Commentary: It’s time for veterinarians to stop mutilating cats’ feet

Commentary: It’s time for veterinarians to stop mutilating cats’ feet

Declawing is a barbaric procedure that violates bioethical principles and sets feline patients on a path to chronic maladaptive pain.

Shutterstock.comI applaud the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the fact that it has (finally) taken an appropriate stand against the mutilation of cats through toe amputation. I am saddened that any compassionate veterinarian would object. It is worth remembering that we are one of the only developed nations on the earth that still allows it.

Amputating the last phalanx (P3) of the toes of cats was once considered a “commodity” procedure, commonly performed by well-intentioned veterinarians. As time has passed and our understanding of feline pain, biomechanics and quality of life has evolved, we now recognize many downsides to this procedure and truly no upside.

For the purpose of this commentary, let’s consider three distinct perspectives on the issue of feline toe amputation:

  • The clinical bioethical perspective
  • The pain perspective
  • The biomechanics perspective.

Clinical bioethical perspective

Cats are sentient beings with moral agency who, it has been recently argued, should be approached with the same consideration as nonverbal children.1-5 It behooves us to consider them within the context of the foundational principles of clinical bioethics.

The four cornerstone principles of clinical bioethics have been described as respect for autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice.6 Let’s look at each of these in turn as we examine the clinical bioethics of feline toe amputation.

Respect for autonomy means we must consider cats’ preferences. If cats could be given a choice between being subjected to multiple toe amputations and maintaining intact feet, one can easily make the case that cats would prefer intact toes and feet, avoiding the pain and disfigurement associated with multiple toe amputation.

Nonmaleficence means “do no harm” or “avoid harm.” The question then becomes, does amputating all of a cat’s front toes (P3s) cause harm? Amputation is painful, potentially for the rest of the cat’s life. It also forever alters the way a cat walks, prevents natural (scratching) behavior, and forever prevents the cat from being able to defend itself by fighting or climbing to escape a threat. Clearly toe amputation causes harm.

Beneficence means to act in a being’s best interest. Can we truly argue that amputating all of any cat’s third phalanges of the front toes is ever in that cat’s best interest? It appears that the answer to this question is a self-evident “no.”

Justice is the fourth cornerstone principle of clinical bioethics. Translating this for application in veterinary medicine focuses on fairness. The relevant question to ask is if amputating the third phalanx of each of a cat’s front toes could ever constitute fairness to the cat within the context of its life and lifestyle. Considering all of the compromise that toe amputation creates, as a formally trained clinical bioethicist, I respectfully submit this does not reflect fairness.

Pain perspective

Multiple studies have demonstrated that most cats receive woefully inadequate pain prevention and management for procedures like spays and neuters—procedures far less traumatic than multiple toe amputations. The pain literature clearly demonstrates that acute pain poorly managed at the time of the trauma often leads to permanent pain states. This means ongoing, self-sustaining, chronic maladaptive pain that constitutes lifelong torture.7,8

The few studies that have evaluated either the presence of leftover bone fragments or regrowth of sharp bone spurs after toe amputation demonstrate that an embarrassingly large number of cats suffer from this extra bony tissue.9 These sharp shards perpetually poke at the underside of the skin at the end of each toe stump, making every step like walking on needles or nails.

Finally, we know from pain physiology that when we sever a nerve, there is a high risk of creating self-perpetuating neuropathic pain. Humans most commonly develop neuropathic pain as a result of conditions such as amputation, direct nerve trauma, shingles and diabetes. People who develop neuropathic pain can describe how it feels, so we know the unremitting torture they endure each and every day—tingling, burning, electric-like pulsed pain, pins and needles. We also know that once chronic maladaptive neuropathic pain is in place, these people report ongoing challenges relieving pain.10-12

We know from pain and neurology research that companion animals are “wired” precisely as we are. When nerves are cut—as they are in feline toe amputation—the probability that the cat will develop neuropathic pain is exquisitely high. These cats can go on to develop many different aberrant behaviors. These may include:

  • reluctance to walk on certain surfaces
  • reluctance to jump onto or off furniture, window ledges and so on
  • overgrooming of feet or legs.

