Under the new ordinance, cat owners will only be allowed to declaw their cats if the surgery has benefits to their physical health.

Cat owners living in the city of Austin can no longer declaw their cats—unless it's for a "therapeutic purpose"—according to an ordinance the city council passed last week. 

The Texas capital joins a growing list of cities and states that have banned the surgery, in effect saying what many veterinarians and pet advocates do: Declawing is a painful surgery with long-lasting physical and behavioral effects that should only be done in select circumstances. 

The panel passed the ordinance Thursday. It bans the partial or complete declawing of cats, a procedure known as onychectomy, unless it will benefit the cat's physical health—if it "address[es] an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition that compromises the animal's health," according to the ordinance.  

A similar exception exists in New York, where veterinarians can still declaw cats if it will help heal a tumor or infection.

Declawing may be less common than it used to be as more cat welfare advocates have campaigned against it. As they'll tell you, the surgery really hurts. (It's the human equivalent of having the tips of your fingers cut off.) Plus, cats then lose the ability to walk the way they used to before the surgery and what used to be their primary defense mechanism. Behavior issues sometimes follow as well. 

Those are some of the reasons the surgery is already banned in some parts of the country—the state of New York, Los Angeles, and Denver, for example. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti even wrote a letter to the Austin City Council, encouraging the ordinance's passage.   

cat scratching post
Credit: SorinVidis / Getty

"In addition to protecting animals from harm, our ordinance has helped foster the growing knowledge and understanding that, in addition to the grossly inhumane procedure of declawing, declawed cats often develop behaviors that make them much less desirable as pets or cripple them for life," he wrote. 

In fact, he attributed the 2009 declawing ban to a 43-percent drop in the number of cats surrendered to the city's animal services department. 

According to KVUE, the city of Austin spent about two years gathering public input on the declawing ban. The ordinance passed unanimously.  

If you're concerned about your cat's scratching—which is a normal behavior—you have other options beside declawing. First, you can get your cat a scratching post to preserve your couches and cushions. Nail caps, which fit over your feline's lil pokers, can also reduce damage. 

Have questions? Ask your veterinarian. They'll know what's best.