The American Association of Feline Practitioners strongly believes that it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy. There are significant misconceptions about normal feline behavior, and veterinarians are routinely presented with frequently asked questions.
The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:
- Scratching is a normal feline behavior, is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and is used for claw conditioning (“husk” removal) and stretching activity.
- Owners must provide suitable implements for normal scratching behavior. Examples are scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching, and firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching. Cats should be positively reinforced in the use of these implements.
- Appropriate claw care consisting of trimming the claws every 1-2 weeks should be provided to prevent injury or undesired damage to household items.
- Temporary synthetic nail caps are available as an alternative to onychectomy to prevent human injury or damage to property.
- Surgical declawing is not a medically necessary procedure for the cat in most cases.
- While rare in occurrence, there are inherent risks with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to:
- anesthetic complications
- side effects of pain medication
- The surgical alternative of tendonectomy has been considered by some veterinarians and owners to provide unsatisfactory and deleterious results due to the overgrowth of nails, the need for more extensive claw care to be provided by the owner than if not performed, and the development of discomfort in some patients.
- The AAFP reviews scientific data and supports controlled scientific studies that provide insight into all aspects of feline medicine. The AAFP recognizes that feline onychectomy is an ethically controversial procedure; however there is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when compared to control groups. There is scientific data that shows that cats who have undesired claw behavior are more likely to be euthanized, or more readily relinquished, released or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home situation, the decision to perform surgical onychectomy may be undertaken.
- In households where cats come into contact with immunocompromised people, extensive education about zoonotic disease potential should be discussed and documented. Surgical onychectomy is an option in such households.
- If surgical onychectomy is performed, appropriate use of safe and effective anesthetic agents and the use of safe and effective peri-operative analgesics for an appropriate length of time are imperative.
AAFP Feline Welfare Committee