Declawing Cats Is Banned In New York State

Category: Declawing Cats, Cat Legislation
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Although the state vet association fought tooth and nail, New York in July became the first state in the nation to ban declawing cats. 


Declawing cats is now illegal in New York State

Declawing cats is now illegal in New York State.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to claw its way through the state legislature, New York’s bill banning declawing cats finally became law in July.

Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal first proposed a ban on declawing cats in 2015. From the start, the state Veterinary Medical Society fought her tooth and nail.

Trotting Out The Usual Excuse For Declawing Cats

The New York state vet association insists declawing saves lives. People who are tired of living with shredded furniture have their cats euthanized or turn them in to shelters, the Veterinary Medical Society says. And since some people want declawed cats but don’t want to have the procedure done themselves, a ban on declawing cats will discourage adoptions.

Undeterred by the association’s objections, Rosenthal introduced her legislation year after year. 

“Declawing is unnecessary, it’s painful, and it causes the cat problems,” Rosenthal told the New York Times. “It’s just brutal.”

Declawing Is More Than A Manicure

Declawing cats is more than a manicure. Using a scalpel, guillotine or laser, the vet amputates the top digit of each of the cat’s toes. 
But unlike other animals, cats walk on their toes. Losing the top digits of their toes can affect their posture and their ability to balance in small spaces. Since they’re no longer able to get a good grip to stretch the muscles in their backs, declawed cats are prone to arthritis. With their first line of defense — their claws — gone, declawed cats often become biters. And many develop a litter box aversion. 

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management says declawing cats can cause chronic phantom pain and suggests that some declawed cats need pain medication for life.

Eight Reasons Why All Paws Need Claws

Cats come with claws for several reasons, and shredding your furniture isn’t one of them!

  1. Cats need claws for balance. Without the top digits of their toes, the cats’ feet hit the ground at an unnatural angle that can cause back pain and affect balance.
  2. For cats, claws are like a human athlete’s cleats. They provide traction and stability when the cat is running.
  3. Claws help cats get a grip when they’re climbing and keep their balance in narrow spaces. Declawed cats can climb trees and fences. It’s just much more difficult without claws.
  4. Cats need claws to create visual signposts for themselves. Scratch marks on trees, fence posts and furniture create a road map so the cat knows where he is. They also let other cats know he’s been there. Cats also mark their territory with the scent glands between their toes. 
  5. Claws make it possible for the cat to dig in and really stretch the muscles in her back. Cats without claws enjoy a scratching post, but they can’t really dig in and stretch their backs.
  6. Cats need claws to firmly grip live prey.  Declawed cats can catch live prey, too, but it’s much harder for them.
  7. For a cat, claws are like a comb. They use their claws to pull mats and burrs out of their fur.  
  8. And finally, cats need claws to defend themselves. But declawed cats aren’t defenseless. They can swat really hard and do a lot of damage with their front paws. And with their main line of defense, their claws, gone, many declawed cats defend themselves by biting.

Alternatives to Declawing Cats

Used strategically, most cats will much prefer a tall, stable scratching post or double-wide cardboard scratching pad to the furniture. Plastic nail caps protect both furniture and people from cat claws. And Sticky Paws, a ScatMat or other electronic deterrent will keep cats from scratching where they’re not supposed to. Keeping the cats’ nails trimmed helps, too. 

Other States Say Keep Your Paws Off Their Claws

For several years, New Jersey and California were hot on New York’s heels to become the first state to ban declawing cats. 

New Jersey state senator Troy Singleton, has introduced declaw legislation in his state. And in California, state Assemblyman Bill Quirk introduced declaw legislation. Again. As expected, the state Veterinary Medical Association “strongly opposes” it, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s website. Massachusetts is also considering banning declawing cats.

While passing statewide legislation feels like it might take all of a cat’s nine lives, several cities have banned declawing. Among them: Denver and West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and Berkeley in California. 

Countries that ban declawing include England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. 
Under New York’s new declaw law, declawing is allowed only if it’s a medical emergency. Vets who violate the law could face a $1,000 fine.

Read More About Cats And Claws
10 Ways To Stop Your Cat From Scratching The Furniture
Eight Tips For Getting Your Cat To Use A Scratching Post




  1. Ocd - Reply

    Excellent news! It's been illegal in Great Britain for years…but they have a much more active animal advocacy thing going on than we do in the US.

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