Updated January 13, 2024

By Jean Hofve, DVM and Judith Beggs, JD   

Many landlords require cats to be declawed before they will rent to a cat guardian.* Sadly, because it’s already hard to find a place that allows pets, many cats fall victim to this unfair requirement. If you’re thinking about declawing your cat in order to find a place to live, please print out this article, show it to your prospective landlord, and ask them to waive the requirement. Landlords need to know the truth about declawing, and the property damage and legal liability they may face due to such a requirement.

First, there are some simple rules for cats in rental properties; if tenants just do these simple things, the risk of cat-induced property damage are greatly reduced:

  1. Spay/neuter cats
  2. Keep cats indoors
  3. Provide adequate scratching surfaces
  4. Maintain clean litterboxes

(For more details, see this article from HSUS.)

For landlords who still insist on declawing, educate them on these facts:

Declawing is excruciatingly painful for the cat. It involves ten separate amputations of the cat’s toes at the first joint. In other words, this catastrophic surgery amputates 1/3 of a cat’s front paws. (For more info on declawing in general, click here). Declawing severs not only the cat’s claws, but also the attached nerves, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The surgery carries significant risks of lifetime physical, psychological, and behavioral consequences. Adult cats have an increased risk of medical and behavior complications; the older the cat, the worse the risk. Landlords probably do not realize how cruel this procedure is.

Declawed cats often cause far worse property damage than clawed cats. At least  15% of cats develop litterbox aversion after declawing, likely due to intermittent or chronic pain. Declawed cats are twice as likely to avoid the litterbox as clawed cats. Cat urine can penetrate and damage floors, floorboards, sub-floors, carpet, drywall, baseboards, woodwork, and furniture, creating long-lingering urine smells, and major property damage. Landlords will reduce damage to their property by not requiring declawing.

Up to 18% of cats become biters after being declawed. Increased aggression results from chronic pain. Because aggressive biting is a known consequence of declawing, requiring the surgery may invite litigation should a visitor get bitten. Cat bites  are more dangerous, and much more likely to become infected, than cat scratches. Landlords can protect themselves from potential liability by not requiring declawing.

There are many humane alternatives to declawing for preventing scratching damage. Cats can  wear Soft Claws or Soft Paws (soft vinyl nail caps). Their nails can be trimmed frequently to keep claws blunt and unlikely to snag carpet or leave deep scratch marks. Scratching posts, vinyl carpet runners, double-sided sticky tape are proven to reduce or eliminate scratch damage. For more alternatives, click here.

Cat declawing is legally declared to be animal cruelty. Eight cities in California have already outlawed it: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Burbank, and West Hollywood. Other city, state, and county governments throughout the country are considering similar legislation. These laws apply to everyone who participates in the illegal declawing of a cat in any of those jurisdictions. Landlords who require declawing could be criminally liable under such laws.

If you are a tenant who is being asked to declaw, show your landlord this article and ask them not to require it. If they don’t agree to waive this requirement, you must not rent from that landlord. Don’t agree to this cruel surgery for your beloved pet.

*In California, Delaware, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, it is against the law for landlords to require declawing