Israel Bans Cat Declawing. Punishment: One Year In Prison, $20K

By Douglas Main | December 7, 2011 3:16 pm

On November 28th Israel’s legislature unanimously passed a bill that outlaws the declawing of cats, except for certain medical reasons, making it a crime punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of about $20,000 (or 75,000 shekels).

Declawing is a somewhat misleading term; in the procedure, called an onychectomy, the veterinarian typically removes all or most of the cat’s outer toe joint, bone and all. As declawing opponents have often pointed out, the human equivalent would be the amputation of your fingertips at or just above your third knuckle. Cats also use their toes/nails to walk upon; the Israel bill says the ban will help cats move around more normally, avoid certain medical complications, and defend themselves.

Declawing is not very common outside North America, and is banned in much of Europe, Australia, Turkey, Brazil, and elsewhere. It’s estimated that about 25 percent of American cats are declawed, typically done to protect the owner’s furniture. While the procedure is legal in most places in the U.S., it’s been banned in several cities in California, a state where it’s also illegal to declaw wild or exotic cats.

Scratching is done in part to mark a cat’s territory, and the animal can often be taught to use a scratching post instead of, say, your favorite armchair. Regular nail-clipping can also keep cats’ claws from doing excessive damage. Some studies have shown declawed cats to be more likely to exhibit problematic behaviors, like jumping onto tables or more frequent biting.

One study found that 20 percent of cats underwent complications, like infections, after declawing.

[via Ynet (in Hebrew), Arutz Sheva]

Image credit: vicvic7 / Flickr

  • Cathy

    Regular nail trimming takes five minutes a month and cats definitely get used to it after a while (even if they still squirm during the procedure.) You can get special cat trimmers, but human nail clippers work just as well. Give the cat a treat afterward, and they eventually chill out when they realize it’s clippy time. Heck of a lot cheaper than declawing, and much more humane.

  • Don

    Thank you Israel! Most Americans (and I was among them) think that declawing is just like pulling out a fingernail. While that’s certainly bad enough, most don’t realize that it’s amputation. @Cathy, you are right. We use plain old nail clippers, and it probably takes 10 minutes for all 3 of our cats. Now, the dog is a different matter…

  • DrizzlingInSeattle

    Surely Israel has more pressing issues. But where, oh where, did you guys get that so pathetically sad looking kitten?

  • Douglas Main

    Drizzling–just added link. Here:

  • Glidingpig

    My current cat is declawed. I did not do it, nor would I ever declaw a cat. She is a rescue I got from my local shelter when she was about 2 years old.

    I have had, on a Vet’s recommendation, had another cat’s dew claws removed because it was turned inward and the Vet thought it would cause issues later.

    Even with a declawed cat, I still have a scratching post that my cat tries to use next to my desk, she still seems to enjoy trying to scratch.

  • Michelle

    I have owned many a cat over many a year, and only have had onedeclawed . That, I think, was a big mistake, made out of ignorance. I didn’t know how horrible the procedure is and how much pain the cat is in afterwards until it heals. Better to train your cat to not use furniture by providing it lots and lots of other scratching places…and when you get new furniture, get rattan or wood. Cruelty to animals for human convenience is not acceptable.

  • Brett

    Someone who who works in the Vet industry I will have to say I disagree with this law. Many catswouldd not be adopted out if they were not declawed. My cats in the past still acted liked they were scratching furniture even though they had no claws, because their pheromone marking by the pads of their feet…. Next thing you know they will ban spaying and neutering, because it is removing a normal part of the animals anatomy….

  • JohnH

    Uh…if you go into surgery with the same kind of skill you use to post, then I pray for all of YOUR four-legged victims, Brett. Ban “SLAYing”? I sure HOPE so!

  • atlanticblue

    It’s really not complicated. Do you love cats or do you love your furniture?

  • Kathy

    I’ve been trimming my cats nails since he was about 5 months old, he’s perfectly fine with it, especially if he gets a treat and lots of praise after… atlanticblue is right, it comes down to which you love more, your furniture or your pet… and if it’s the former, you shouldn’t get to have the latter

  • FelineTrouble

    Great idea! But I assume human circumcision will continue?