These cats must walk on their painful feet!

Biomechanical perspective

Finally, we must consider how feline toe amputation forever alters the biomechanics of the patient.

When a cat is subjected to toe amputation, in addition to having the last bony phalanx removed, all of the surrounding tendons and ligaments that attach to that bone are severed. This changes the architecture of the feet, thus changing the biomechanics of how the feet work. Because approximately 60 percent of the cat’s body weight is carried on the front feet, altered biomechanics changes the way the entire body moves. If we superimpose chronic maladaptive neuropathic pain in the feet onto altered front foot biomechanics, we amplify the downstream implications of the cat moving in an abnormal fashion. The altered biomechanics can significantly interfere with the cat’s ability to exhibit normal cat behaviors.

We also know that the vast majority of cats 10 years of age and older suffer from degenerative osteoarthritis (OA) in at least one joint.13,14 The majority of cats who develop OA in later life have it occur in their equivalent of the human lower back—where the spine and pelvis come together. When the biomechanics of movement are altered, so are the forces generated throughout the body’s joints—in particular the joints of the spine.

The repetition of ergonomically unsound movements over time creates microtraumas to these joints, which can contribute to the development and progression of OA. Then, OA contributes to ongoing chronic maladaptive pain in these cats. As both a board-certified specialist in rehabilitation and a pain expert, I find this completely preventable, endless cycle of altered biomechanics and chronic maladaptive pain to be a call to action.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that amputating the last phalanx of the toes of cats violates those cats on many levels—bioethically; from an acute pain perspective; from a neuropathic pain perspective; from a biomechanical, movement and lifestyle perspective; and from an OA and chronic maladaptive pain perspective. It is time for this arcane and barbaric mutilation procedure to be removed from the veterinary surgical lexicon.

References

1. Andrews K. Beyond anthropomorphism: Attributing psychological properties to animals. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG, eds. The Oxford handbook of animal ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

2. Copp D. Animals, fundamental moral standing, and speciesism. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG, eds. The Oxford handbook of animal ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

3. Downing R. They do not deserve to hurt: Closing the gap between what we know and what we do for companion animal acute pain. MS thesis, Union Graduate College, Schenectady, New York, 2016.

4. Nussbaum M. The capabilities approach and animal entitlements. In: Beauchamp TL, Frey RG, eds. The Oxford handbook of animal ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

5. Low P. Cambridge declaration of consciousness, ed. Panskepp J, Reiss D, Edelman D, et al. Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, Cambridge, UK, July 2012.

6. Beauchamp TL, Childress JF. Principles of biomedical ethics, 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

7. Costigan M, Scholz J, Woolf CJ. Neuropathic pain: A maladaptive response of the nervous system to damage. Annu Rev Neurosci 2009;32:1-32.

8. Dahl JB, Kehlet H. Preventive analgesia. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol 2011;24:331-338.

9. Martell-Moran NK, Solano M, Townsend HGG. Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats. J Fel Med Surg May 1, 2017; epub ahead of print.

10. Sandkuhler J. Spinal cord plasticity and pain. In: McMahon SB, Koltzenburg M, eds. Wall and Melzack’s textbook of pain, 5th ed. (e-book). London: Elsevier, 2006.

11. Woolf CJ, Salter MW. Plasticity and pain: Role of the dorsal horn. In: McMahon SB, Koltzenburg M, eds. Wall and Melzack’s textbook of pain, 5th ed. (e-book). London: Elsevier, 2006.

12. Woolf, CJ. Pain: Moving from symptom control toward mechanism-specific pharmacologic management. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:441-451.

