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Is Declawing Cats Illegal in Australia? Reasons, Alternatives & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat claws when kneading

Is Declawing Cats Illegal in Australia? Reasons, Alternatives & FAQ

Declawing cats is illegal¹ in Australia due to its questionable ethics. It is also illegal in several other countries, though it is still legal in the United States. Declawing is considered a cruel and painful procedure that takes away a cat’s ability to defend themselves and balance properly. It can negatively affect their behavior for this reason.

Many people mistakenly believe that declawing a cat just means removing their claws. However, this procedure is a bit more complicated than that. It has wide-ranging consequences for the cat’s life and health.

To better understand why Australia banned declawing in most circumstances, let’s look at what it is and the effects that it may have. We also explore the situations in which it is legal to declaw a cat in the country.

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What Is Declawing?

Simply put, declawing involves two different steps. The cat’s claws are removed, like most people believe they are. However, the top of the toe bone must also be removed to prevent the claws from growing back. Therefore, declawing involves an amputation. It would almost be like removing the finger from the first joint for a human. Sure, you would still have all your fingers, but your dexterity would be affected. It’s similar for felines. They still have their toes but their balance is affected.

Often, this procedure is done to eliminate scratching. However, scratching is a normal behavior in felines, and they can be trained to scratch in appropriate areas.

Cat wearing a collar while being declawed
Image Credit: MDV Edwards, Shutterstock

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When Can You Declaw a Cat in Australia?

There are some circumstances where declawing a cat is legal in Australia. Much of this is up to the vet, however. Often, this is used as a last attempt to prevent scratching when a cat has serious behavior issues. There are only four instances where it is legal for a vet to remove a cat’s claws:

  1. The vet receives a declaration that the feline will be destroyed if the claws are not removed.
  2. The cat has caused massive amounts of damage with their claws multiple times, and the owner has attempted to prevent this damage.
  3. The cat continues to kill wildlife despite attempts to prevent it.
  4. The vet receives a declaration that the claws must be removed due to potential damage the cat may cause. The cat must have exhibited behaviors in the past to make this potential damage likely.

You can also remove a cat’s claws for medical reasons. For instance, if the toe is infected, it may need amputation on severe occasions. While this would technically be “declawing,” it is legal because it’s for the feline’s health.

What Countries Have Banned Cat Declawing?

Many countries have banned declawing. So far, about 42 different countries have passed laws. Many of these countries allow declawing only in serious circumstances. Sadly, the United States is not on this list, and declawing is still legal.

Here is a list of countries where declawing a cat is illegal:
  • 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

While no federal laws ban declawing in the U.S., many states and cities have put bans into place. There are also many laws currently being pushed through in other states and cities.

cat paws and sharps claws
Image Credit: Naturell, Pixabay

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Will Vets Still Declaw Cats?

In Australia, vets cannot legally declaw cats unless they have a good reason. Their reasoning has to fall into one of several potential categories. Sometimes, it requires a letter from a governmental official stating that the cat is potentially dangerous and should be declawed. Your average cat isn’t going to fit into this category.

Furthermore, these reasons often require the owner to try training the cat before the vet can remove the cat’s claws. You’ll usually need to work closely with your vet to stop and prevent scratching before declawing is an option.

Therefore, you can still find vets that will declaw cats. However, they must carefully consider the laws and behavior of your cat. In most cases, your cat won’t qualify for declawing unless it is the last resort.

Alternatives to Declawing

Luckily, there are many alternatives to declawing that you may want to consider. You don’t have to put up with your cat constantly scratching you or your furniture. These steps may require a bit more work, but they are effective at handling scratching.

Training is the easiest way to handle bad scratching habits. You must provide your cat with proper places to scratch, as scratching is necessary for them. Once this is done, encourage the cat to use the proper places. You can do this via praise, treats, and catnip. You may need to provide multiple scratching posts in some cases.

You can also train cats not to scratch people. The easiest way to do this is by rewarding the cat when they don’t scratch. Not scratching while playing means more playing and praise. Always end playtime when scratching occurs.

You may need to trim your cat’s nails regularly. Many cats scratch to keep their nails worn down. When your feline’s nails are trimmed, they may feel less need to wear them down in this way. Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed helps lower their scratching need.

You can also utilize nail caps. These are made of vinyl and cover your cat’s claws, helping prevent damage to your furniture. These caps come in a range of colors and are often tolerated well. They only last 4–6 weeks, however. As your cat sheds their nail, the silicon cap will come off.

The veterinarian trims the nails of a British breed cat
Image Credit: Studio-N, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Declawing a cat is illegal in Australia, as it is considered inhumane and unnecessary. While cats can be declawed in specific circumstances, most cats don’t fit into this category. Therefore, you’ll need to consider alternatives for your feline.

Most cats respond well to training in this regard. Offering the cat somewhere they can scratch is important, and you may need multiple scratching posts if you have a large house or multiple cats.


Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

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