Declaw Discussed at Chicago Vet: Ironic the Chicago Vet Association Against a Bill to Ban Declaw


Declaw is clearly an amputation. Medically, no matter the method used by the veterinarian, that is what the procedure is. That is a fact – it’s not my opinion.

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association actually hired lobbyists to bury (for now) a bill in Illinois to ban the procedure, which increasingly veterinary professionals want nothing to do with.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) says if you want to be a Cat Friendly Practice, you can’t declaw. Simply, that is because being Cat Friendly is impossible to call any practice that correspondingly declaws. Here’s a conversation with Dr. Kelly St. Dennis, past president of AAFP regarding declaw from Steve Dale’s Pet World national radio show. AAFP isn’t alone, the over 2,000 Banfield, VCA or Blue Pearl veterinary practices all won’t declaw. And veterinary schools no longer teach how to declaw.  Fear Free is also opposed to declaw. Even the conservative American Veterinary Medical Association, which rarely tells their members how to practice, clearly aren’t a fan of declaw.

There arguments for declaw and misconceptions are easily busted:

  • Not declawing doesn’t mean more cats will be given up to shelters. This is a long-held but fully inaccurate supposition as demonstrated where declaw has been banned, more cats are not landing in shelters in New York state or in Maryland. In L.A. a study has shown that actually fewer cats have been relinquished to shelters following their declaw ban, likely because it’s declawed cats that are more likely to bite (according to the CDC) and to urinate and/or defecate outside the litter box.
  • Declaw doesn’t mean more immunosuppressed or elderly people will land in hospital as a result of cat scratches. In the UK declaw has been banned for years, and their elderly are having no more issues and their elderly are not relinquishing cats.
  • Declawing cats isn’t a skill most veterinary students want to learn, and today rarely do learn. Studies show that sometimes even more experienced veterinarians don’t always do it correctly, sometimes leaving a part of the nail inside the cat, which is very painful.
  • Of course, pain meds are appropriate after about any surgery, and certainly after an amputation (which is exactly what a declaw is). However, many declawed cats suffer a lifetime of chronic pain, particularly as they age.
  • Phantom pain occurs in humans following amputation, though cats can’t tell us, the same is very likely true for cats (as their neurochemistry is wired the same as ours).
  • The argument that declaw is done less frequently and therefore there should be no law to ban the procedure is confusing as that still doesn’t make the procedure the right thing to do. Veterinarians take an oath to do no harm always not just sometimes.
  • Today, we far better understand behavior modification and the need for scratching posts and where to locate these.
  • Living a life of discomfort – no wonder the human-animal bond is often impacted following a declaw.
  • From a bio-ethics perspective – if we could ask, would cats vote to have their paws amputated?

I want to know how and why declaw is the right thing to do?

At the veterinary meeting, called Chicago Vet I will talk on Thursday May 18, 4 p.m. about why the procedure was first conceived by a Chicago veterinarian (in 1952) and why it was instantly such a popular idea. I will also talk about why it’s so unnecessary to declaw given what we know today how to modify cat behavior or better yet to set up cats for success in the first place to scratch in all the right places. Chicago Vet is at Navy Pier.

Here are all four talks I am presenting at the prestigious vet conference on May 18-19.