  • Anne

    The way a country treats its animals says a lot about a nation. I agree with this law. For those wondering if a ban on spay/neuter could be next, don’t fret. Spay/neuter has big benefits for the cat. S/N prevents overcrowded shelters, neglect, and animal abuse. S/N makes a better pet, and reduces cancer risk. Declaw surgery is amputation, and has no benefits for the cat.

  • ThirtyFiveUp

    Sally the cat loved her human friend Wilma, who was nine years old.

    Sally liked to purr in Wilma’s ear and pat her cheek to greet her each morning.

    But, Sally did not retract her claws, so Wilma’s Mother had Sally declawed to end the cheek scratches.

    Declawing, or abandoning Sally. The choice was simple.

  • Jo Singer

    BRAVO to Israel for passing this legislation. It really confounds me how someone who professes to love cats would ever subject their “beloved” kitty to a surgery which is so barbaric and insane. There is not a shred (pardon the pun) of medical rationale for this surgery, and is only done for the benefit of the cat owner, certainly not for the cat.

    In fact, cats are often surrendered to shelters following the surgery which was performed to preserve the cat’s home, since cats often resort to inappropriate elimination, biting and aggressive behavior.

    Sadly-the majority of veterinarians I have encountered do not adequately educate the client about how the surgery is performed or the risk to cats during and following surgery. If a piece of furniture is more valuable than a living, breathing kitty’s welfare, my opinion is for people not to get a cat.

    I am just thrilled by Israel’s humane and forward thinking action and I salute them highly.

  • Iain

    Declawing should be banned, unless the owner also accepts the same treatment for themselves. Period. If you want a cat, teach it to use the scratching post. Or don’t get one.
    The cat could have been taught not to use it’s claws, but surgery is faster and more convenient for today’s lazy, poorly educated society. One cat I had liked to ‘dig in’ when I was petting her. Every time she did I lightly tapped the paw and hissed. Pretty soon it was no longer an issue.

  • Kristin @ KlingtoCash

    What kind of cat is in the picture?

  • Lila

    We recently adopted two adult cats from a shelter. One of them was declawed by the family that owned her previously. My family has had a series of cats over the last 30-odd years, and this is the first declawed cat I have ever known personally. In comparison to the others, she is crippled. She can’t grab toys, she walks strangely, and often falls when jumping up on things. We are giving her as good a life as we can, but she really is crippled. It is horrible.

    Oh, and… just as the article points out, this cat is the only serious biter we have ever had. We have taught her not to bite… and she has learned she has nothing to fear from us… but when you declaw a cat, biting is the only defense they have left.

  • http://Gmail Sharon

    I have had to do it when all else failed or my Husband would have made me get rid of the cat. I would rather as a last resort do this than ever have another homeless cat!

  • Lex

    Speaking as a veterinary technician here, I am THRILLED to see this and hope the rest of the world follows suit! Declawing is a crippling, painful surgery that takes away a cat’s ability to realign their spines, climb and defend themselves. If someone values their furniture over the well-being of a living thing, they should not own an animal that NEEDS to scratch and must be trained to scratch appropriate things. This is a huge triumph and I hope the rest of the world follows suit so I never have to see another cat have her fingers removed again.

  • Ashira

    I do not agree with declawing cats, however, I have declawed one cat that we rescued off the street, but that was because she kept scratching and tearing out the carpet under the closed bedroom door of my kids’ rooms; the apartment complex told us to declaw her or we’d be evicted. I sadly declawed the cat because I didn’t want to give her up and needed a place for the kids to live.

  • Chris the Canadian

    My lil buddy Bob (a black cat) has his claws and is an indoor-outdoor cat. We don’t trim his nails because he does all his clawing on trees outside so his nails aren’t very long. He was neutered as a kitten and is a wonderful indoor cat who is playful and easy to take care of. Thing is, he can also take care of himself when he’s outside playing with the other neighbourhood cats because he still has claws.

    For the person who suggested that for a cat to be -declawed the owner should also be de-clawed, you go first. Should the owner get a vasectomy too if the cat is neutered?

  • DrJeanDVM

    “But, Sally did not retract her claws, so Wilma’s Mother had Sally declawed to end the cheek scratches. Declawing, or abandoning Sally. The choice was simple.”

