Lawmakers in California are considering legislation that would ban the cruel practice of declawing cats. If passed, California would become the first state in the nation to prohibit the practice.

Four other states, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, are also considering similar bills.

On April 2, the California Senate Rules Committee amended Senate Bill 1441 with language that prohibits the declawing of domestic cats. Alley Cat Allies is urging California residents to tell their legislators to support this bill.

Under California law, the declawing of exotic and native wild cats is prohibited. This bill would make it a crime—an infraction for the first offense, punishable by a fine, and a misdemeanor for subsequent offenses—to declaw domestic cats.

Eight cities in California have already outlawed declawing. Lawmakers in Denver, Colorado, also banned the practice. Worldwide, at least 42 countries have made declawing illegal, including England, France, Wales, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, and Israel.

Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that is typically done to prevent cats from scratching furniture. Most people don’t realize that declawing can have lasting and harmful effects on cats’ well-being.

Without their claws, cats can have trouble walking and balancing. Also, claws are cats’ main means of defense. They can become more aggressive to compensate when their claws are removed.  Some declawed cats can reject their litter box, as the litter is uncomfortable on their feet, which can remain tender for a lifetime. Litter box and aggression issues are the most common reasons cats are surrendered to shelters, where 70 percent are killed nationwide.

After declawing was banned in Los Angeles, the impact on shelter animals was astounding. Animal control officer Brenda Barnette, general manager of animal services in the city, says many cats had been surrendered for reasons related to post-declaw behavior problems, like biting and not using the litter box. But since the ban went into effect in 2009, she says the rate of owner-surrendered cats in her shelter has decreased by 43.3 percent.

Safe, effective, and humane alternatives to declawing are widely available. For example, to prevent scratching furniture, cat owners can spray designated scratching posts with catnip to make them more enticing, trim cats’ claws, use products like nail caps, or spray furniture with deterrents.

If you live in California, please tell your legislators to pass SB 1441 and outlaw the cruel and unnecessary practice of declawing cats.