Save a paw: Manitoba veterinarians will consider ban on cat declawing

The president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association hopes Manitoba will become the third Canadian province to ban the practice of declawing cats.

Two other Canadian provinces have prohibited elective amputation

Dr. Jonas Watson, president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association, favours a ban on cat declawing. (Carlie Koltek )

The president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association hopes Manitoba veterinarians will vote to ban the practice of declawing cats, more accurately known as partial digital amputation. 

Dr. Jonas Watson believes that felines are suffering needlessly.

"When you cut off the tips of the toes of animals, who like using those toes and claws to engage in normal, natural behaviours, I think you're depriving them of something that is fundamental to their existence", says Watson, who practices at Tuxedo Animal Hospital in Winnipeg.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association spoke out against the procedure in 2017. This year, veterinarian associations in Nova Scotia and British Columbia have banned the practice.

Declawing is linked to unwanted behaviours such as biting and may have detrimental effects to a cat's wellbeing. 

"I think there's some question as to whether or not these animals suffer from some degree of long-term tingling or discomfort or even pain when this is done," he said.

Watson could not estimate how many veterinarians in Manitoba still declaw cats, but he called it a "relative minority."

Stopping the scratch

He says pet owners have cited different reasons for wanting their cats declawed — from not wanting their furniture damaged, to not wanting to be scratched themselves. The concern is heightened for elderly people with thinner skin, or people with immune disorders.

But Watson says there are many alternatives, such as frequent nail trimmings, scratching posts for cats with the itch and plastic covers placed over the feline's nails. 

"There's a lot of ways we can manage this without doing something as extreme as removing the last tip of the digit on all the front fingers of the cat," Watson said.

According to the CVMA, the practice is already banned in New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, parts of Europe and some cities in California. 

Dr. Jonas Watson with one of his cat patients, which lost a leg due to a car accident, but has all of his claws. (Carlie Koltek)

Watson said the issue of declawing will be on the agenda when the MVMA executive meets in late October.

"My thought would be surveying the membership would be a good idea to feel the temperature out there, and then pending that having a vote," Watson said, adding a ban could be in place in under two years if it's supported by membership votes.

As for other cosmetic procedures, the MVMA bans ear cropping on dogs, but allows tail docking. Watson says he'd like to survey the members about that procedure as well.


Janice Grant

Associate Producer

Janice Grant has worked in all areas of CBC Manitoba over the last 27 years. She has a special interest in community and mental health stories.


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