New York is slated to become the first state in the nation to make declawing cats illegal. The bill was passed by a bipartisan majority in both houses of the New York legislature on Tuesday, June 4th, Animal Advocacy Day, during which lawmakers can bring their pets to the Capitol. The law will go into effect as soon as it’s signed by Governor Cuomo, and his office has stated he’ll review the bill once he receives it before making a final decision.
Declawing is a procedure in which the last bone in each of the cat’s toes is fully amputated. Many people who opt to have their cats declawed seem to think it’s a harmless and simple process in which just the cat’s nails are removed, but it’s not. The human equivalent of declawing would be to cut the fingers off at the first knuckle. It’s a painful surgery and can often leave cats struggling with walking and balancing, takes away their primary means of defense and has even been demonstrated by studies to leave them with other physical and behavioral issues such as back pain, increased aggression and litter box avoidance.
“It’s said that a society can be judged by the way it treats its animals, and by allowing this practice to continue, we have not been setting a good example,” said State Senator Michael N. Gianaris, the Queens Democrat and chamber’s deputy leader. His sentiment was echoed by his Republican counterpart, State Senator James Tedisco, “Animals give us unconditional love,” he remarked. “I think that this is the most nonpartisan day we have in the New York State Legislature.”
Once Mr. Cuomo signs the bill into law, New York will become the first state to ban the declawing of cats for non-medical reasons. The bill does allow, however, for cats to be declawed for “therapeutic purposes” which compromise the cat’s health but clearly states that “therapeutic purpose does not include cosmetic or aesthetic reasons or reasons of convenience in keeping or handling the cat.”
Anyone who breaks the law and declaws a cat for any other reason than the well-being of the feline would be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000.
Three other states, New Jersey, West Virginia and Rhode Island, are also currently considering laws that would make declawing illegal. To this day, though, only Denver, Colorado and eight cities in California currently outlaw the practice. We can only hope that New York’s willingness to stand up for those who have no voice of their own will inspire other states, and eventually the whole nation, to end this barbaric practice. Currently, England, Israel and 40 other countries have banned declawing cats.
Opponents of the ban, including the New York Veterinary Medical Society, claim that declawing is an important alternative to re-homing or euthanasia for cats who use their claws destructively, or if the cat’s guardians suffer from a disease that would make getting scratched dangerous, such as hemophilia, diabetes or a compromised immune system.
The Center for Disease Control, however, does not recommend declawing for people with compromised immune systems. Instead, they suggest avoiding rough play with cats and “situations in which scratches are likely”.
Scratching Is Important to Cats
Here at The Cultured Cat we support the Raw Cat and believe there are other ways in which to keep yourself and your furniture safe from cat scratches that don’t involve the surgical amputation of your cat’s paws, which is why we support legislation that puts animal welfare first. Scratching is an important activity for cats that helps to exercise their muscles, relieve stress and communicate with other cats in the household through pheromone marking. There are other more humane alternatives to dealing with scratching within the home.
Offer Places to Scratch
Instead, we suggest offering cats places they are allowed to comfortably scratch, such as appropriate scratching posts and boards. Each cat is different and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you cat. If your cat likes to scratch the sides of the couch, a vertical scratching post that won’t fall over when your cat tries to use it may help curb scratching in unwanted areas. You can also use a couch and furniture leg guard to give them a place they can scratch while protecting your furniture. If your cat prefers to scratch the carpet or the top of the couch, a scratcher that lays on the floor will probably work best for them.
Keep Your Cat’s Claws Clipped
It’s also important to keep your cat’s nails well trimmed. While some cat owners can find it challenging to trim their cat’s nails, cutting them a few at a time will get the job done and be less traumatic for both yourself and your cat. Claw caps can also be a great way of keeping yourself and your furniture safe from more aggressive cats.
The Importance of Play
Cats often become destructive or can display aggressive behavior due to a lack of stimulating activity during the day. If you want to keep your cat from using their claws destructively, then you have to make sure they have an opportunity to use them the right way. Playing with your cat daily, especially with toys that they canhunt, grab and use their claws on, will help get their destructive energy out in a way that is both human-approved and yet still satisfies their instinctual needs.