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Anti-claw safety bill draws controversy in cat community and beyond

Cat claws can damage delicate humans, but then so can cat teeth. © Pixabay

A controversial bill to ban the declawing of cats is dividing opinion among cats and cat-lovers in California, USA.

By G. John Cole, 27 Feb 2019

The bill, proposed by state Assemblyman Bill Quirk, is intended to bring to an end the alleged cruelty, pain, and behavioural issues experienced by cats who go through the procedure. 

“Declawed cats can suffer long-term physical complications as a result of declawing,” claims Quirk in The Mercury News. “It’s not just a fancy manicure. It’s painful, unnecessary, and needs to stop.”

But not everybody agrees that declawing is a luxury, or unnecessary.

Cat attack risk

“Those citizens who are on blood thinners or are immunocompromised cannot afford to be scratched without the risk of significant deleterious consequences,” argues vet Robert Neunzig, DVM, DABVP. “A child should not have to carry a facial scar through life. A declaw eliminates this risk.”

Interestingly, parties on both side of the case argue that their solution will reduce the number of unwanted cats who are returned to shelters and potentially euthanized.

The side that’s in favour of declawing cats when appropriate (‘pro-choice’) argues that a scratchy cat will soon make for an unwanted houseguest when it damages humans, furniture, and other pets. But Quirk’s anti-declawing lobby, on the other hand, reckon that declawing results in behavioural problems that can themselves lead to cat-abandonment.

“I attribute the decrease in relinquishment of cats to our shelters to the decrease in behavioural problems that are the result of declawing,” argues Brenda Barnette, general manager of the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, in The Mercury News. “We strongly believe that a ban on declawing saves the lives of cats.”

These behavioural problems in declawed cats can include the development of a biting habit in place of the now-impossible scratching habit. Although biting surely isn’t as dangerous as scratching, it seems that owners on both sides of the ‘cat control’ issue are doomed to be cut and infected.

Bitten if you do, scratched if you don’t

The controversial bill echoes some of the other divisive issues in America today: gun control, the control of women’s bodies during pregnancy, and the tragic world of anti-vax lobbyists.

However, in the case of cat declawing, there is thankfully a clear and pleasant ‘third way’ that individuals can take without tying themselves in knots over the morality and outcome variables involved in declawing: instead of getting a cat, adopt a lovely dog.