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Pain and behavioural issues in declawed cats

N. K. Martell-Moran, M. Solano, H. G. G. Townsend

DECLAW surgery (onychectomy) is illegal in many countries but is still commonly performed across the USA and Canada to stop cats from damaging furniture or as a means of avoiding scratches. The operation removes the claw and also the end bone of the toe. Previous research has focused on short-term issues following surgery but the long-term health effects have not been investigated. This study aimed to assess the impact of declawing on later development of back pain and unwanted behaviours in cats.

In total, 137 non-declawed cats and 137 declawed cats were included in the study. All 274 cats were physically examined for signs of pain and barbering (excessive licking or chewing of fur) and their medical history was reviewed for unwanted behaviours, such as inappropriate elimination and biting with minimal provocation and aggression. All declawed cats were radiographed for distal limb abnormalities, including P3 (third phalanx) bone fragments.

Inappropriate elimination, biting, aggression and overgrooming occurred significantly more often in the declawed cats than the non-declawed cats. A declawed cat was also almost three times more likely to be …

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