Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Cat Declawing Is Illegal in the UK?

cat owner belly rubbing her cat

Cat declawing is a procedure that requires the removal of a section of bone attached to the claw and opponents of the procedure have described it as barbaric, likening it to cutting off the tips of fingers and toes to remove nails.

Declawing can negatively affect a cat’s balance and because of these objections, cat declawing is illegal in the UK as well as several other countries in Europe and across the world. Conversely, cat declawing is legal in the US, where cats are more often kept as indoor pets and not allowed to venture outside the house. Some individual cities have banned the declawing of cats, and some states are looking into making the procedure illegal.

divider-cat

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats

Historically, UK households have let their cats roam outdoors. Outdoor cats can use items like trees and even fence posts to scratch, which means that they are less prone to scratching furniture and other indoor items. The trend is changing, however, and while only 10% of UK cats were kept exclusively as indoor cats, the figure is now closer to 50%.

Pet safety and increases in traffic and general urbanisation have led to this change in cat keeping. However, it is very unlikely that a swing to indoor cat ownership will lead to a change in the law.

bengal
Image Credit By: Piqsels

A Last Resort

Declawing can still occur in the UK, but only where it is considered an absolute last resort. For example, if the alternative to a cat being declawed is euthanisation, a vet can apply to the veterinary council to be permitted to perform the procedure. This is very rare.

The Law

Declawing cats was only outlawed in the UK in 2006, as part of a law passed to safeguard and protect pets. Even prior to this, though, it was very rare for cats to be declawed in the UK. Even if a cat owner was able to find somebody willing to undertake the procedure, there is a fine of up to £20,000 for having the procedure done.

judge, gavel, and law book
Image Credit: corgarashu, Shutterstock

The Declawing Procedure

The most common declawing procedure is called onychectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon not only removes the claws but a piece of bone attached to the claws. This is considered the only way to effectively remove the whole claw.

The procedure is considered a painful one, and some vets and charities argue that the cat continues to suffer long after the procedure has been completed. Often, the removal is not completed properly so small pieces of bone can be left behind. The cat then effectively walks around on small pieces of bone, causing discomfort and pain. Studies suggest that declawed cats can become unhappy after the procedure as well, raising rates of depression and stress in pet cats.

Declawing is done under general anaesthetic and there are always risks associated with giving cats anaesthetic, as well as with surgical procedures in general.

Finally, it is believed that removing claws can cause a loss of balance. The cat will walk differently after the procedure because they are unable to put weight on the claws and the ends of its paws.

cropped female owner hugging her black and white cat
Image Credit: Jack Plant, Unsplash

How to Stop a Cat From Clawing Furniture

While some owners believe cats scratch to sharpen their claws, the opposite is true. Cats scratch to dull their claws because it is an inherently natural thing to do. One of the most common reasons for people to declaw cats is to prevent them from scratching people or damaging items around the home. However, it is possible to prevent cats from scratching furniture.

  • Offer Scratching Posts – Scratching is a natural requirement for cats. They do it to dull their claws, to practice for any encounters in the wild, and also because scratching spreads pheromones—it is a form of scenting, similar to rubbing their head on your leg. As such, cats need something to scratch. If your cat goes outside, it will likely be scratching trees, fences, and other hard objects. Whether your cat is an indoor car or is given free rein to the outside world, it is also a good idea to have scratch posts around the house.
  • Encourage Positive Scratching – Place the scratch post near where your cat has been scratching. Hopefully, they will move their scratching habit from the furniture to the post. You can discourage them from scratching furniture by making a short, loud noise when they do it. You should also encourage positive scratching. Praise your cat, give them love, offer a treat, or play with them (whatever their preferred method of praise is) when they scratch the new post. If you keep doing this, it will reinforce positive behaviour.
  • Clean Scratched Areas – Thoroughly clean the sections of couches and other furniture that your car scratches. If necessary, use a cat cleaning spray that gets rid of pheromones. Your cat’s scent will be evident on the post and not on the furniture.
  • Use Scratching Deterrents – Scratching deterrents vary from solid physical barriers to prevent scratching to deterrent sprays. Cats are known to dislike citrus smells, so there are citrus-based sprays that can be used to this end.
Cat using a scratching post
Image Credit: 5 Second Studio, Shutterstock

divider-cat

Conclusion

Cat declawing is illegal in the UK, with opponents saying that the declawing process, which involves the removal of the bones attached to the claws, is inhumane and that it can cause a lifetime of suffering in cats that have to endure it. And, while more cats are being kept as exclusively indoor cats in the UK, it is highly unlikely that the current law, which was enacted in 2006, will change.


Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets