Login: Remember me?

Login Help | Create Account

Declawing (Onychectomy) Position Statement

The American Animal Hospital Association is opposed to the declawing of domestic cats unless all other attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when clawing presents a significant health risk for people within the household.

Veterinarians have an obligation to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to declawing prior to performing the procedure. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:

  • Declawing is not a medically necessary procedure in most cases. There are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, side effects associated with analgesics, hemorrhage, and infection.
  • Scratching is a normal feline behavior, providing a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and is used for claw conditioning ("husk" removal) and stretching activity.
  • Prior to considering declawing, owners should attempt to manage undesirable scratching by providing suitable implements for normal scratching behavior. Examples are scratching posts, cardboard boxes, lumber or logs, and carpet or fabric remnants affixed to stationary objects. Implements should be tall or long enough to allow full stretching, and be firmly anchored to provide necessary resistance to scratching. Cats should be positively reinforced in the use of these implements. In addition, appropriate claw care, consisting of trimming the claws every one to two weeks, should be provided.
  • Declawing of the front feet is usually sufficient; declawing all four feet is strongly discouraged
  • Declawed cats should be housed indoors.

In households where cats come into contact with immunocompromised people, client education about potential disease transmission should be provided, ideally by both verbal and written methods, and documented. Declawing may warrant consideration.

Scientific studies indicate that cats with destructive clawing behavior are more likely to be euthanized, or more readily relinquished, released, or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain in a particular home, declawing may warrant consideration. In some cases declawing will protect/preserve the human-animal bond.

If declawing is performed, safe and effective anesthetic agents should always be used. Furthermore, the use of safe and effective peri-operative analgesics for an appropriate length of time is imperative. The concurrent use of two or more pharmacological classes of analgesic drugs (opioids, alpha-2 agonists, anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics, dissociative anesthetics) generally provides more effective pain control, with fewer side-effects, than therapy with a single drug.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, October 2003. Last revised October 2009.

Parasite Counselor

This free, one-hour, online course is designed for all veterinary staff. It is the first module in a series of four that will make up the AAHA Parasite Counselor Program.