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Santa Claws Came Early

Denver Ban On Declawing Great News For Cats


It’s a great time to be a cat in Denver. I am so pleased to see the City and County make a huge statement for the quality of cats’ lives – and for the veterinarians who care for them.

On Nov. 13, the Denver City Council unanimously passed a ban on feline 10-digit declawing surgery – effective immediately. Over the prior few months, many entities were advocating for the ban. Now Denver is the only city in the United States with a ban on declawing cats, joining the entire state of California. We’re helping to move the country forward on this issue; surgical declawing is already illegal in Europe, Canada and many other countries.

Many veterinarians and owners of previously declawed cats spoke eloquently at the city council’s Nov. 6 meeting against declaws. One speaker made the great observation that if declawing cats was proposed as a new, never-been-done procedure today, it would never gain traction.

The biggest observations were on the changes in behavior seen after declawing surgery, often many years after surgery, which have led to many cats being relinquished later in life. Among those behaviors: aggression and inappropriate litter box use. Declawing was a remedy of convenience for owners, sold to them beginning in 1960s. We now know so much more know about cats, that to continue to support declawing was wrong.  (The new regulation does allow for medically necessary declawing in the case of a tumor or trauma.)

Now on to something even more fun … litterboxes, or rather the litterbox blues if you have kitty that isn’t observing the rules of use. The majority of cats will use a litterbox without issue, but for the small percentage of cats and their owners that start to have difficulties, it can be the breaking point for that cat to remain a family member.

When looking at litterbox issues, we humans need to look from the cat’s perspective – it is not a cat being malicious. Always when litter box issues begin, have your cat seen by your veterinarian and a urine sample analyzed to rule in/out medical issues versus behavioral issues. And, address the problem promptly – if left too long, the more likely the behavior becomes a harder-to-break habit.

Common medical issues that can lead to litterbox use changes include urinary tract inflammation, urinary tract infection, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus and arthritis. Once identified, then there are many appropriate treatments and accommodations to get kitties back in the box.

If medical issues are not identified or addressing them does not fully resolve the litter box aversion, then behavior be playing a more significant role.

Your veterinarian can help you create a plan to work through options and also prescribe medications that may help.

The following are two great links for more love for the litterbox:

1. From the Cornell Feline Health Center:

2. From the American Association of Feline Practitioners:

Finally, longtime readers know that in past Decembers in this space, we have run an annual update on the latest cool, amusing and ingenious pet gifts. This year we have them posted directly on the Park Hill Vet website. Check out under our blog for this year’s holiday pet prezzies, complete with links.

Dr. Margot can be reached at


The Scoop On Litter Boxes

Here are a few litter box hacks good for all cats:

1. More than one cat, then you need more than one litter box. Veterinary behaviorists recommend at least one litter box per cat and one more if you have room. If able, have them in different locations/levels of your home.  If not, then you can have them next to each other. Keep litter boxes away from where the pet eats and drinks.

2. Cats prefer open top litter boxes – we as owners want them closed to avoid litter outside the box and/or odor. So try this tip: Use a plastic storage bin that is larger than your base litter box. Cut an access door through the side for your cat and place the litter box inside the bin. You can add a litter trapping mat in front of the box. Now you have a tall enough surround to contain litter, but still allow an open roof.

3. Clean your litter box frequently – daily if able.

4. Replace plastic litterboxes every few years as the plastic does start to absorb odors.

5. For older cats, make sure that they are able to easily step in to the litterbox and that it is large enough to allow them movement – arthritis can make it painful to get in/out of the box as well as to allow a change in posturing to potty.  And, if able, put a litterbox on the house level where they spend the most time.

6. Deep clean your litter boxes as often as needed.

7. What looks good to you as a litter (clumping, good smelling, etc.) may not be your cat’s choice. Try different litters to discover your cat’s preferences.

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