation to declaw does not just remove the claw, but also the end bone of the toe (equivalent to removing the end of a finger to the first joint in humans).

The newly released position statment follows on from brand new research in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS)*, which shows that declawing increases the risk of long-term or persistent pain in cats. Previous research had focused on short-term issues following surgery, such as lameness, chewing of toes and infection, but the long-term health effects of this procedure had not been investigated.

This new research shows that declawing increases long-term pain in cats, leading to behavioural changes such as increased biting behaviour, inappropriate urination or defecation, over-grooming and aggression. As a result of ongoing pain from declawing, cats will often choose a soft surface, such as carpet for toileting, in preference to the gravel-type substrate in the litter box; and a painful declawed cat may react to being touched by resorting to biting as it has few or no claws left to defend itself with. This is not only detrimental to the cat (pain is a major welfare issue and these behaviours are common reasons for cats ending up in a rehoming centre), but also has health implications for their human companions, as cat bites can be serious.

In addition, the study highlighted that a declawed cat was also almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than a non-declawed cat (potentially due to shortening of the declawed limb and altered gait, and/or chronic pain at the site of the surgery causing altered weight bearing).

Scratching is a normal and important feline behaviour, associated with territorial marking as well as being an important means of defence. Should scratching or clawing in the home become an issue, cat owners can provide appropriate resources (such as scratching posts, cardboard boxes, etc.) and encourage cats, via positive reinforcement (use of treats, cat nip, synthetic scratching pheromone etc.), to use these for scratching instead. Declawing for anything other than genuine therapeutic medical reasons is totally inappropriate and unethical, and should never be carried out as a means of controlling unwanted scratching behaviour.

To access iCatCare’s position statement on declawing click here. Link

Our full press release covering the scientific research, including free access to the JFMS article, can be accessed here. Link


Feline Toe Amputation Statement- Robin Downing, DVM MS, Clinical Bioethics Diplomate, Academy of Integrative Pain Management



Feline Toe Amputation Statement
Robin Downing, DVM
MS, Clinical Bioethics
Diplomate, Academy of Integrative Pain Management
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner
Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner
Hospital Director, The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management, LLC
Amputating the last phalanx (P3) of the toes of cats was once considered a “commodity” procedure, commonly performed by well-intentioned veterinarians. As time has passed and our understanding of feline pain, biomechanics, and quality of life has evolved, we now recognize many downsides to this procedure and truly NO upside.
For the purpose of this position statement, there are three distinct perspectives within which the issue of feline toe amputation shall be considered:
Clinical bioethical perspective Pain perspective Biomechanics perspective
Clinical Bioethical Perspective
Cats are sentient beings with moral agency who, it has been recently argued (Andrews 2011; Copp 2011; Downing 2016; Nussbaum 2015; Panskeep 2012), should be approached with the same consideration as nonverbal children. As beings with moral agency, it behooves us to consider them within the context of the foundational principles of clinical bioethics.
The four cornerstone principles of clinical bioethics have been described and defined by Beauchamp and Childress as:
Respect for autonomy
Justice (Beauchamp & Childress, 2012)
Let us consider each of these in turn as we examine the clinical bioethics of feline toe amputation.
To respect the autonomy of cats, we must consider their preferences. Given a choice between being subjected to multiple toe amputation versus maintaining intact feet, one can easily make the case that they would prefer intact toes and feet, avoiding the pain and disfigurement associated with multiple toe amputation.
Feline Toe Amputation Robin Downing, DVM, MS, DAIPM,

