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What Is Declawing And Why Is It Illegal In The Uk?

The vast majority of cat lovers know that claws and claw marks are part of the package. Sometimes the claw marks are at the right place, the scratch post, while other times they may be on furniture or more painfully our hands/arms/legs/feet. Cat are also not like dogs in the claw department, as dogs cannot retract their claws, but our feline friends can. 

This Pets4Homes article looks at a practice that is undertaken in some parts of the world - declawing. We look at what it is, and how it is deemed to help with the scratching problem.

What does declawing mean?

Declawing is much more than simply stopping the claws from growing by treating them with a special solution or clipping them in a certain way to inhibit growth. It is a true surgical procedure, literally removing each and every claw under anaesthetic. This means a partial removal of the cat’s bones that the claws are attached to. 

It sounds painful and distressful and in many ways it is. Compare it to having your fingertip bones removed, so your fingernails no longer grow. Not pleasant at all, even with painkillers the operation really isn’t necessary at all.

That sounds horrible, why is it done? 

It is horrible and there is only one reason some people in countries that it is still allowed, have it done. To stop the cat scratching everything, causing damage. If you think that’s incredulous you are not alone. Cat’s scratch by instinct and many owners think it’s to sharpen their claws, but they are wrong, it’s the opposite. Cats also scratch to scent mark their territory from scent glands in the feet. So, it will not make them happy to not act naturally, for the sake of a sofa, carpet, chairs or curtains

Have we banned it?

You may be pleased to know, that yes, we have. After consultation with veterinary experts, the United Kingdom banned declawing of cats back in 2006. In the grand scheme of things, that was not long ago. It was banned as a part of anti-cruelty laws and knowing the reasons people have it done and the procedure, you will hopefully see why it’s termed as cruel. 

If a cat is declawed in the UK (you would be extremely hard-pressed to find anyone to do it), there is also a fine up to £20,000 if convicted.

Why is it still practiced in other countries?

You may think everyone would ban it, but sadly that’s not true. Perhaps even countries that have a much poorer understanding of veterinary procedures you might think it's due to that, but even in developed countries, declawing is still legal. 

For instance, across the pond in the US, the practice is still undertaken. It is thought that around 25% of cat’s in the US are declawed - take the size of America and a quarter of its cats are declawed. That’s insane. But it is becoming much less popular, in fact, some of the States have begun to ban it.

Are there alternatives?

Like most things, there are more ways than one to do things. So, the problem is that cats claw and scratch items in the home, what if we had a way to keep their claws from doing damage, but they could have the same stimulation with scratching? Well, thanks to an invention called Soft Claws they can - they are claw covers that negate the need for declawing - with the added bonus that the cat can still scent mark their territory, using their feet. 

The jury is out on how effective these soft covers are, there are other ways though.

What other ways are there to protect the belongings?

In the UK we do things a bit differently, and there are several ways to help protect your belongings. Probably the number one addition to any home that has cats it a scratch post - and as we know cats scent mark with their feet, there should be one scratch post per cat in the home. 

Sprays are also available to put your cat off from scratching an area, although for antique furniture care must be taken to make sure the spray doesn’t damage the piece itself! Lastly, pheromones such as Feliway can also help.

How does declawing affect the cat?

We have already mentioned the pain it can cause, and many cats will become unhappy after the procedure due to discomfort. As a general anaesthetic is also required, there are, of course, risks of surgery and anaesthetic - for an unnecessary procedure. 

Perhaps the biggest problem is the type of operation, rather the things that the surgeon will remove - the bones structures. Remember it’s on the very end of the cat's feet and takes a lot of weight. Remove them and the cat can have trouble balancing and doing things a cat should do each day.

Are there other side effects? 

The problem with removing the bone area is not limited to a balancing issue, but there is a real problem with many cats when it comes to other natural things. For example, a cat that has been declawed may start to show behavioural issues surrounding their litter tray. They may start to avoid it completely, not because they are being naughty, but because the balance then the following scraping action cats do (to cover their urine/faeces) is causing them so much distress.

So, we hope you can see why this has been banned in the UK if you really don’t want scratch marks everywhere the solution is simple. Reconsider getting a cat in the very first place! The act of declawing is pretty barbaric and as a nation of animal lovers, we really don’t want to put our feline friends through that scenario at all.

Claws can become uncomfortable, especially the dewclaws, but with careful monitoring and trimming, they shouldn’t get to the point (no pun intended) where they curl around and dig into the pads. If you have any concerns about your cat’s claws, please speak to your own vet.


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