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.
Image credit: vicvic7 / Flickr