Nonmaleficence means “do no harm” or “avoid harm”. Considering feline toe amputation, the question then becomes, “Does amputating all of a cat’s front toes (P-3) cause harm?” Amputation is painful, potentially for the rest of the cat’s life, it forever alters the way a cat walks, it prevents natural (scratching) behavior, and it forever prevents the cat from being able to defend itself by escaping (climbing) or fighting. Clearly toe amputation causes harm.
Beneficence means to act in a being’s best interest. Can we truly argue that amputating all of any cat’s third phalanges of the front toes is ever in that cat’s best interest? It appears that the answer to this question is a self-evident ‘no”.
Finally, the fourth cornerstone principle of clinical bioethics is justice. Translating this for application in veterinary medicine focuses on fairness. The relevant question to ask is if amputating the third phalanx of each a cat’s front toes could ever constitute fairness to the cat within the context of its life and lifestyle. Considering all of the compromise that toe amputation creates, I respectfully submit this does not reflect fairness.
Pain Perspective
Considering feline toe amputation from a pain perspective, multiple studies have demonstrated that most cats receive woefully inadequate pain prevention and management for procedures like spays and neuters – – procedures far less traumatic than multiple toe amputations. The pain literature clearly demonstrates that acute pain poorly managed at the time of the trauma often leads to the establishment of permanent pain states. This means ongoing, perpetual, self-sustaining chronic maladaptive pain that constitutes lifelong torture (AAHA/AAFP 2007; WSAVA 2014; Costigan 2009; Dahl 2011)
The few studies that have evaluated either the presence of leftover bone fragments following toe amputation, or the regrowth of sharp bone spurs following amputation, demonstrate that an embarrassingly large number of cats suffer from this extra boney tissue. These sharp shards perpetually poke at the underside of the skin at the end of each toe stump, making every single step like walking on needles or nails.
Finally, we know from pain physiology that when we sever a nerve there is a very high risk of creating an ongoing, self-perpetuating pain state called “neuropathic pain”. Humans most commonly develop neuropathic pain as a result of conditions such as amputation, direct nerve trauma, shingles, and diabetes. People who develop neuropathic pain can describe how it feels, so we know quite well the unremitting torture they endure each and every day – – tingling, burning, electric-like pulsed pain, pins and needles. We also know quite well that once chronic, maladaptive, neuropathic pain is in place, these people report ongoing challenges to relieving pain (Sandkuhler 2006; Woolf 2006; Woolf 2004).
We know from pain and neurology research that companion animals are “wired” precisely as we are. When nerves are cut – – as they are in feline toe amputation – – the probability that the cat will develop neuropathic pain is exquisitely high. These cats can go on to develop many different aberrant behaviors. These may include:
reluctance to walk on certain surfaces
reluctance to jump onto or off furniture, window ledges, etc. over-grooming of feet and/or legs
Feline Toe Amputation Robin Downing, DVM, MS, DAIPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CCRP
Page 2

These cats must walk on their painful feet!
Biomechanical Perspective
The third context within which to consider feline toe amputation is the forever altered biomechanics of the patient.
When a cat is subjected to toe amputation, in addition to having the last bony phalanx removed, all of the surrounding tendons and ligaments that attach to that bone are severed. This changes the architecture of the feet, thus changing the biomechanics of how the feet work. Because approximately 60% of the cat’s body weight is carried on the front feet, altered biomechanics changes the way the entire body moves. If we superimpose chronic, maladaptive, neuropathic pain in the feet onto altered front foot biomechanics, we amplify the downstream implications of the cat moving in an abnormal fashion. The altered biomechanics can significantly interfere with the cat’s ability to exhibit normal cat behaviors.
We also know that the vast majority of cats 10 years of age and older suffer from degenerative osteoarthritis (OA) in at least one joint (Kerwin 2010; Lascelles 2010). The majority of cats who develop OA in later life have it occur in their equivalent of the human lower back – – where the spine and pelvis come together. When the biomechanics of movement are altered, so are the forces generated throughout the body’s joints – – in particular the joints of the spine. The repetition of ergonomically unsound movements creates over time micro-traumas to these joints which can contribute to the development and progression of OA. OA, then, provides these cats with ongoing chronic maladaptive pain.
The bottom line is that amputating the last phalanx of the toes of cats violates those cats on many levels – – bioethically, from an acute pain perspective, from a neuropathic pain perspective, from a biomechanical, movement, and lifestyle perspective, and from an OA/chronic maladaptive pain perspective.
Respectfully submitted.
Andrews K. 2011. Beyond anthropomorphism: Attributing psychological properties to animals. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics. New York. Oxford University Press.
Beauchamp TL, Childress JF. 2012. Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 7th ed. New York. Oxford University Press.
Copp D. 2011. Animals, fundamental moral standing, and speciesism. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics. New York. Oxford University Press.
Costigan M, Scholz J, Woolf CJ. 2009. Neuropathic pain: A maladaptive response of the nervous system to damage. Annu Rev Neurosci. 32: 1-32
Feline Toe Amputation Robin Downing, DVM, MS, DAIPM,

