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Here’s Why Declawing Cats Is Illegal in Australia


Cat wearing a collar while being declawed

Though declawing a cat is legal in the United States and several other countries, there are many countries that have outlawed this practice, including Australia. Why is declawing cats illegal in Australia? The practice is banned1 because it is considered an unethical, cruel, and painful procedure detrimental to felines. Having a cat declawed can negatively affect not only its health but its behavior.

Below you’ll learn more about what declawing a cat really means, the few cases in Australia where it is acceptable to declaw a cat, other countries where the practice has been deemed illegal, and how to keep your favorite feline from scratching where it shouldn’t.


What Is Declawing?

Some people hear the term “declawing” and think this means only a cat’s toenail will be removed, but this isn’t true. To remove the claw, bones must also be removed, or the claw will grow back. Declawing a cat is essentially an amputation; to remove the claw, the amputation of the distal phalanges on all toes is required (usually just the front paws, but occasionally the back paws, too). In human terms, it’s the equivalent of cutting off a finger at the last knuckle.

So, why would people have this done to their pets? Mostly to stop scratching of furniture or people. However, you can stop your pet from scratching where it shouldn’t by retraining it to scratch in appropriate areas.

Are There Any Cases Where a Cat Can Be Declawed in Australia?

Cat's claws on a black surface
Image Credit: Susan Law Cain, Shutterstock

Though declawing cats is illegal in Australia, there are a few cases where a veterinarian may do the procedure. According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (General) Regulation, the only instances where a vet is allowed to remove a cat’s claws are when:

  • The vet receives a statutory declaration that states the feline will be destroyed if its claws aren’t removed.
  • A cat has been causing mass amounts of unacceptable damage to property and cannot be retrained to not engage in this behavior.
  • The cat keeps killing wildlife.
  • The vet receives a statutory declaration that states the declawing procedure is being requested because of damage the cat may have done to animals, property, or people.

The RSPCA of Queensland also states that a vet may remove a cat’s claws for medical reasons, such as bone cancer, damage to the claws, or nail bed infections.


What Other Countries Have Made Declawing Illegal?

Countries that made the practice of declawing a cat illegal include:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia
  • Brazil
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Wales

Though the practice of declawing is still legal in the United States, strides are being made to outlaw the procedure. Many cities have put bans into place (particularly in California), and New York banned the practice in 2019. And a few other states have legislation regarding declawing cats slowly winding their way through the state governments.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

male shelter cat destroying furniture with front claws
Image Credit: Melissa Sue, Shutterstock

There are several reasons felines scratch and claw at things, but all of them boil down to natural instincts.

One big reason a cat scratches is to keep its nails in tip-top shape. Scratching lets the cat shorten its nails and condition them.

The next reason is stretching. Think about when your pet is scratching at something vertical, such as the side of the sofa. They arch their back, extend their legs, and get an excellent full-body stretch.

The final reason felines scratch is because they’re marking their territory. Scratching lets kitty leave both a visible mark and a scent marker that enables other animals to know it was there and this is theirs.

How Can I Keep My Cat from Scratching Where It Shouldn’t?

Declawing a cat should never be considered a way to keep your pet from scratching on furniture or other undesirable areas. Instead, you should encourage your pet to scratch elsewhere—specifically on scratching posts. If you don’t have any scratching posts in the home, get two or more and place them throughout your house. You’ll need to train kitty to use the scratching posts, which you can do by sprinkling catnip on them to encourage use, followed by praise after your pet has used the posts.

Finally, keep your cat’s claws trimmed! If you don’t think you can do the job yourself, your vet’s office or a groomer will be able to help. You’ll need to take your pet to have its nails cut every couple of weeks.


Final Thoughts

Declawing cats is illegal in Australia and many other countries because it’s a cruel practice that is essentially an amputation, not just a nail trim. If your favorite feline is scratching up your beloved armchair, there are other ways to get your pet to quit. Place scratching posts throughout your home, then encourage your cat to use them by sprinkling catnip around the posts and praising them when they scratch there. Also, keep your kitty’s nails trimmed to lessen the risk of damage being done.

Featured Image Credit: MDV Edwards, Shutterstock


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