    Actually, the choice was “which one of the dozen or more humane alternatives to declawing to use.” All non-medical reasons for declawing have non-surgical solutions. But wait, all those solutions take a little bit of time and effort. It’s quicker and easier for Mother to have 1/3 of Sally’s paws amputated instead!

    Evidently, 9-year old Wilma has *many*more problems than a scratched cheek, if she is too helpless to train (or move) the cat, and if Wilma and her parents are too incompetent to trim Sally’s claws or use Soft Paws–and unable to take the cat to the vet or groomer to have that done if they are so inept. Apparently, in Sally’s lifetime, Wilma will never grow up, go away to college, or learn to work WITH a cat’s natural behavior.

    Yet poor Sally will have chronically painful paws, a permanently altered gait, and arthritis in her paws, legs and spine, even when Wilma is grown and gone. Of course, when Sally starts biting, or urinating on the furniture (months or years later), Mother’s response will be to get rid of the cat–because she sees the only alternative to the first tiny little problem as “abandonment.” In my career as a feline veterinarian, I’ve seen it too many times to have any doubt about that outcome.

    What kind of lesson is that to teach a child?

  • Dannette

    We had my very first cat declawed and when we picked her up at the vets her white paws were red from blood…I will never ever declaw anymore of my cats its a very painful procedure for them and unnecessary as long as you trim the claws when the become to sharp or if they are curling back into the pads.

  • Maribel Tirado

    Greg, what a comparison!!! How old are you? 8?
    Israel have major issues to take care of someone posted.. If you don’t like this post, go and take care of those issues on another site where you can complain because I am sure that’s what you keep doing all the time, JUST COMPLAIN!!
    Congratulations to the government of Israel!!!

  • cats are great

    We have always had cats, both clawed and declawed but have only had it done to one of our cats as the rest came that way when we adopted them. We do not notice any difference and they are all outdoor-indoor cats (their choice as they have a cat door at their disposal). They have never had any problems going outside and are great at all ‘normal’ cat things. The one we had decalwed was a rescue who like to play ROUGH, had the sharpest little needle claws I have ever felt and was violently opposed having them trimmed. We were all bloody and scratched until we had his claws removed and after that, he was an awesome cat and he could beat us up to his hearts content. We currently have 2 declawed and 1 clawed cat and they all live happily together.

  • Apawlogist

    It makes me tired to hear people bellow that I must not REALLY love cats because I have their front paws declawed. Let’s talk quality of life.

    My three cats are indoor kitties only, because I think it’s more irresponsible, risky, and highly dangerous to allow a cat to roam than to have it declawed.

    The last indoor/outdoor cat I had (he died in ’96 at 15 years old) had all claws for defense purposes, and despite employing all those “other” means of protecting one’s belongings or skin from a cat’s front claws, he shredded couches, chairs, and drapes. I waited until he passed to replace my furniture.

    Since then, I have had my cats’ front paws declawed. Their back claws are intact in the unlikely (as in, it’s never happened) event they escape the house. They have NEVER suffered from a changed gait, behavior problems, or medical complications.

    I think it’s primarily about finding a vet who can actually perform such procedures in the most non-invasive way possible. I also think it must be done when cats are very young, not on older cats.

    I also agree with Drizzling that Israel has more pressing things to deal with–this was just politically easy. But for those of you who think that this issue deserved such attention, do you also think that a $20,000 fine and a year in jail is WAY out of whack for the “crime”? And, if you don’t, REALLY?

    This law will simply result in more homeless cats. I guess the smug among you can shrug and call that collateral damage.

    I’m just shaking my head at this.

  • Jay Fox

    Cats and dogs, you gotta have both! While cats definitely are trainable, dogs are way easier. When the cats destroyed the “dog’s” loveseat, it was removed and replaced with one the dog was prohibited from using. He got the message without my doing anything else. Now, when one of the cats points their sharpies at the new chair, that dog is on top of it lickety split. Years later, not a mark on any furniture. The dog enforces the “no-claws” rule, even when no people are present. He does enjoy playing with the cats, although they play differently than dogs. He’d like to tug, they’d rather he tried to chase them on the vinyl flooring. They enjoy laying against each other on the front porch, where they can watch the world go by together. The dog is huge at 100 pounds, and it’s a sight to see such a size difference in their relationship.

    The cats scratch up plenty of stuff outside. They also keep the rodent population in check, which is something the dog would never do, and they wouldn’t, either, if they had no claws.

