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Meow! New York Becomes First State to Ban Cat Declawing

an orange cat with it's mouth open
By Andrew Leonatti on July 31, 2019 2:00 PM

Sorry, dog people. Cats are awesome. No further discussion needed. But one thing cat owners can agree on is that it’s never awesome to watch our ferocious felines dig their claws into our furniture. “I just bought that couch! What are you doing? Come on!”

For decades, many U.S. families decided the best way to save their furniture – and their legs, arms, and faces – was to have their cats declawed. But that will no longer be an option for New York cat owners. The state just became the first in the U.S. to outlaw the procedure, with narrow exceptions for medically necessary treatment. Violations will cost veterinarians up to $1,000 in fines. Massachusetts and New Jersey lawmakers are also debating similar legislation.

Debate Still Rages in the U.S.

The term “declawing” sounds harmless – just a permanent nail clipping. But the truth is more gruesome. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last bone of each “finger” or “toe” on a cat’s paw. Instead of clipping your nails, it would be like removing the top third of your fingers.

"Even with our best efforts, there's no question this is a painful surgery," says Peter Soboroff, the director of the New York Cat Hospital of Manhattan.

While the practice is banned in Canada, most of Europe, and Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, it is still a popular option among cat owners. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that up to 25% of domestic cats in the U.S. are declawed. But most vets and associations try to steer owners away from the procedure or recommend it only as a last resort.

The New York State Veterinary Medical Association opposed the legislation, arguing that declawing should be available if the alternative for an owner is to abandon or euthanize the cat. The group also argues that owners with weakened immune systems who fear an infection from a cat scratch should also be able to declaw their pets.

What You Can Do Instead

There is no doubt that receiving endless scratches from a playful kitten or watching your furniture get ruined right before your eyes can get tiresome. But “scratching” is a normal kitty activity, and it is possible to steer them toward scratching posts and pads. If you want something a little more glamorous, you can also have colorful nail caps put over your cat’s claws, but those require routine maintenance.

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