Late last month, Israel’s legislature passed a bill that outlaws the practice of declawing cats, a move that is a win for animal activists, but devastating to fancy couches and rugs across the country. And the letter of law comes with a hefty pricetag — a $20,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
While declawing has become a common practice in the U.S. — it’s estimated that about 25% of American cats are declawed — the procedure itself is actually quite gruesome, which is why Israel joins countries such as Europe, Australia and Brazil in enacting a ban against it.
Called an onychectomy, declawing involves more than just snipping the nails. In fact, the procedure requires vets to remove the entire third toe joint. Just imagine how you would feel if someone tried to cut of the end of your finger — bone and all — starting at the third knuckle.
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According to Discover magazine, the Israeli bill claims that the ban will help cats move around better, avoid certain medical complications and defend themselves — all valid points, considering that cats use their toes and nails while walking. But leaving a cat’s nails intact also helps with behavioral problems. For example, cats without claws are more likely to bite when they feel threatened, since they don’t have their nails to defend themselves. They can also become introverted, withdrawn, nervous and aggressive.
So why declaw cats in the first place? It comes down to owners’ wanting to protect their possessions, or in some cases, if the cat is prone to scratching themselves.
The American Veterinary Medical Association states that declawing should only be considered after “attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).” Scratching is a normal behavior for felines, as they use their claws to mark their territory. However, there are many ways to train cats to not scratch at furniture, such as by giving them scratching posts, fastening vinyl nail caps or using sprays that will turn them off from the area.
So far, only a few California cities have banned declawing in the U.S., and for now it looks like it will stay that way. However, as more countries and advocacy groups join in on the ban, perhaps more people will think twice before declawing. Just think how much sales of scratching posts will go up.