AVMA policy statement on declawing of domestic cats

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Aug 01, 2007
By dvm360.com staff

Feline onychectomy is a controversial medical procedure fueled by a growing number of critics who view it harmful and unnecessary. Many veterinarians consider the procedure a last-resort to alleviate destructive scratching behavior inherent in cats.

The following reveals the American Veterinary Medical Association's stance:

Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).

The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy. 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 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 be 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 one to two weeks) should be provided to prevent injury or damage to household items.
  • Surgical declawing is not a medically necessary procedure for the cat in most cases. While rare in occurrence, there are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection and pain. If onychectomy is performed, appropriate use of safe and effective anesthetic agents and the use of safe peri-operative analgesics for an appropriate length of time are imperative. The surgical alternative of tendonectomy is not recommended.
  • Declawed cats should be housed indoors.
  • Scientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive clawing 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, surgical onychectomy may be considered.
  • There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.