Cat owners will no longer be able to get their cats declawed after a ruling by the association that represents veterinarians in the province.
Last week, the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) made that decision after its members voted 73 per cent in favour of banning the procedure. The ban took effect immediately and is mandatory except in cases where there is a medical reason to remove one or more of a cat’s digits.
Dr. Carla Loewen of the Virden Animal Hospital says the ruling isn’t going to make a big difference to the clinic since they so rarely did the procedure.
In the last five years, she says the clinic’s veterinarians have only done two or three declaw surgeries a year. Usually, she adds, they’re able to persuade the owners to try less drastic options like regular nail trims or plastic nail covers.
“We also suggest scratching posts with catnip or honeysuckle to attract them, water spray bottles to discourage scratching, and rewarding with treats.”
Often, vets are able to change clients’ minds about the surgery when they explain that declawing involves much more than removing the claws.
"I think there was misunderstanding on the part of pet owners about what this procedure was," said Dr. Jonas Watson, president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association. "I don't think most people totally understood this involved the removal of bone and not simply nail."
In recent years, some vet clinics in the region, particularly in Brandon, decided to simply stop doing the procedure due to the negative effects it can have on the cat such as lasting pain, poor mobility, aggression and litter box issues.
The Virden Animal Hospital was not among those that chose to officially ban it, says Loewen, because they wanted to keep the lines of communication open with pet owners.
“If they know your clinic bans it, they won’t come in and discuss it. We were still open to it, so when they came in we had a chance to discuss it with them and give them other options.”
Manitoba is now the fifth province to ban declawing behind BC, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. Since Saskatchewan has not implemented a similar ban, the surgery is still legal across the border.