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Vet group calls cat declawing ‘amputation’

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A major veterinary group has updated its cat declawing policy to emphasize that the procedure is an “amputation” of the last bone in each toe and “should be regarded as a major surgery.”

The revised policy, which the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) adopted at its annual convention in Denver in late July, “strongly encourages” veterinarians to educate their clients about declawing before it is performed. It maintains that declawing should only be done after alternatives have been sought to prevent destructive clawing.

“There was an agreement that the policy needed to address the seriousness of the procedure, and stress that this is not a simple procedure but in fact a major surgery,” AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo said.

The AVMA, which represents more than 85,000 veterinarians, revised the policy with input from its members and from a panel that included representatives of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association. The policy was last updated in 2009 and was due for a refresh because the AVMA typically reviews such policies every five years, San Filippo said.

Declawing opponents expressed disappointment that the AVMA did not go further and call for an end to the procedure. They compare declawing to cutting off the tips of a person’s fingers, and assert that it is painful and potentially crippling and can cause behavior problems, such as biting or litter box avoidance. They say there are more humane ways to protect furniture, such as scratching posts, regular nail trimmings, nail caps and double-sided sticky tape.

“Amputating a cat's toe bones to protect couches is simply cruel,” said veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, founder and director of the Paw Project.

The AVMA insisted that there is “no scientific evidence” that declawing increases behavioral problems.