Opponents of declawing contend that it causes behavioral problems, whereas others, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, state that because destructive scratching is a risk factor for relinquishment and euthanasia, declawing is a reasonable alternative. If declawing causes behavior problems, the declawing of cats would put them at higher risk of surrender and euthanasia. If declawing is assumed to cause behavior problems, declawed cats could be at higher risk for lack of adoption and subsequent euthanasia at shelters. We compared the estimate of the percentage of declawed cats in the general population to that found in the shelter population. We also examined the possible relationships between declawing and biting behavior, length of stay in a shelter, and euthanasia. Finally, we compared the number of actual biting cats in the shelter to estimates of cats surrendered to shelters at large for the stated reason of biting. In post hocexploratory analyses, in addition to declaw status, we included other variables that could contribute to predicting the likelihood of a cat biting, of being euthanized or of staying longer in a shelter. Biting behavior was operationalized as contact between a cat’s teeth and a human such that the human’s skin was broken. We found that declawed cats were significantly underrepresented in the shelter as compared to estimates in the population at large (p < 0.001). We found no significant correlation between declawing and biting behavior (p = 0.456), or between declawing and euthanasia (p = 0.579). We found a significant increase in the length of time that declawed cats spent at the shelter before being adopted (p < 0.001). We also found that biting behavior was rarer in the shelter cats than would be expected based on owner reports for reasons of surrender on average to a shelter (p < 0.001). Exploratory analyses of variables contributing to the risks of biting, lack of adoption, and euthanasia revealed a number of alternative explanatory factors.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
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