Position Statement on Cosmetic Modifications

Declawing Cats, Ear Crops, Tail Docks, and Dewclaw Removal

We do not perform any of the above procedures. It is our position that none of these procedures benefit the patient and are often deleterious to their overall long-term health.

Dewclaws, the “thumb” of an animal, is an integral part of the entire carpal (wrist) joint. Removal of this digit results in the destabilization of the carpal joint, which leads to arthritis and decreased range of motion of the joint, usually by the time the dog is six years of age.

Ear crops and tail docks provide no benefit to the dog. Ear crops do not reduce the degree of ear infections, while tail docks may actually increase the degree of lower back problems.

Declawing cats can have many deleterious effects. The word “declawing” itself is misleading, as it really refers to the removal of the last joint of the toe to which the claw is attached. The procedure can lead to potential complications including arthritis, extrusion of the remaining bone, infection, and neurological issues. In addition, recent studies have shown that cats that have been declawed are also more likely to bite and to go outside the litter box.

Humane alternatives to declawing exist and are easy to use. A cat can be trained to use scratching posts to sharpen its claws without damaging furniture. Observe what your cat chooses to scratch, and simply duplicate it in your choice of scratching posts. If the cat chooses to scratch the vertically oriented wooden legs of a table, get a wooden scratching post. It’s the same for carpet. Most cats like the corrugated cardboard scratching pads available at grocery stores or pet supply warehouses. Place a little catnip on the new post to entice the cat to use it. Then reward the cat with praise, love, and treats for scratching in the right place. A vertical scratching post should be at least 28 to 36 inches (1 meter) high to allow the cat to stretch to its full height. Many cats prefer natural soft wood, such as a cedar or redwood plank, or posts covered with sisal rope. Some cats like to scratch on a horizontal surface: inexpensive cardboard scratchers are popular with these cats. Rubbing the surface with catnip, or using a catnip spray, may enhance the attractiveness of the post. For the more adventurous types, there are cat trees in dozens of sizes and colors, with features such as hidey-holes, lounging platforms, hanging toys, and other creative amenities. Many people do not even know that they should provide a scratching post for their cats at all. But because scratching is a deeply ingrained instinct in cats, if they are not supplied an appropriate spot, they will be forced to substitute furniture or other objects.

Regular nail trimming should also help prevent damage to furniture. A cat’s claws are clear, so it is easy to avoid accidentally trimming too deep and getting the quick. Nail caps called Soft Paws® or Soft Claws® can be glued painlessly to a cat’s claws to prevent damage due to scratching. You can purchase these items at pet supply stores or through your veterinarian.

Finally, double-sided sticky tape like Sticky Paws® can be applied to furniture to help deter a cat from scratching that surface. When the cat goes to scratch there, the tape feels funny to its paws, and it learns not to use that surface anymore.

For more information go to www.pawproject.org