Revised Position Statement on Declawing Cats,
by the American Association of Feline Practitioners
In September 2017, the AAFP revised its 2015 position statement on feline declawing. The Veterinary group states that they now strongly oppose declawing (or onchyectomy) as an elective procedure. They recognize that it is an ethically controversial procedure.
They want cat care givers or cat owners to understand that the actual surgical procedure of declawing involves amputation of the third phalanx (P3), the bone at the tip of the cat’s toe where the toe nail is attached. Declawing is not a medically necessary procedure. Complications can occur, which are more likely in an older cat. These complications can include acute post operative pain, swelling, nerve trauma and infection. Chronic complications can include lameness, walking plantigrade (on the wrist joint), behavioral problems, or chronic neuropathic pain.
The AAFP wants cat owners to understand that scratching is a normal feline behavior- both inherited and learned. The primary reason for scratching is to maintain the necessary claw motion used in hunting and climbing. It is also used to stretch the cat’s body, and to sharpen the nail by removal of the nail sheath. Scratching provides important communication- both visual and through the sense of smell to other cats.
There is no current research that definitively proves that cats with destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanized, abandoned or relinquished.
Declawed cats should be kept as indoor pets, and properly supervised when outdoors, as they have lost one of their primary defenses and can no longer climb to escape.
Declawing cats is currently prohibited in the European Union, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil and Israel.
The AAFP’s entire revised Position Statement is available at www.catvets.com/guidelines/position-statements/declawing
So what ARE alternatives to surgery, to stop destructive scratching?
The AAFP has new resources and handouts available for both veterinarians and cat owners at www.catfriendly.com/scratching and https://catfriendly.com/cat-care-at-home/living-clawed-cat/
Some cats scratch repeatedly, due to anxiety, attention seeking, or stress. Cats need to have environmental enrichment. The AAFP provides information for cat owners on environmental enrichment at www.catvets.com/environmental-needs. Never punish a cat. Punishment may actually make them more stressed, and increase their unwanted scratching behavior. Instead, gently pick up a cat from the undesired scratching surface, and carry to the acceptable scratcher and provide a reward. Always use positive rewards or reinforcement (tasty treats, toys, catnip)
The synthetic feline pheromone Feliway can be sprayed on the surfaces you don’t want the cat to scratch, to decrease anxiety or stress. Never use the Feliway spray on the scratching surfaces you want the cat to use. Place an accepted scratching post near to the undesired scratching surface. Temporarily, make the undesired couch corner or leather chair, less desirable by covering with foil, plastic, or using double sided sticky tape.
Cats may prefer a horizontal or a vertical scratching surface, or both. The scratcher must be long enough or tall enough that a cat can stretch fully. Pay attention to where cats sleep, as they often want to scratch upon awakening.
Scratching materials preferred by cats, include wood, sisal rope, carpet, rough fabric, and cardboard. Cat owners may need to experiment with different types and locations for the scratcher, to determine which are preferred by their cat. Kittens and cats can be trained to use the scratcher, by using catnip, treats or toys, on or near the scratcher.
Trim the cat’s nails on a regular basis to prevent injury or damage to furniture. Trim nails in a calm location, and provide a reward, or positive reinforcement. Your veterinarian can show cat owners how to safely trim nails.
Soft paws, or synthetic nail caps are glued over the nail sheath. These are temporary, usually last 4-6 weeks, until the nail grows out and the nail cap falls off.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners also has more resources available at www.catvets.com/declawalternatives