Manitoba vets vote to ban cat declawing

Veterinarians in Manitoba voted overwhelmingly to ban the practice of declawing cats without a medical reason.

Procedure can cause pain, behavioural problems, 2017 study showed

Declawing cats has been linked to a wide range of problems, including aggression, pain, and issues going to the litterbox. (Julian Brown/CBC)

Veterinarians in Manitoba voted overwhelmingly to ban the practice of declawing cats without a medical reason.

The vote, which took place electronically over the last few days, came back with 73 per cent in favour of a bylaw banning the procedure, and 26 per cent opposed. The ban takes effect immediately.

It makes Manitoba the sixth province in Canada to bring in a ban on the procedure that amputates the first joint of a cat's toes. Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta banned the practice earlier this year, while British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia prohibited it in 2018. 

New Brunswick also voted to ban cat declawing in April, with the ban set to come into effect on July 1 of this year.

"I think attitudes within the general public and the veterinary profession about this elective procedure are changing and new research has emerged that suggests that declawing cats is not an entirely benign procedure," said Dr. Jonas Watson, president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association.

Part of that attitude shift came after a major study published in 2017 in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery that suggested cats that went through the procedure were at a higher risk of a wide range of problems, including poor mobility, aggression, pain and issues using the litter box.

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In 2017, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association issued a revised position statement on declawing cats, calling it "ethically unacceptable when performed without comprehensive client education," including a review of alternatives.

The association suggested alternatives such as frequent nail trimmings, scratching posts and plastic covers placed over the feline's nails. 

The most common reasons pet owners would have their cats declawed is to protect furniture, clothes and people from scratching from cats' nails, said Watson.

"I think there was misunderstanding on the part of pet owners about what this procedure was," said Watson. "I don't think most people totally understood this involved the removal of bone and not simply nail."

If people properly understood the procedure, Watson said he believes fewer cat owners would have agreed to it.

Some medical reasons why a vet might still perform the procedure would be if an infection or tumour occurs, or if it suffers some sort of devastating injury, said Watson.

Some people may worry that banning cat declawing might lead to more cats being abandoned, but he said experience has shown that isn't the case.

"In many of the cities where declawing bans have been put in place, relinquishment rates have gone down not up, which is perhaps counterintuitive," he said.

Other places that have implemented declawing bans include the United Kingdom, Israel, Brazil, plus large American cities like Los Angeles, said Watson.


  • An earlier version of this story said Manitoba was the fifth province to ban cat declawing. In fact, it was the sixth to bring such a ban into effect.
    May 30, 2019 12:00 PM CT