    Training is the key, not some cop-out operation to hobble the animal. Get a kennel, for cryin’ out loud. If your cat is tearing stuff up when you are away, kennel it. You can get a large dog kennel and fix it up with a small litter area, a food area and a resting area. It is not cruel, especially if you provide those basics. Let the cat out when you can supervise, kennel when you can’t. Kennel the cat if it claws anything it shouldn’t. After a few weeks of that, the cat will know what it needs to know.

    Declawing should be so rare that it makes headlines when necessary.

  • Snippem

    My wife works as a vet tech. There are more than one way of doing a declaw. There’s a quick way, where they literally use clippers to cut through the skin, bone, pad, and then they put a couple of stitches in. THIS method is pretty hard on the cat.

    The other way (that my wife does), preserves all of the pad, all of the bone, and just removes the nail bed. Before stitching them up, they get a small pain-killer time release medication put in each toe.

    As long as the cats are given paper-pulp “litter” to go in for a couple days after, there’s almost ZERO chance of infection.

    Instead of condemning everything to do with declawing, do some research first.

  • sage

    While declawing a cat to protect your furniture is indefensible, I wonder if some people do it to protect local birds from their cat.

  • Heather Johnson

    We tried everything to avoid declawing our cat. However, when she almost took my eye out (unintentionally, of course), we made the difficult decision to declaw. I was not concerned about my furniture but about the safety of the other living things in my home. As a formerly feral cat, she just did not get the “no claws” thing. Had we not declawed, we would have had to get rid of her. I am happy with my decision, and my cat is also happy.

  • Earl Wajenberg

    There are different kinds of declawing. The kind being discussed here is amputation of the ends of the cat’s toes. There is also removal of the nail and nail-bed, leaving toes with all the bones. The latter is much less traumatic for the cat, but it is trickier surgery.

  • Brad

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally against declawing, and clipping birds’ wings, and caging intelligent animals (sea mammals and primates, at the very least).

    But isn’t is ironic, that it’s been made illegal to cut off part of a cat, yet it’s still legal to cut off part of a boy’s penis?

    Maybe they’ll give boys equal protection they give to animals and pass a law that bans circumcision, I mean genital mutilation.

  • Jen

    Good point, Brad.

  • Maya

    Heather stupid reason to declaw, if as you saied it was a one time thing. i have three cats and have also taken care of many orphaned kittens, the number of time they almost toke out my eye is uncountable and still i have not declawed them. you could have saved her the agony and use Soft Paws and still keep you cat healthy and happy.
    here is what you have done to your cat!

    Earl: whoever told you this lied to you. all declawing is done by taking off the first knuckle of the cats paw otherwise you risk having the nails regrow in such a way that can injure the cat.

    Brad you’re an idiot! circumcision and declawing are two very different procedures with two very different reasons for doing them.
    circumcision is done as a religious act (as stupid of a reason as that is) and has been proved to actually be beneficial for men health.
    declawing is done so that people could protect their couch.
    also the part that is taken in the circumcision is a piece of skin, that in all honesty a man can live without and suffer no consequence, while a cat needs its claws and toes to protect itself.

  • Alice

    I totally despise the thought of a vet making the statement that it is humane to de-claw a cat, how ignorant.
    It is NOT humane.
    I currently have in my home two strays I have rescued off the street(actually off my doorstep, they found me. This makes 3 in my home, my couch is like new 5yrs old!!!). Teaching them to scratch on a scratch post has not been difficult. If it were, just as we teach our kids to behave, it takes time & patience. If you don’t have both of these qualities then maybe you’d be better off with an aquarium & a few fish. OR no pet at all. There are all sizes & types of furniture covers, and even products to spray on them to discourage any scratching of unwanted areas. As for a cat lovingly pawing a child OR adult’s face while still asleep, well this is about the easiest problem to solve. KEEP CAT OUT of that room during sleeping hours.
    Also, how could ANYone compare de-clawing to spay/neutering/ That was a ridiculous statement, I’m sorry to pick on you but saying you are a vet, I just have a hard time believing that given your words here.
    PLEASE people pass it on that de-clawing IS cruel and so UN-neccessary. If it is an ultimatum by your spouse, maybe some documented research sat down in front of their face to read about might at least lead to some other alternatives instead of de-clawing/or giving up, THERE ARE options.( My site lists several In Detail if anyone would like to take a look. Also step by step instructions on nail trimming.) Give this a thought too, If you can’t commit to the time & patience maybe you need to wait to adopt that pet.
    Happy Day Israel kitties!

