RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill recently filed in the Virginia General Assembly could make Virginia the third state, joining Maryland and New York, to outlaw declawing procedures for cats, something animal rights advocates, like Dr. Alice Ulrichs with Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC), say has been a long time coming.

“We had one cat who came in with such nerve pain from her declawed feet. We X-rayed, we tried medications, and we couldn’t stop her suffering,” Ulrichs said.

Despite how it may look afterwards, a declawing procedure is more than a manicure. Experts explained how invasive the operation can really be for an animal.

“Declawing a cat is basically amputating the third digit of every toe,” Ulrichs said. “So, it’s not just removing the nail, it’s removing the nail and the bone at the joint.”

A cat at Richmond Animal Care and Control plays. Photo courtesy of Sierra Krug.

Ulrichs noted the high risk for complications associated with declawing procedures. She said the recovery process isn’t easy for the animal and can cause immense pain. In some cases, the pain can be so overwhelming that it may even deter a cat from using its litter box.

The efficacy of such procedures has also been called into question.

Ulrichs explained how removing a cat’s claws doesn’t alter an aggressive cat’s disposition. Losing its claws often prompts cats to resort to using their teeth instead.

“Now, you’re left with a biting cat,” Ulrichs said.

Removing a cat’s claws takes away the animal’s natural tools it needs to survive in the wild, according to experts. Therefore, a declawed cat must remain an indoor pet in order to survive.

The bill allows for exceptions, such as if an animal needs its claws removed for health reasons. If passed, anyone who performs a declawing procedure on a cat without veterinarian approval in the state of Virginia would be subject to a fine between $200 and $2,500.

Experts noted that declawing isn’t as common among household pets nowadays, largely due to animal activist groups’ efforts to raise awareness about its dangers. However, those who do choose to declaw their pets typically do so in order to protect their furniture, themselves or their children from the animals’ claws and scratches.

Ulrichs outlined alternative methods for combatting these concerns. These include training the pets or looking into protective nail caps.

“I think they want to save their furniture, I don’t think they want to irrevocably damage their cat,” Ulrichs said.

The bill will be presented at the Virginia General Assembly’s next legislative session in January 2023.