13. Kerwin SC. Osteoarthritis in cats. Top Companion Anim Med 2010;25(4):218-223.

14. Lascelles BDX. Feline degenerative joint disease. Vet Surg 2010;39:2-13.

Dr. Robin Downing, who holds a master’s degree in clinical bioethics, is a diplomate of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, a certified veterinary pain practitioner, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, and hospital director at the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colorado.

declaw mutilations

To Whom It May Concern:
Regarding the comparison of declawing to mutilation. When I read something like this, and there are many as of late, I feel like blood is about to shoot from my eyes.
I learned some basic terminology regarding surgeons way back in Veterinary school (MSU 73). There are 3 levels of surgeons: Technicians, operators, and surgeons. I don't know what level this poor DVM has attained, but if she is worrying about mutilation, possibly she needs to improve her techniques. I don't mean any insult, I'm just saying.
The local humane organizations are full of cats surrendered by owners simply because they tear up the house. All this training and pseudo-psychological voodoo is just hooey. Cats are cats and people are people. Unfortunately, most pet owners will not, or can not train cats. That won't change. Yes, declawing is uncomfortable for a couple days, but modern pain meds allow our feline friends and family members to have a happy home forever because of the declaw procedure.
I have done over 60,000 surgeries of various sorts, many of them declaws. My own cats are all declawed in the front. They still climb my trees, catch rodents and do all the normal cat stuff. I prefer to do them at 8 weeks. Post-op complications are nearly non existent. It's hard to keep them down. They act as if there is NO PAIN. There is the occasional cat with temporary "phantom pains' just as in human amputees. A little supportive care and it's all gone. The declawed cat has an opportunity for a forever home and everybody lives happily ever after.
It's time for a reality check in many corners of our profession and society. I mean, after all, there are those who say we should never spank kids. We all know from the results, that is plain hooey. I will continue to offer my expertise in this area, and one method will be declawing, without mutilation. I'm just saying.....

Declawing cats

I appreciated Dr. Downing's response to my editorial but after reading it I felt it deserves a response. To even consider a declaw performed carefully, correctly and with proper pain management to be mutilation is sensationalism at best and anthropomorphic hysteria at worst.

Before I do that however, I would like thank DVM magazine for allowing both sides of this discussion to take place in a public format. I also want to thank those veterinarians who responded both for or against declaws in a professional and respectful manner. Only in this way may we all become better veterinarians going forward. To those veterinarians who apparently embrace the idea to demonize and character assassinate those they disagree with, shame on you.

For the record, I have never marketed declaws and I am unaware of any veterinarian that has. Rather I have included declaws as one among several options available to pet owners who were experiencing problems with their cats claws. In regard to the negative comments of doing declaws for the money you could not be more wrong. The revenue I received from doing declaws amounted to approximately 0.003% of my total revenue which is probably on par with most veterinarians that perform declaws. We provide this service as a need and not a significant revenue source in spite of what anyone thinks.

I do agree with Dr. Downing that we as veterinarians need to consider and adhere to a clinical bioethical standard. However, I believe we need to divorce ourselves as much as humanly possible of personal bias. Her commentary clearly shows a prejudice against the procedure as I suspect her lack of personal experience does. For complete clarity admittedly I also have a bias in favor of declaws based on decades of experience of performing and observing thousands of declawed cats, many from cradle to grave. I do believe both Dr. Downing and myself have tried to present a perspective that is both fair and as unbiased as possible even though we disagree on several topics.

Respect for autonomy - Here she states if cats had a choice they would prefer intact toes and feet. I could not agree more with Dr. Downing as she is absolutely right. However, she deliberately or carelessly omits the same fact that if cats had a choice they would choose to keep their genitals, be allowed to breed, be allowed to eat mice and birds, live outside rather than in small apartments to name a few. This biased cherry picking in respect for autonomy is demeaning and hypocritical.

Nonmaleficence (do no harm) - Here she claims a declawed cat cannot scratch naturally, defend itself or climb trees. Obviously Dr. Browning has not been around many declawed cats in direct contrast to myself. Cats do maintain the ability to scratch naturally, they do lose the ability to destroy or injure people and property however. Claws are not much if any defense to large dogs, coyotes or automobiles and finally while a cat cannot climb a tree that is perpendicular to the ground they can easily climb trees that have any amount of horizontal shape. In regard to the way a cat walks in my opinion the presence or absence of claws makes little or no difference. P-3 in a cat is always retracted during normal ambulation and thus not part of the walking process. If this were not true cat nails would be worn down losing their sharpness as occurs in dogs.

