ALBANY, N.Y. — New York became the first U.S. state to ban the declawing of cats Monday, joining most of Europe, several Canadian provinces and a growing list of American cities that already prohibit a procedure animal advocates call cruel and unnecessary.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the New York ban. Supporters of the new law, which took effect immediately, predict it will lead to similar proposals across the country.

Declawing a cat involves slicing through bone to amputate the first segment of a cat's toes. The operation was once commonly performed to protect furniture and human skin from feline scratching but has in recent years come under scrutiny by animal welfare advocates, cat owners and many vets.

While many vets urged lawmakers to pass the ban, the state's largest veterinary organization opposed the bill. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society argued that declawing should be allowed as a last resort for felines that won't stop scratching furniture or humans — or when the cat's owner has a weakened immune system, putting them at greater risk of infection from a scratch.

"Medical decisions should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed and state supervised professionals," the society said in a memo opposing the legislation.