Here's what I sent:
Dear East Side Animal Hospital:
I applaud your work in ensuring that orphaned animals receive excellent care. I think it is wonderful that you become involved in rescue and provide adoption services. However, I have to wonder if you have properly evaluated your decision to declaw every cat in whose rescue and adoption you become involved?
As vets, I have to assume that you are aware of the official position of the American Veterinary Medical Association? This isAVMA Position Statement on the Declawing of Domestic Catshttp://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/apr03/030415c.aspDeclawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).
The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy. The following points are the foundation for full understanding and disclosure regarding declawing:
1.\tScratching is a normal feline behavior, is a means for cats to mark their territory both visually and with scent, and is used for claw conditioning ("husk" removal) and stretching activity.
2.\tOwners must provide 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.
3.\tAppropriate claw care (consisting of trimming the claws every 1 to 2 weeks) should be provided to prevent injury or damage to household items.
4.\tSurgical declawing is not a medically necessary procedure for the cat in most cases. While rare in occurrence, there are inherent risks and complications with any surgical procedure including, but not limited to, anesthetic complications, hemorrhage, infection, and pain. If onychectomy is performed, appropriate use of safe and effective anesthetic agents and the use of safe peri-operative analgesics for an appropriate length of time are imperative. The surgical alternative of tendonectomy is not recommended.
5.\tDeclawed cats should be housed indoors.
6.\tScientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive clawing behavior are more likely to be euthanatized, 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 as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered.
7.\tThere is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.
In choosing to declaw the cats prior to adoption, it would appear that your practice is not in keeping with the position of the AVMA.
Further, while the seventh bullet point of the AVMA position states that there is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities, that is actually not the case.
1) A study of 163 cats that underwent onychectomy, published in the Jul/Aug 1994 Journal of Veterinary Surgery, indicated that 50% suffered from immediate postoperative complications such as pain, hemorrhage, and lameness; long-term complications, including prolonged lameness, were found in nearly 20% of the 121 cats that were followed in the study.
2) Also published in JAVMA 2001:218:43-47 by Yeon, Flanders, Scarlett et al., 39/98 owners whose cats underwent elective onychectomy or tendonectomy were contacted two months to five years (median 11.5 months) after surgery. 17 (44%) of declawed cats returned to normal within three days, 35 (90%) within two weeks. 31 (80%) had more than one medical complication. 13 (33%) developed at least one behavior problem. 6 (15.4%) would not use the litter box and 7 (17.9%) had an increase in biting habits or intensity.
3) Also published by Patronek (with Glickman and Beck, et al.) in JAVMA 1996:209:582-588. Summary: Case-control study of owned and relinquished cats involving a random digit dial survey of cat owners. Prevalence of declawing was 45% (476/1056) in the owned cat population. In the univariate analysis, declawed cats were at decreased risk of relinquishment compared to non-declawed cats (OR=0.63; 95% CI 0.45-0.87). After adjustment in a multivariate model, declawed cats were at an increased risk of relinquishment (OR=1.89;1.00-3.58); this reversal made the effect of declawing difficult to interpret. Among 218 cats relinquished to a shelter, more (44/84; 52.4%) declawed cats than non-declawed cats (39/134; 29.1%) were reported by owners to have inappropriate elimination (p=0.022).
4) Landsberg GM. Cat owners’ attitudes toward declawing. Anthrozoos 1991;4:192-197. Summary: Retrospective mail survey of veterinarians. 320/400 returned questionnaires. 196/250 (78.4%) did not advocate declawing and only did it on request. 104/221(47%) veterinarians' recollections indicated no problems, 55 (24.9%) reported nail regrowth, and 22 (9.9%) reported additional long term problems.
5) A national survey conducted by the Caddo Parrish Forgotten Felines and Friends indicated that approximately 70% of cats turned into shelters for behavioral problems are declawed.
There is enough of a body of evidence out there that there are problems with declawing that 23 countries around the world have banned the surgery unless medically necessary for the cat, and here in the U.S. two communities, West Hollywood, CA and Norfolk, VA have banned declawing.
While it may be that one of the studies indicated that “87% of owners had a positive attitude about it,” the facts as published in JAVMA stated that 33% of the declawed cats developed at least one behavior problem (where 15.4% would not use the litter box and 17.9% had an increase in biting habits or intensity) with the median follow-up having been almost a year after the surgery.
Of course the non-declawed cat population may also have a problem with inappropriate elimination and biting – but the statistics above refer to changes in the cats' behavior after declawing. And the numbers involved are not 2% or 3%, so there is, in fact, empirical evidence of problems associated with declawing, published by JAVMA itself, and this evidence indicates not only short term, but long term problems.
Please take this information under advisement and reconsider your policy of declawing all cats prior to adoption.
Cats use their claws, and cat owners now have many tools to help them accommodate that, and to direct appropriate use. There is a reason for the AVMA’s position on declawing, and it is being borne out in research.