Beneficence - There is no question that if declawing a cat allows it to remain with a loving home it is beneficial. If it allows a cat to remain within the home and away from harms way, it is beneficial. Therefore I believe there is a definite benefit, under the right circumstances, which is in contrast to Dr. Downing's opinion.

Justice - Dr. Downing wonders if a declaw ever constitutes fairness to the cat within the context of its lifestyle. Since we have taken an animal that naturally is a loner and would live outside and taken such cats into catteries, cat shows, small apartments, sterilized them, etc. we have already altered their natural lifestyle greatly. If declawing makes that pet a more desirable pet allowing it to live in more harmony with its owner, I would argue there is great fairness since a good balance between the pet and pet owner has been achieved. Whether we want to admit it or not and I am sure this statement will upset many veterinarians, the only reason we have as many pet cats and dogs in the world is because they are here at the pleasure of humans. If they did not provide such pleasure there would be a lot less of them in homes.

Pain perspective - Certainly pain for any procedure must be considered and addressed. However, Dr. Downing's comment that cats receive "woefully inadequate pain prevention" is not a reason to demonize any surgical procedure but rather a call of better education. Further when she comments about "self -perpetuating neuropathic pain and comparing it to pain that is experienced from human amputees (phantom pain) she fails to state according to the human literature this phantom pain is an uncommon occurrence. So if it is uncommon in humans why would it not be uncommon in cats? Additionally, if neuropathic pain is as common as Dr. Downing states it is why is she not concerned with the neuropathic pain that results from the severing of nerves with neuters, spays, and even dental extractions which are done much more commonly than declaws. Or is this another example of cherry picking a medical procedure that she philosophically disagrees with? I am unaware of any scientific study that proves her statement that the probability of a cat developing naturopathic pain via a declaw is extremely high. That is here opinion but far from scientific fact.

Dr. Downing sites a recent article among her references on adverse behavior and pain in cats that have been declawed by Martell-Moran -J. Fel Med Surg May 1, 2017 to support her beliefs. A few comments in regard to that paper are worth discussing. I compliment the authors of this paper with their desire to find some objective answers in regard to declaws. I also applaud them for recognizing their own bias and trying to minimize it as much as possible. In spite of some short comings of the article I think it does support the fact that surgical declaws if done must be done correctly. However, can't we say that about any surgery? The study however admittedly did not take into consideration things such as the presence of a history of FLUTD, obesity, if cats were inside only or inside/outside, previous trauma along with a number of other variables that could affect their conclusions. I believe this was unfortunate because they could easily be overlooking other causes (in addition to natural bias) that caused such problems. For example; If we can assume the majority of declawed cats stay inside and have a very sedimentary lifestyle they may very well suffer from obesity (common in house cats) and poor or decreased muscle tone. Compare that to the cat with claws that goes in and out which has a better body score and better muscle tone. We know in humans obesity and poor muscle tone leads to more orthopedic issues so does it also in cats? So was the identified pain due to the declaw or other factors? Are the behavioral issues sited due more to brining cats indoors and the consequences of such?

In regard to increased biting discussed in the paper, again there was no effort to determine if the cats had a propensity for biting before the declaw. Just last week I saw a 12 week old kitten (claws intact) and the owner warned me the kitten liked to bite. During my lengthy veterinary career it is my impression that I have seen at least as many cats with claws that liked to bite as I did with cats that were declawed. I would be curious to those veterinarians that have performed many declaws over the years have had similar observations as mine.

An important point in the Martell-Moran study is that if you look at the house cats in which the authors determined back pain that had declaws without any p-3 fragments amounted to 3/30 or 10% whereas the house cats with p-3 fragments showing back pain amounted to 14/41 or 34%. I did not take much importance in shelter cats as the unknown variables are much to great. I believe this finding clearly shows it is extremely important for those who perform declaws to do them correctly.