Dahl JB, Kehlet H. 2011. Preventive analgesia. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 24: 331-338.
Downing R; They do not deserve to hurt: Closing the gap between what we know and what we do for
companion animal acute pain; Master’s Thesis; Union Graduate College; 2016.
Lascelles BDX. 2010. Feline degenerative joint disease. Vet Surg 39: 2-13.
Nussbaum M. 2011. The capabilities approach and animal entitlements. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG
(eds). The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics. New York. Oxford University Press.
Panskeep J, et al (eds). 2012. Low P. Cambridge declaration of consciousness. Presented at the Frances Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, July 2012.
Sandkuhler J. 2006. Spinal cord plasticity and pain. In: McMahon SB, Koltzenburg M (eds). Wall and Melzack’s Textbook of Pain, 5th ed (e-book). London. Elsevier.
Woolf CJ, Salter MW. 2006. Plasticity and pain: Role of the dorsal horn. In: McMahon SB, Koltzenburg M (eds). Wall and Melzack’s Textbook of Pain, 5th ed (e-book). London. Elsevier.
Woolf, CJ. 2004. Pain: Moving from symptom control toward mechanism-specific pharmacologic management. Ann Intern Med. 140:441 – 451.
Kerwin SC. 2010. Osteoarthritis in cats. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine. 25; 4; 218-223. DOI:
Feline Toe Amputation Robin Downing, DVM, MS, DAIPM,

It’s Not Declawing, It’s ‘De-Toeing’ by Dr. Karen Becker


Story at-a-glance
-Declawing of cats is still legal in the U.S., and sadly, it’s still somewhat common
-It’s important to understand that declawing is not nail removal, it’s the permanent amputation of bones in each of your cat’s toes
-A recent study concluded that declawed cats have more pain and behavior issues than non-declawed cats
-The study’s authors hope their results will encourage veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats
-There are many alternatives to declawing your cat, starting with providing appropriate scratching surfaces and training kitty to use them

By Dr. Becker

I’ve written many articles here at Healthy Pets about the inhumane practice of declawing cats, a procedure called an onychectomy. The surgery has been banned in several countries, but continues to be commonly and legally performed in many others, including the U.S.

It’s Not Declawing, It’s ‘De-Toeing’

Cats use their claws for balance, exercise and stretching and toning the muscles of their legs, back, shoulders and paws. They also use them to hunt and capture prey, to escape or defend against predators and as part of their marking behavior when they live outdoors. What many people don’t realize is that declawing isn’t a nail trim, or even nail removal. It’s not even declawing, it’s “de-toeing.” The procedure removes not just the claws, but also the bones, nerves, joint capsule, collateral ligaments and the extensor or flexor tendons.

Cats are digitigrades, meaning they walk on their toes. Most other mammals, including humans, walk on the soles of their feet. Cats have three bones in each of their toes, just as we have three bones in each of our fingers — two joints and three bones. A kitty’s claw actually grows out of the last bone. This is very different from human fingernails, which grow out of flesh. Since a cat’s nail grows from the bone, it’s the bone that must be amputated to prevent the claw from growing back.

The declawing procedure involves cutting between the second and third bones, and amputating the last bone that contains the claw. This severs everything in the way — nerves, tendons and blood vessels. A front-paw declaw requires 10 separate amputations. If the hind paws are also done, that’s eight more separate amputations. Thankfully, hind paw declawing is much less common, but also much more painful for the cat.

Past research into the effects of declawing has primarily focused on short-term, post-operative changes. But recently, a small team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada published the results of a study to determine whether declawing increases the risk of long-term pain and unwanted behaviors in cats.1

Pain is actually very often the root cause of undesirable behaviors such as eliminating outside the litterbox and aggression, including biting. This situation is obviously harmful for the cat who’s in constant pain, and it’s risky for human family members who may be bitten. In addition, litterbox avoidance and aggression are two very common reasons pet parents give for relinquishing their cats to shelters.

