For as long as people have invited cats into their homes, furniture has been destroyed, drapery has been shredded, and the occasional pointy claw has made contact with tender human flesh. But soft fur and soothing purrs keep felines near the top of the list of America’s favorite pets, second only to freshwater fish. For many years, veterinarians have encouraged cat owners to electively declaw their feline companions – either front paws only or all four – in a procedure that is regarded as cruel and unnecessary by animal rights organizations around the globe. Assemblyperson Linda Rosenthal of District 67 introduced a bill last month to outlaw the practice, similar to the ban that is already in place in other major cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as many countries in Europe, South America, and elsewhere in the world. Will New York be next to ban the cruel practice?

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Recognizing that most pet owners who choose to declaw their cats do so for convenience reasons, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) warn against the practice, except in cases where it’s medically necessary (such as with nailbed tumors). Understanding the procedure can help shed some light on why it is already outlawed in so many places. Declawing is a surgical process that involves the amputation of the last bone on each toe. To put that into perspective, it would be like “cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.” according to the Humane Society website.

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Although it’s true that many cats appear to behave normally after being declawed and go on to live nine happy lives, the procedure can also have devastating effects, including increased aggression and refusal to use the litter box. Instead of opting for the painful and costly procedure, pet owners are encouraged to correct unwanted behaviors. It may be next to impossible to teach an old cat new tricks, to turn a phrase, but the alternatives can be quite simple. Keeping cat claws trimmed, providing multiple scratching posts, and using a gentle deterrent like a squirt gun can all help communicate to your cat how and when to use her claws – all without unnecessary bloodshed.

Show your support for the anti-declawing bill by signing this petition on Change.org, aimed at New York’s state representatives, senators, and upper level leadership.

Images via Jennifer C/Flickr and evakatharina12/Flickr