New York may become the first state in the United States to make declawing cats illegal.
Lawmakers in New York voted and passed the bill on Tuesday, June 4, which would outlaw several types of declawing surgeries except in cases of medical necessity, and forbid any such surgeries for “cosmetic or aesthetic reasons.” Veterinarians who perform the declawing procedure, or onychectomy, for nonmedical purposes would face a $1,000 fine.
Declawing can cause long-lasting complications for cats. Advocates note that it is a painful, unnecessary surgery that can lead to complications, nerve damage, pain and discomfort and even behavioral issues like sudden aggression and biting. In the past, declawing has been offered to cat owners as a way to keep cats from scratching on couches and furniture, seen as a "quick fix."
Many people believe that declawing is equivalent to getting your nails trimmed - but this is far from the truth. According to the Humane Society, "Declawing traditionally involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle."
The bill faced some opposition from The New York Veterinary Medical Society, who argued that declawing should be allowed if a cat is using its claws destructively, or if a scratch could pose health risks to owners with compromised immune systems, or diseases like hemophilia and diabetes.
However, in these instances, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends sanitation methods and selective pet ownership over declawing.
The bill is just one signature away from making New York the first state in the country to ban cat declawing. The bill will be delivered to the desk of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who has indicated he will review the measure before making a decision.
Why Cats Need to Scratch
While cats might not always choose the best locations to scratch (your couch, for example), scratching is a natural and necessary behavior for cats. It is a tool for communication, stress relief, and exercise. Like you might stretch your muscles and keep in shape with a yoga routine, scratching helps your cat to both stretch muscles and relieve any tension or stress - and communicate to other animals in the household.
Tips to Stop Unwanted Scratching
- Keep their claws trimmed. This will minimize damage to household items
- Provide ample scratchers and scratching posts. Find a scratcher that works for your cat, as some cats have different scratching preferences. If you notice your cat scratching on your carpet or rugs, try a scratcher that lays on the floor. If they focus more on the arms of couches, a hanging scratcher or pole scratcher might be a better fit. Use toys and catnip to entice your cat to use the posts and boards.