Why it will soon be forbidden to declaw domestic cats

Bertrand Lussier

Credit: CRCHUM

In February 2024, a regulation on animal welfare and safety* will come into force in Quebec: it will notably prohibit the declawing of cats or onyxectomy. Beyond the ethical questioning with regard to this practice, various studies have suggested or demonstrated its negative effects on the overall health of the animal.

This was argued by Professors Éric Troncy, Bertrand Lussier and Aude Castel, members of the Animal Pharmacology Research Group of Quebec (GREPAQ) of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Montreal, on the occasion from 90e Acfas Congress. They were accompanied by D.r Jordyn Hewer and Alexandra Yaksich, who contributed to the adoption of this new regulation by acting as spokesperson for the Collective of veterinarians, animal health technicians and the public against declawing.

An amputation with physical and psychological effects



Credit: CHUV

Onyxectomy is a surgical procedure that involves amputating the third phalanx of each finger of cats, thus eliminating their claws. However, this operation has its share of negative effects on their overall health.

In fact, studies indicate that onyxectomy contributes to the appearance of problems of uncleanliness and aggressiveness. According to one of them, in a third of declawed cats, this intervention leads to at least one behavioral problem. Similarly, 18% of cats who have been declawed will bite more and 15% have problems with dirtiness.

“Cats can also suffer from chronic pain and therefore behavior problems after declawing,” said veterinary surgeon Bertrand Lussier.

“Nerve severing can cause tactile sensitivity and phantom pain,” said Aude Castel. If a declawed cat relieves itself outside of its litter box, it could be the consequence of an unpleasant feeling associated with a new hypersensitivity to gravel.

The veterinarian neurologist also explained that onyxectomy can have consequences on the aging of the nervous system of cats, favoring the appearance of conditions such as osteoarthritis, but also chronic pain, which accelerates cognitive decline.

And what about the operation performed using a laser that is supposed to reduce pain?

“Tendonectomy, which involves cutting a tendon to prevent retraction of the phalanx, is a solution to declawing. It attenuates the deleterious effects of onyxectomy according to a recent study, but it is no less painful and could also have long-term consequences,” said Bertrand Lussier.

Other solutions to declawing include claw guards (plastic caps), regular claw trimming and the use of a scratching post using positive reinforcement behavioral strategies.

“The ban on practicing onyxectomy and its variants will allow Quebec to join the ranks of many countries that have banned this practice for a long time, including France, observed veterinary algologist Éric Troncy. In Canada, only the provinces of Quebec and Ontario still allow it to this day.

Studying the pain felt by cats

Eric Troncy

Eric Troncy

Credit: Amélie Philibert | Montreal university

According to Éric Troncy, knowledge of pain in cats has greatly evolved over the past two decades “notably thanks to the creation – 12 years ago – of a study program on the modifications and sensory damage to cats that come with age, using a colony of cats, he reported. We are the only ones to have such a program”.

According to him and his colleagues, many cats hide their pain so well that even veterinarians have difficulty detecting it.

“The cat is a predator, but also a potential prey and it is to its advantage to mask the pain so as not to appear vulnerable, concluded Aude Castel. But he may be in pain even if he doesn’t express it by meowing or vocalizing.”

* This is the Regulation respecting the well-being and safety of domestic pets and equines, which notably provides for the prohibition of cosmetic surgeries such as declawing, tail docking, ear pruning and devocalization .

Objective data on the consequences of onyxectomy

The analysis of the long-term consequences of declawing poses a challenge to researchers because of their intertwining with the emergence of age-related diseases, in particular osteoarthritis, which is almost inevitable in aging cats.

As part of a meta-analysis he carried out at GREPAQ, Dr.r Mathieu Lachance wanted to decide between these consequences by collecting data on 24 healthy cats, 125 non-declawed cats with osteoarthritis and 39 declawed cats.

It shows that, if osteoarthritis alters the gait of older cats, this alteration is amplified by declawing – and the larger a cat, the less weight it will place, proportionally, on its osteoarthritic and declawed limbs. This podobarometric deficit is accompanied by increased tactile sensitivity in declawed and osteoarthritic cats, compared to osteoarthritic cats that have not undergone an onyxectomy and even more so compared to healthy cats.

These assessments were made possible thanks to the acquisition by GREPAQ of expertise relating to various complex methodologies which objectify for the first time in the world the deleterious consequences of declawing on animal well-being.

“Although previous studies had illustrated the behavioral disorders of declawed cats, none analyzed them with a comparable group to highlight the effect of declawing or they had been carried out very shortly after onyxectomy and did not bring any conclusion on this intervention,” said Éric Troncy.

Related Posts

Are ginger cats really the friendliest?

The color of the coat in a cat is determined by the concentration and distribution of melanin in the body. However, from a physiological point of view,…

chat choisit il de dormir au pied du lit

Why does your cat choose to sleep at the foot of the bed?

Cats have a reputation for being mysterious and independent animals. However, it is not uncommon to see them spending a large part of their time sleeping at…

Ils aident les chats errants

They help stray cats

We can like cats in freedom but not want to see them reproduce in an uncontrolled way. Their uncontrolled proliferation is, in fact, a source of suffering…

chat voleur

My cat steals things from neighbours: what should I do?

You noticed that your cat regularly reports stolen items from your neighbors and that causes you confusion? You are not alone in this situation and there are…

What are the differences between alley cats and purebred cats?

In the feline world, there are generally two main categories: alley cats, also called domestic or European cats, and purebred cats, which correspond to lineages selected for…

What is a “tortoiseshell” cat?

Some cats have an atypical coat that is compared to the scales of turtles. Discover everything you always wanted to know about these special cats. Perhaps you…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *