To declaw, or not declaw?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sits on a precipice. He has 30 days to enact a new bill that will ban declawing cats, which would make New York the first state to outlaw the controversial practice. If he chooses to ratify it, Cuomo will massively disrupt the normal model of cat ownership in New York. Most cats in New York are indoor cats, which means they don’t require their claws to hunt or climb. Many vets declaw cats automatically when they spay or neuter them. This attitude contrasts with other countries, where declawing is not routine, and many vets consider it cruel.

The call for change

In the past few years, there has been increasing opposition to declawing. It is usually the owner rather than the cat who benefits from the proceedure. Declawing is akin to clipping the wings of pet birds, or tail docking in dogs. Many people consider it to be mutilation. Most European countries and Canada have banned declawing, and now the USA might be heading the same way. A few individual cities, such as Denver in Colorado and San Francisco, have prohibited it already. California is moving towards banning it, but no single state has outlawed it, so this would be a significant step. However, Cuomo has been rather reticent on his stance, so he may not pass the bill.

cat with claws extended declawing

Is declawing necessary?

The counterargument is that banning declawing will see a huge downturn on cat ownership. Many people don’t want to share a house with a cat that tears up their furniture. In some cases there is a legitimate health concern. Elderly people, and those with conditions such as haemophilia or AIDS, are at genuine risk from infection and death if a cat scratches them. If declawing is banned, the number of cats being abandoned will probably rise. Do we want cats to be euthanised if no home can be found for them, when declawing could solve that?

The real problem

The debate speaks to a wider perception about pet ownership. Many people, even genuine animal lovers, see pets as property. They carry out surgical procedures which modify the animal to suit their lifestyle, rather than questioning what is best for the animal. We as humans have created this situation for these poor animals. We domesticated them and brought them into our homes, and now we have a choice between either removing their claws or rendering many of them homeless. This is a good time to ask whether enough people understand the responsibility of having a pet, and whether we need to change how we think about domesticated animals.

ginger cat declawing


divider declawing


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