63 Percent of Declawed Study Cats Had Residual Bone Fragments

For the retrospective study, the researchers looked at 137 non-declawed cats and 137 declawed cats, 33 of which were declawed on both the front and back paws. Of the 274 kitties, 176 were privately owned (88 declawed, 88 non-declawed) and 98 were shelter cats (49 declawed and 49 non-declawed).

All the cats underwent physical exams to check for signs of pain and “barbering,” which is excessive licking and/or chewing of fur. In addition, their medical records for the previous two years were reviewed for reported unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination, aggression and biting with minimal provocation.

X-rays of the declawed cats were also taken to check for distal limb abnormalities, including P3 (third phalanx) bone fragments. Sadly, well over half (86 or 63 percent) of these kitties showed radiographic evidence of residual P3 fragments.

Declawed Cats Had Significantly More Pain and Behavior Issues Than Non-Declawed Cats

The research team discovered that inappropriate elimination, biting, aggression and over-grooming occurred much more often in the declawed than the non-declawed kitties. The declawed cats had seven times the litterbox issues, four times the biting behavior and three times the aggressive and over-grooming behaviors as their non-declawed counterparts.

The declawed kitties also had almost three times the back pain of the non-declawed cats, which the researchers theorized could be the result of altered gait due to the shortening of the declawed limbs, and/or persistent pain at the surgery site, which causes compensatory weight shift to the pelvic limbs.

When an onychectomy is performed, the veterinarian is supposed to remove the entire third phalanx (P3) bone per the surgical guidelines set forth by the Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. The fact that 86 of the 137 declawed cats were walking around with P3 bone fragments means a significant number of vets aren’t performing declawing procedures up to standard.

These cats had even more back pain and undesirable behaviors than the remaining declawed cats, but the researchers also make the point that even when onychectomy is performed to standard, it doesn’t eliminate the risks. Residual pain in the declawed toes prompts many cats to look for soft surfaces rather than litter for purposes of elimination.

The researchers also explained that painful declawed cats may resort to biting when touched because their first line of defense, their claws, has been taken from them. Lead study author Nicole Martell-Moran, a veterinarian at a cat-only clinic in Houston, told EurekAlert:

“The result of this research reinforces my opinion that declawed cats with unwanted behaviors may not be ‘bad cats,’ they may simply need pain management. We now have scientific evidence that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than we originally thought and I hope this study becomes one of many that will lead veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats.”2

5 Ways to Minimize Cat Claw Damage Around Your Home

Scratching is a normal behavior for your cat. It conditions and sharpens his claws, allows him to get in a good back stretch and it’s also how he marks his territory, which is why cats return to the same place again and again to do their scratching. To avoid the damage those sharp little claws can do to both you and your belongings:

1. Supply your cat with appropriate scratching surfaces. Kitties vary in the way they scratch and the surfaces they prefer. Observe your cat’s scratching behavior and try to match your scratcher purchase to it.

Some kitties scratch horizontally. Some reach high overhead vertically for a good backstretch. Some lie on their backs and scratch a surface above them. Also observe what types of surface your cat prefers to scratch. Some cats prefer soft fabric while others like wood flooring.

If possible, buy or make cat scratchers that will satisfy both your kitty’s preferred scratching position and surface. This might involve more than one scratcher design.

Your kitty’s scratchers must be placed where they’ll be used. Clawing is in part a marking behavior for your cat, so she’ll probably return to the same place to scratch. Sticking the scratchers in out-of-the-way spots your cat doesn’t frequent is unlikely to encourage her to use them.

Once you’ve got your scratchers in position, encourage kitty to explore the scratcher using a lure like a feather toy or a toy with some organic catnip rubbed on it. Offer praise and treats each time she uses the post and especially when she digs her claws into it. Pet her while she’s using the post, and give her plenty of positive reinforcement.

2. Trim your cat’s nails weekly or at least every couple of weeks.

3. Protect any off-limits areas your cat is scratching. Use a combination of kitty scratching deterrents, including aluminum foil, double-sided tape, plastic sheeting, plastic carpet runners or car mats with the spiky sides up, or inflated balloons. If you’re covering surfaces you need to use frequently, like furniture, you can attach the foil, tape or plastic to pieces of cardboard and easily move them in and out of position.

