This letter to the editor was submitted to Virginia newspapers on January 24, 2023.
As a global leader in the movement to protect cats and kittens, Alley Cat Allies has helped many cats suffering from the unnecessary and cruel procedure euphemistically known as declawing. It should be called deknuckling. Often the only redress for these maimed cats is aggressive pain management for the rest of their lives, or surgery to salvage the mutilated paw as much as possible. But the damage done by declawing can never truly be repaired or the paw fully restored. That is why the only way to protect cats is to outlaw the procedure altogether. Although this year’s General Assembly bill to outlaw declawing was narrowly tabled in a subcommittee, this critical, lifesaving policy change should remain a priority for the state in next year’s session.
Declawing surgery is needless, cruel, and inhumane. The name may call to mind a nail trim, but in fact it is a surgical amputation of the last joints of a cat’s toes—as many as 18 amputations altogether. Not only are the bones cut off, but tendons, nerves and ligaments in each paw are also severed. The severity of the procedure can cause complications like hemorrhaging, paw pad lacerations, swelling, radial nerve damage, lameness, infections, reopening of wounds, and chronic pain.
Declawed cats are also likely to lose their homes for behavior reasons that are caused by the declawing itself. Without the natural protection of their claws, they are more prone to biting, and the pain in their paws often causes them to avoid the litter box. These are the most common behavioral reasons cats are relinquished to shelters.
Thanks in part to leadership from Alley Cat Allies, the Paw Project and other partners, declawing has already been outlawed in Maryland, New York state, and 16 major U.S. cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Pittsburgh, plus many countries around the world. Virginia can become a leader of this movement by outlawing this inhumane procedure that provides absolutely no benefit to the cat.
Director of Programs
Alley Cat Allies