I also believe the authors looked at the radiographic evidence of orthopedic abnormalities and concluded it equated with pain. Certainly radiographic abnormalities can equate with pain but that does not mean they always do. In humans for example most people
radiographically do not have a normal spine but that does not mean they all have back pain. We also know that all dogs with medial luxating patella's do not experience pain.

The biggest disconnect that was completely brushed over in the article however is that only one cat of the 137 declawed cats (0.007%)was presented for pain yet the examiners found a much higher amount of pain (28% back pain). So are we to conclude that pet owners are very stupid and cannot recognize pain in their pets or that they do and just don't care? After over four decades of being involved with pets and pet owners, while there are times when pet owners do not recognize pain, in my experience this has been the exception rather that the rule. Additionally, pet owners will not stand for their pets to be in pain and considering the large number of pet owners that have their replacement cats declawed when they lose a beloved pet makes this veterinarian wonder if the admitted bias by these authors resulted in the over diagnoses of pain in the subject cats.

Biomechanical perspective - Dr. Downing believes the biomechanics of how the feet work with declawed cats changes. As stated earlier cats p-3 remains retracted during normal ambulation so I must question her opinion. Additionally, owning declawed cats for over 30years I have had a great amount of time to observe these cats and from my perspective, I cannot tell any difference in the way a cat walks with claws or a properly performed declaw. Surely, I agree if the declaw is done in a manner that results in chronic pain the biomechanics will change. Another problem I have with her conclusion in regard to biometrics is that we as veterinarians unfortunately have to amputate limbs due to accident and disease much more than we would like. So these three legged pets are common yet I have never read an article of these animals having chronic back pain, phantom pain or anything else. Quite the contrary, we tell our pet owners their pet will still be able to run and play and have a wonderful life. So if it is not happening with limb amputees why does it happen (or does it really happen) at all in a properly declawed cat?

In conclusion and counter to Dr. Downing, I do not believe a properly performed declaw violates the bioethical perspective any more (or less) than a whole host of things we subject our pets too do or that we prevent them from doing. Declaws are a tool and if performed correctly and with the right pet owner/pet situation can improve the quality of life for the pet and improve the human/animal bond in that family. I truly believe that the only reason declaws have gotten such a terrible reputation both here and abroad is that the procedure is much more detailed than some veterinarians realize and small subtle omissions or discrepancies can in some cases lead to the horror stories as well as chronic morbidity we have all read about.

Dr. Robert Neunzig, DVM, Diplomate ABVP canine/feline emeritus

Do Not Declaw

Incorrect, Dr. Neunzig. The definition of mutilation is as follows:
1. to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect
2. to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of

To declaw a cat is to literally cut off, cut up, alter radically, and permanently destroy the digits of the cat.

Correction on their anatomy: Cats claws are on the distal phalanx and that is the exact digit cats walk on. You're correct that the claw is retractable, but when the distal phalanx is amputated (aka declawed) (in human terms, this means amputating each tip of your finger at the first knuckle), cats are now forced to walk on their middle phalanges which is completely unnatural.

The sake of someone's furniture is not more important than the care of the animal. I completely disagree with a lot of what you're saying. It's personal anecdotes whereas Dr Downing is siting published studies over courses of years. I've observed many things with my cats, clawed and declawed (which will never happen again), but it's such a small sample size we can't make objective conclusions from our personal observations. It only aids in helping us make correct decisions which should be Do Not Declaw Your Cats.

Now that I know better . . .

Thank you Dr. Downing.

When I graduated vet school in 2003, we were not taught how to declaw. I wanted to learn how to do it because I truly believed that if it kept a cat in its home, it would be warranted. I only did a few declaws and although I never felt comfortable doing them, I really did think I was doing the best for my patient.

