Recently, a beautiful cat with bright green eyes and a pink nose named Sunny was surrendered to Marin Humane for biting her guardian five times. It didn’t take long to learn the likely reason Sunny was biting—she’d been declawed.

Declawing, once touted as a solution to a cat’s pesky scratching of furniture or other places, is an inhumane, non-therapeutic surgery that involves the amputation of the animal’s toes at the last joint. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.

According to the Paw Project, “Most people do not realize that bone—not only the nail—is removed. Declawing can result in chronic pain for the cat’s life as well as behavioral issues.”
Scratching is a normal and healthy behavior for cats. They mark their territory that way, stretch their shoulders and back, and it’s their first line of defense. It also lets them fight off an attack as well as retreat as their claws allow them to climb up and out of harm’s way. If a cat doesn’t have claws, they’ll often resort to biting as their only available defense.

And in homes with more than one cat, a declawed cat may act out by urinating or defecating outside the litter box. A recent study by Maddie’s Fund found that “cats in multi-cat households who have been declawed are three times more likely to fail to use the litter box appropriately than those with intact claws.”

There is a very simple solution to a cat scratching in inappropriate places like your furniture—give them a great alternative to scratch! Pet supply stores are filled with options such as cat trees, scratching posts, and simple boxes made of corrugated cardboard. Your cat will quickly learn to exercise those scratching instincts where they’re supposed to (pro-tip: add a little cat nip to the item when you first bring it home).

Learning to safely trim your cat’s nails will also be a big help and avoid accidental scratches to us humans. The ideal scenario is to get them used to nail trims when they’re kittens but even adult cats can learn to tolerate regular manicures (pro-tip number two: wrapping the cat in a towel helps).

Declawing has never been common in most other countries, and, in fact, it is illegal or considered unethical by the veterinary profession in most of the world, according to the Paw Project. For years, many animal welfare organizations, including Marin Humane, have sought to ban declawing in California yet so far, this gruesome practice remains legal except in a few municipalities in Southern California. Fortunately, we have another chance at banning this unnecessary mutilation if the California Anti-Declaw Bill AB 2606 is passed. In late May, the California Assembly voted to pass it with a floor vote of 60-5. The bill now will go to the state Senate for committee hearings. The bill must pass the state Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law. Marin Humane encourages people who share our position against this inhumane practice to contact their state representatives and voice their opinion.

Lastly, remember that Marin Humane’s feline behavior team is here to help! Visit marinhumane.org/oh-behave or call 415-506-6284.