  • kimber

    Close the door to keep cats away from kid in the morning.
    Scratching posts with catnip to deter cats from furniture.
    Parenting, just like you would a child, teaching what is right and wrong.
    Nail caps. Cheap. Simple.
    3 minutes every 3 weeks to clip cats nails.

    There is always a solution, declawing is never one of them. Cats come with claws and baby boys come with their entire foreskin.

  • Jane

    The term declaw is very misleading! It is actually ‘amputation’, taking off the first knuckles of the cat’s paws. How would you like part of your fingers chopped off? This is a cruel and horrific procedure. As Mahatma Gandi quoted..”The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated!”

    Many of the Vets here in the US are $$$ hungry and unfortuanately will not hesitate to declaw.
    There are so many alternatives. I just trim my cat’s nails, or have my Veterinarian do it. Also my cats use scratching posts with sissal and slanted corrragated cardboard ramps made especiallly for cats. Show them how and reward with treats. Put a little catnip on the areas to be scratched.

    The humane alternatives are endless so kitties will not have to be chopped..and later suffer with personality issues, biting, refusing to use the litter box, balance problems and dozens of other problems relating to having been amputated, including after sometimes so much pain and bleeding with their paws bandaged. Sometimes the nails grow back inside the skin and your cat has no way of telling you about the pain. Google on line>>..declawing cruel dangers pictures.
    Hopefully our country will wake up some day and follow what others are doing by making it illegal to do this to cats.

    If an ignorant apartment complex management has rules to de-claw cats, contact the Humane Society Of The US..and they should help you with information..or rebel, bring literature to show management/corporate or do not move there.

    Brad, you are clueless!
    Alice, what is your website.

    Here’s to the lucky Kitties in Israel!

  • Myra

    I’m impressed that almost everyone here has something constructive to add to the discussion. I’ll be doing a project on culture and cat declawing soon. Can dirrect me to a solid resource anyone confirming or denying this assertion that there are two methods of declawing, one of which is less painful? If so are both outlawed by this law? Has anyone found other useful resources about how countries come to these decisions about declawing? Let me know here. I’ll revisit the forum before I write my paper. Any help is appreciated.
    @ Brad are you still checking this forum? If so read on:
    Brad may simply be confused. There is no comparison between male circumcision and castration/amputation, nonetheless misinformation (guided by cultural ignorance and bigotry) continues. What is sometime called “female circumcision” is however a euphemism for serious genital mutilation and it is referred to as genital mutilation in academia. Hopefully I’ve ended the flame war here.

  • Jeremiah

    @DrizzlingInSeattle, you wrote “Surely Israel has more pressing issues.”
    So you do not consider animal cruelty a “pressing issue” or you are one of those people who looks for any opportunity to bash Israel.
    Here Israel has done something which is a complete good, a righteous act to protect those who can’t protect themselves.

    Even if you do not consider the act of declawing barbaric, surely the motivation for passing such a law is that the lawmakers felt like many on this forum, that the act of declawing is an act of cruelty. That being the case, the law is an act of conscious so how can anyone criticize a single act of a nation voting it’s conscious?

    Your statement also reveals your partiality to animal suffering or a notion that doing good is a zero-sum game. As if a government can only focus on one task at a time and must ignore all others. So silly to assume if a nation takes action to protect it’s furry friends that they can do nothing else as a result of this action. Like there is one lawmaker confused by all the other issues and everything else is put on hold because he’s considering an animal cruelty law.

    To me it has always been fascinating how a person’s true character can be determined by how they treat animals. Especially animals who are not their own. I won’t date a girl if she’s not crazy about animals :)

    @ Jane – I loved the Gandi quote.

    Many think it’s not possible to train cats to not scratch. I have trained my cats to shake hands, fetch, speak, to sit silently when hungry (no begging), and I’m working on using a toilet. Cats are trainable, we must just approach them on their terms.

    Hurray Israel! Way to lead by example in the area of animal cruelty.


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