Apart from working in private practice, I also run a shelter for cats. Initially I did not refuse adoption to those who wanted to declaw. However, when I began to see some of those cats, whose owners declawed them, come back to the shelter for inappropriate urination and/or biting, I changed our policy. I have never had a cat returned for inappropriate scratching behavior.

I haven't done a declaw in 9-10 years and the practice that I work at adopted a no-declaw policy about 5 years ago. I am happy to see the profession changing and that some of the things I’ve seen over the years are now reported in journals. As Maya Angelou said "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

We're getting there

Thank you Dr. Downing!
I won't bother trying to reiterate the various reasons we need to stop declawing cats; my colleagues represented here and in Dr. Downing's references have already done that better than I could.
I am proud that more and more veterinarians, other animal care professionals and cat owners in our country recognize that this procedure only harms our patients, and needs to stop.
I too once thought declawing was a 'Necessary evil' to keep more cats in homes; I was wrong. Working for a large cat shelter now, I'm reminded every day how wrong I was. Most of our permanent residents are declawed cats who have been relinquished, then returned, for biting or inappropriate elimination. Our primary behavior reason given for relinquishment is inappropriate elimination. As you all know, there are several other common reasons given for surrendering an animal, but in our experience 'Scratching stuff' is nowhere near the top of the list.
I am confident that we will join the many other nations, and stop declawing cats in our country. I'm hopeful that between our increased efforts at education, and the fact that despite our disagreements we are ultimately a progressive and compassionate profession, it will happen before I retire! Thanks again for your good work.

Declawing Needs to Go

Thank you to Dr. Downing for taking the time to tackle this issue from an ethical perspective. I, as have other veterinarians, used to declaw cats not because it necessarily made me more money but because I perceived it as part of the job. It always felt wrong to me but I was made fun of for it so I continued on trying to put it out of my mind. Once I began working with cats only the trend of chronic pain and behavior problems came into focus. Just because cats aren’t dying from this procedure doesn’t mean they are living without consequence. This isn’t about infringing on someone’s “right” to declaw a cat. It’s about protecting the cat from those who don’t know better. That’s what laws are for; to protect us from you and to protect you from you.
Declawing is a surgical amputation that affects the cat for life no matter the surgical technique, no matter the post-operative care or complications, and no matter if the owner is astute enough to know when their cat is showing signs of pain. A cat owner’s perception of the cat’s health or pain status is the least effective means of assessment. These owners may be able to answer historical questions that can lead a veterinarian to consider chronic pain but rarely do I encounter a cat owner that believes their cat is experiencing chronic pain when, in fact, they really are.
I stopped declawing several years ago and do not regret it for one second. I preach about chronic pain because I was stubborn and didn't believe it myself. It took some soul searching to conclude that I had harmed cats, albeit unknowingly. I wrestle with that and feel guilt for the pain I may have caused them. Today, my challenge to veterinarians who declaw cats and feel they do “fine” is start looking for back pain, pay attention to how many have inappropriate elimination problems, how many of them resort to biting or are now aggressive. I am aware there are non-declawed cats that exhibit those behaviors or have back pain as well however you will find a much higher percentage of declawed patients in those categories. Put egos aside and pay attention. Veterinarians are among the most stubborn people on this planet, I know because I am too. It’s OK to open your eyes to the idea that declawing has no medical benefit to the cat and, in fact, can cause harm. If the surgery was not available, cat owners would adjust and learn to live with claws. I reject the notion that declawing keeps cats in homes. If that is the case, why are there so many declawed cats in shelters? We need to stop that lie in its tracks. Declawing needs to go.

