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UPDATE: P.E.I. veterinarians to stop performing cat declawing surgery

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Veterinarians across P.E.I. have banned the practice of declawing cats unless absolutely necessary.

The P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association (PEIVMA), the professional regulatory organization governing the practice of veterinary medicine in the province, recently passed a resolution to that effect under the Veterinary Profession Act.

Veterinarians licensed in the province will no longer perform what they call partial digital amputation (PDA), commonly known as declaw surgery, of domestic cats for any but exceptional medical situations.

“As a profession and as a provincial association, we’ve been discussing this issue for a number of years,’’ Dr. Gary Morgan, registrar of the PEIVMA told The Guardian on Wednesday. “A number of years ago, the association chose to push very hard for education of clients (pet owners) to seek alternatives. We’ve been very successful at convincing cat owners that the surgery is unnecessary and inappropriate.’’

Alternatives to declawing

  • Buy or make scratching posts out of carpet, sisal (a sort of twister rope), cardboard or wood for where a cat is scratching: flat ones for cats who like to scratch on the floor, tall towers for cats who like to scratch high
  • Clip cat nails every four weeks. Give them lots of treats so they enjoy it
  • Praise your kitty when they use an appropriate scratching post with treats, pets and love
  • Get some snazzy cat nail covers
  • Tuck a sheet around the scratched area of the couch tightly so your cat can’t get under it to scratch the couch
  • Use double-sided tape or aluminum foil on the couch
  • Spray the couch with a citrus-scented spray because cats have a natural aversion to citrus odours

Source: P.E.I. Humane Society

This year on P.E.I., of the 40 cat owners who approached Island veterinarians to request the surgery, 24 were convinced to explore non-surgical options to PDA after extensive counselling and education by their veterinarians.

Dr. Gary Morgan.
Dr. Gary Morgan.

A total of 16 cats have undergone the declawing procedure this year, a figure that was reduced almost in half from the year before.

The PEIVMA’s decision to ban the practice coincides with the current practice followed by national and international veterinarian associations.

“It’s an unnecessary surgery; it’s a convenience surgery which is a very poor excuse,’’ Morgan said. “There are so many viable alternatives for people who are concerned about cats scatching objects or people. It’s a fairly easy thing to handle.’’

He noted that the surgery itself can be painful and lead to chronic pain, changes in gait and behaviour.

“They may become more aggressive or they may use other means to express their feelings, so some cats may bite more often than they should.’’

In cases where it was done, cats can live a normal, pain-free life if it’s done properly and professionally, he said.

“It was done in situations where the veterinarian (had) deep consultation with his or her client. All of the alternatives were seriously looked at (and they came to the) conclusion that this was the only way to deal with this particular situation.’’

Despite the resolution to ban the practice, Morgan said the numbers prove the vigourous education campaign was working.

“If the resolution had not gone through, I was not concerned at all because it’s my belief that we were winning that fight,’’ he said. “Veterinarians are not in favour of the surgery, and if clients would stop asking for it, it would not be performed.’’

The resolution was passed to support the national and international trend.

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