4. Use herbal sprays designed to replace your pet’s paw pad scent markers on furniture or other surfaces with an odor that will discourage him from returning to that spot. I use citrus essential oils on the corners of my couch to deter scratching.

5. Consider covering your cat’s nails with a commercially available nail cap, which will protect both you and your belongings from kitty’s sharp claws.

[-]Sources and References

EurekAlert! May 23, 2017
1 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, May 23, 2017
2 EurekAlert!, May 23, 2017

Dr. Beker’s article here

Dr. Marty Becker-The Evidence Against Declawing Cats Just Keeps Mounting

The evidence against declawing cats just keeps mounting

We’re seeing yet more evidence that not only does declawing not keep cats out of shelters, but it can cause a lifetime of pain and difficulty walking for cats who have undergone the procedure.

The routine declawing of cats, known as “onychectomy,” has become extremely common in the United States, but that’s not the case elsewhere — in fact, it’s illegal in many countries, and rarely practiced in most.

We in the veterinary profession have long justified performing this surgery by saying it would prevent cats from scratching furniture and other possessions, as well as people, in their homes, and keep them from being taken to a shelter or put outside to fend for themselves. We’ve also claimed that, when performed skillfully and with appropriate pain medication, it was not harmful.

I’ve written about post-declawing pain syndrome before, and a study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery this spring reinforces my concern. The researchers found declawed cats are at risk of back pain and gait problems, retained bone fragments, and were more likely to bite and stop using their litter boxes. Additionally, they stated:

Declawing cats increases the risk of unwanted behaviors and may increase risk for developing back pain. Evidence of inadequate surgical technique was common in the study population. Among declawed cats, retained P3 fragments further increased the risk of developing back pain and adverse behaviors.

The use of optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risk of adverse behavior subsequent to onychectomy.

In another study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association late last year, the authors found that declawed cats who live with other cats are three times more likely to fail to use the litter box appropriately than those with intact claws:

(H)aving cats that had undergone onychectomy in a 3- to 5-cat household were all significant predictors of house soiling. Notably, having cats that had undergone onychectomy in a 3- to 5-cat household increased the risk of house soiling by more than 3-fold, indicating that the association between onychectomy and house soiling was influenced by the number of cats per household.

Compare this finding with the results of the analysis in which onychectomy status was stratified by the number of cats per household, which showed that onychectomy status had no confounding effect on this association. Taken together, these results indicated that when there were 3 to 5 cats in a household that had also undergone onychectomy, there was a greater risk of house soiling in that household.

Since litter box avoidance is the top reason cats are surrendered to shelters, continuing to use keeping cats out of shelters as a way to rationalize declawing seems increasingly insupportable.

It’s also worth noting that virtually all national humane organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Alley Cat Allies,, the North Shore Animal League, Petfinder, and Best Friends Animal Society, as well as countless shelters and rescue groups across the country, vehemently oppose surgical declawing of cats unless medically necessary due to a condition such as cancer or severe injury.

I’m with them. I hope the rest of my profession joins us soon.

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Dr. Marty Becker Link To His Post


Video-Bad Veterinarians-Declaw VS Good Veterinarians-Repair Paws

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 little 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 cats having laser declaw surgeries are any more or less painful than those having scalpel blade or electrosurgery 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 of tissue surrounding the incision site 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, 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 radiocautery. (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) The Arbor Ridge Pet Clinic

Link To Images In Video

Declawing Is Good For Veterinarians, But Bad For Cats

Chronic Pain Of Declawing

Onychectomy Recovery And Behavioral Effects

Physical Consequences Of Declawing Including Not Using The Litter Box

Cats Hide Pain

Questions And Answers About Declawing

Laser Declaw Video-Is This What You Want Done To Your Healthy Kitty?

Class Action Against Veterinarians Who Declaw

Declawing Is Illegal In Most Countries But Canada And USA. Also, It Is Banned In Eight California Cities And Several States Have Landlord Laws

HUD Housing Does Not Require Declawing-Page 6

Humane Alternatives To Declawing
Soft Paws Nail Caps Video-

STUDY: Laser Declaw Is Not Less Painful; More Declawed Cats Are Relinquished For Behavior Problems

Declawing Statistics And Science

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