ethics, emotions, and evidence

I performed declaw surgeries for many, many years. I did so, not because I wanted money or did not care about cats, but because I was doing what I was told was necessary and I believed I was helping my clients. In fact, since I truly focused only on cat-medicine, I felt that I was even more qualified to do a great job. I bought into the false information about how if we didn't do it, the cats would lose their homes, or would give their client diseases, or multiple other unsubstantiated viewpoints. So we were the good guys, and of-course, we did declawing the "right" way. I took a great deal of pride in the skills I developed and the fact that I took great care in all the latest and greatest pre- and post-operative pain management considerations. Despite all of this ego and arrogance - even someone as self-centered as me was eventually able to comprehend the fact that perhaps, cutting a nerve and toes off is simply not something that is without consequences, despite all the efforts to control the manner of the surgery and the management of the acute surgical pain. As my mind contemplated this issue - over the years and years of feline-only practice - I really was coming to learn that this procedure - even under the best of all circumstances - was and is problematic. The more I learned and paid closer attention to cats, and their behaviors - I could see that even though we were performing a "state-of-the-art" surgery - we were putting into motion a set of serious challenges for our patients and really, from the standpoint of trying to "do-the-best" for our clients - we were truly failing them.

This is the heart of the issue. Not who is more ethical, or who is more articulate - it is about what is really going to be the most helpful for our clients and their cats. Ultimately - I believe that the answer to this is that if these clients can develop a long-term, trusted and bonded relationship - which will undoubtedly translate into a long-term client and veterinary bond as well. It is fairly obvious to me that the declaw procedure and its consequences for cats is not in alignment with this objective.

The recent efforts that my colleagues have taken have clearly identified some of the long-term problems pain-issues affecting these declawed cats. These are problems that we (myself included), are responsible for. Additionally, there is now clear evidence that many of the previously-held beliefs about the necessity of declawing to save cat lives or decrease the relinquishment of cats to shelters to be without merit.

7 years ago we went from simply strongly advising clients against declawing to simply saying we could no longer perform the procedure. In those 7 years I had one client (that I am aware of) go elsewhere, then return for other care. Many clients now seek us out and say they would not consider even going to a vet clinic that performed that procedure. .

I can honestly say that I feel that I did a good job with these procedures, but that I now feel quite comfortable admitting that doing them was not in the best interest of my patient, or my client for any of those. I was wrong, but I have learned more since then, and I am still learning. I hope that we can all keep learning more, and put our patients and clients real needs ahead of our own egos as well as maintain our commitment to the welfare of the animals who we have dedicated our lives to trying to care for.

Cat Dclawing

Thank you, Dr. Downing! It is a shame that there are so few vets who willing stop the declawing of cats without a law that says they must. Thank you for being in that small group. You are a credit to the veterinarian profession, not to mention the human race.

I applaud Dr Downing

I’m truly thankful for Dr Downing’s stance on Cat declawing & grateful that she had the fortitude to speak out publicly. I’m disappointed in the negative comments by others professional veterinarians & catowners, why would they disagree with Dr Downing if they truly had the health & wellbeing of their cat patients at heart? Declawing is unnecessary & inhumane period, it’s unexceptable in many other countries, these countries are appalled that the US Veterinary Associations condone such a vile procedure. Studies have been done, declawing leaves Cats with lifetime pain and suffering, is not condone by the CDC for any human disease or ailment. Declawing does not ensure a home or life. There are thousands of declawed cats in shelters that have been abandoned due to behavior problems stemming from the declaw, sadly these cats will most likely be euthanized. Why would any ethical veterinarian dispute these findings, belittled Dr Downings commentary? Declawing is animal abuse & it’s sad & disturbing that some Veterinarians are condoning this abuse. I will continue to advocate for a non-declaw country & to plead to the public to use Non-Declawing veterinarians only. Thank you Dr Downing, you are a shining light to the veterinarian community.

New info dictates new treatments

Twenty five years ago when I graduated from vet school, declaws were thought to be fine for cat and owner -pain control was also in it's infancy and digital radiographs were unheard of. Today, radiographic evidence proves the damage of feline arthritis due to changes caused by declaw procedures. The data from California, years after declawing was declared illegal, proves that LESS -not more - cats are being relinquished to shelters (any rescue will admit the number one reason these animals are released is due to not using a litter box and aggression). The CDC has been recommending for years that people with immune-mediated diseases should not own a declawed cat. Veterinary medicine should be constantly changing and education should never stop. If it is good for the cats and the owners, we should be on the forefront of such change.