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Declawing cats? Veterinarian group has claws out for practice

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Bobby Flay's cat love 03:12

An organization representing 3,800 U.S. veterinarians says it "strongly opposes" declawing for cats as an elective procedure.

The anti-declawing stance of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) contrasts with the larger American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which discourages the practice except in cases where it may prevent an animal from becoming homeless or euthanized.

The costs for declawing range between $100 and $450 depending on the procedure being used and the age of the cat, among other reasons. A 2016 survey of more than 3,400 veterinarians found that 72 percent of respondents performed declawing and 24 percent refused to do it. Those that performed the procedure reported doing so infrequently and advising pet owners first to try nonsurgical alternatives, including scratching posts. 

Although the larger AVMA, which boasts nearly 90,000 members, also advises against declawing, the association recognizes that the procedure may be seen as necessary at times. Opinions among vets are sharply divided on declawing: Nearly 40 percent of those who don't perform the surgery consider it to be a form of mutilation while nearly 50 percent agreed with the sentiment that was an "unfortunate consequence of lifestyle issues."

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"Scientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanized, or more readily relinquished, released or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population," according to the AVMA. "Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered."

The AVMA has no immediate plans to change its declawing policy, according to Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the Association.

Declawing has been controversial for years.  The animal rights group PETA calls the practice  s "violent, invasive, painful and unnecessary mutilation." Scratching is normal feline behavior -- and owners can manage it by providing cats with scratching posts and keeping claws trimmed, among other responses. 

Declawing, or onychectomy, is the surgical amputation of the cat's toe bone and isn't medically necessary in most instances. "Moreover, the procedure can lead to long-term complications such as lameness, behavioral problems and chronic neuropathic pain," according to the AAFP.

"With proper client education from the initial veterinary visit and onward, our clients will be able to provide their kittens and cats with the essential means to exhibit this natural feline function." Dr. Nancy Suska, co-author the AAFP's statement, said in a press release.

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