Local vets, animal rights group react to Maryland’s ban on cat declaws

MARYLAND – With Governor Larry Hogan’s signature, it is now illegal to declaw a cat in Maryland. It’s something Becky Robinson and her group, Alley Cat Allies, say will save thousands of cats from a painful operation.

“Just so people understand what cat declawing is, it is the amputation of the cats toes at the first knuckle, just like if we were to put our finger in a cigar cutter, all the way up to the first knuckle,” Robinson said.

While the ban does mean no more painful procedures for cats, Dr. Marianne Bailey, the owner of Queenstown Veterinary Hospital, says vets across the state wouldn’t necessarily call the bill signing a win.

“I think it does create some situations that might be difficult to navigate,” Dr. Bailey said. “One area that I’m most concerned is sometimes we get cats who are in homes with people who are immunocompromised, whether it’s cancer or other chronic conditions, and it’s been advised that cats are declawed to help prevent scratches that can lead to infections.”

In situations like that, Dr. Bailey says a vet would have a conversation with a pet owner about whether a declaw was the best option. It’s a situation between a vet and a pet owner that, she feels, is better in a vet’s hands, not the legislature’s.

“We really are the ones that went to a lot of school and are dedicating our lives to taking care of animals, and we’re the ones that are in the exam rooms with the clients and are doing the procedures ourselves,” Dr. Bailey said.

But Robinson says even when pet owners do opt in to a declaw in extreme situations like that one, cat behavior can often turn negative.

“The cats can feel pain for a long time, for the rest of their lives, and they end up having these other behaviors, they stop using the litter box, and unfortunately a lot of people end up relinquishing declawed cats to animal shelters,” Robinson said.

But Dr. Bailey says she also has concerns that more cats will stay in a shelter because of the ban, too.

“Maybe we’ll see people less inclined to adopt a cat if they know they can’t declaw it, so maybe they always grew up with declawed cats, maybe they just prefer it because they don’t want to worry about destroyed furniture, but now they may say now that they know they can’t declaw it, I’m not interested in getting a cat,” Dr. Bailey said.

She says time will tell whether that’s the case. In the meantime, Dr. Bailey says now vets across the state will shift the conversation with their clients to find alternatives to keep cats healthy and happy in their homes, like scratching posts or nail covers.

“This is a great opportunity for veterinarians to then really have these other conversations, look we can’t declaw your cat, so we have to talk about, you have to consider these other things,” she said.

When it comes to those alternatives, Dr. Bailey says it’s really important to tailor them to what your cat likes. For example, if your cat likes to scratch carpet, find them a carpeted scratching post rather than a cardboard one. If they like scratching the ground, you should also consider a floor scratching pad rather than a vertical one as some cats don’t like to stand up to scratch. On the other hand, if your cat likes to scratch standing furniture, they may be more inclined to scratch a standing scratching post.

Categories: Good Morning Delmarva, Local News, Maryland