Almost no issue seems as controversial in the world of feline medicine as this one––at least not in the U.S.

Declawing a cat, a procedure called an onychectomy, is typically performed at the same time as a spay or neuter. It involves removing the last knuckle of the front limb digits by way of removing the claws attached to it.

The rationale is that by performing this surgery we limit a cat’s ability to scratch furniture, people, and otherwise act destructively or aggressively. For every owner who wants this procedure performed, there’s a reason attached. But it’s seldom a good enough one for me.

I won’t perform declaws except under conditions I’ve deemed “extenuating." For example: I’ve tried everything from daily clipping to Soft Paws to hiring a trainer and there’s nothing I can do to keep my kitten from accidentally scratching my elderly father (who happens to be on blood thinners and suffers from some kind of immunodeficiency).

OK, I’ll consent. There are times when I’m willing. But you have to really push the limits to get me to do it.

The same is true for a growing number of veterinarians. Fewer and fewer of us are willing to undertake this procedure. Why? Because it’s painful and almost always unnecessary.

Sure, you may think your couch’s integrity is a good enough reason but that doesn’t mean I do. Not when I know that this is a highly painful procedure with a high rate of complications.

Even when I do consent to perform the surgery, I use about four different kinds of pain relieving methods. I hospitalize my patients for several days. And I curse––a lot!––because it seems so wrong. 

Consequently, it’s been a long while since I performed my last declaw. Here’s hoping I’ll never have to do another one ever again.

Dr. Patty Khuly