The title of this post was a declaration made by a brilliant and highly respected behaviorist at Positive Cattitudes.
She was referring to cats who have been forced to have their digits removed.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s 2016, yet house cats, exotic cats, and other animals are still being forced to have their claws removed. Take heed my friends: the claw is only part of the picture. The word “declawing” is actually a fancy name for “de-toeing.”
This medical procedure is still practiced by veterinarians! And it’s legal!
Declawing (or deknuckling) is thankfully, banned in many countries, including Switzerland, Israel, Australia, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Yet only ten cities in the United States have banned the barbaric practice. But thanks to informed animal guardians, and advances in behavioral and medical science, this barbaric and outdated procedure may come to an end in other, progressive areas of our nation.
New York could be the first state to make it illegal to declaw cats and other animals.
Last year Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill (A.1297) which would make New York the first state in the nation to ban declawing. The New York declawing bill would ban the procedure unless it is done to remove a tumor or for other medical reasons. The bill is now being reviewed in committee hearings.
State veterinarians have opposed the bill, insisting that decision on declawing should be left to the owners and medical professionals.
But we believe otherwise.
Cats need their claws. They have a right to keep their claws. And as animal guardians, we need to understand why.
What’s The Big Fuss About?
Cats’ claws play important roles in various aspects of their lives. I have written about this topic at length before. I invite you to learn why so many concerned cat-loving citizens are taking a stand to ensure that cats keep their claws. The facts cannot be ignored: there are countless medical, physical, and behavioral complications of declawing.
A.1297 explains the justification for the bill:
Cats use their claws to assist in climbing and maintaining balance, to help them fully stretch, to relieve stress through kneading, and to escape danger. When a person has its animal declawed, usually in an attempt to protect furniture, they do fundamental damage to that animal both physically and in behavioral ways. There are harmless ways to manage undesirable behavior through simple training and other established methods.
Declawing, also known as onychectomy, involves the removal of all or most of the last bone of each of the toes of the front feet, and tendons, nerves and ligaments that allow for normal function of the paw are severed, resulting in intense and chronic pain and other serious medical issues. Flexor tendonectomy, in which cats’ toes are cut so that claws cannot be extended also imperils their health and safety. Abscess-
es often develop as the area comes into contact with dirt or litter, and sometimes regrowth can occur spontaneously resulting in sharp pain or infection.
After the claws are removed, the animal tends to shift its gait and where it places most of its weight, causing strain on its leg joints and spine, which can lead to early onset arthritis and prolonged back and joint pain. Declawed cats often develop behavioral problems that lead to their being surrendered to animal shelters where they are, for the most part, not adoptable.
Become An Informed Animal Guardian.
The article, The War Over DeClawing Moves to New York , will change they way you think of cats and their right to keep their much-needed claws. Some of the professional comments at the end of the article are insightful as well. In fact, there is one comment in particular that I agree whole hardheadedly about. It was written by my friend and colleague, Jacqueline Munera. I invite you to read what she recently shared about this very important discussion:
I am a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and a large percent of my cases involve declawed cats. 100% of my clients did not recognize the signs that their cat was in pain until I pointed it out to them. These are wonderful owners who love their cats very much and they had no idea how much pain their cats were suffering. Most are heartbroken that they didn’t realize their cats are in pain. Some had the cats declawed, others adopted or rescued them and they were already declawed. Additionally, many of these cats had recently been given the medical “all clear” by their vets before they saw me for the behavior issue. This means that the vet also either didn’t recognize the signs of problems related to declawing or decided that the signs were not important enough to raise red flags.
Obviously, I also work with some fantastic vets that notice the issue and treat it as best as they can. This is VERY expensive and can include further surgery to remove nail re-growth under the skin, clean out infected pus pockets, possibly cutting more tendons in order to free up frozen joints, etc. It can also involve physical therapy and laser treatments. At minimum, these cats require appropriate pain medicines and adjuncts like Adequan, usually for the rest of their life. They also often require more expensive litters or materials that are softer on their paws. Many times the environment needs to modified as well to prevent as much jumping force as possible (e.g. cat stairs, ramps, mats and padded materials).
This procedure is listed as a “procedure of last resort”, however it is well known that this is not how it is actually provided. Therefore, vets (some of them) have proven that they are incapable of self-monitoring. Admittedly, there are many psychological and false logic reasonings for this. Most vets do believe they are saving that cat’s life. Unfortunately, data from animal shelters and related facilities prove that this is not the case. They believe that if they don’t do it, someone else will and won’t do as good a job. That may certainly be true in some cases, however, that excuse just doesn’t work when you are dealing with something that is so potentially harmful. Almost all of my clients state that they would not have had the procedure done if they had the information that I provided them, which their vets did not. This is certainly a skewed population (people that care enough and have enough patience and money to pay for an expert to help solve their cat behavior challenge), however, if these people would have changed their minds, then that argues for the case that there is a population out there that would do the same if given the opportunity by their vet.
And lastly, for those who state “It should be decided by the pet owner” and “keep government out of our lives, blah blah blah”… In many cases, we don’t leave abusive activities up to the individual to decide to do and we will stay out of it. This is particularly true when the individual has a responsibility to care for another individual that is incapable of caring for themselves (e.g. senior, child, PET). Sure you can decide to lock your child in a closet and starve them, but if you get caught, that means the old government is going to step in and punish you (hopefully). Too many pet owners and veterinarians have proven incapable of making the correct choice to the benefit of the cats. Therefore, someone else has to step in and help them make the right choice by taking away the possibility of utilizing the harmful choice of mutilating a living creature’s feet.
P.S. I’m adding a thank you to all of the wonderful owners, veterinary professionals and humans of all types that agree that cats and claws belong together! Purrrs to you!
Complications Hidden In Plain Sight
As a behavior consultant who works closely with families who are concerned with frustrating animal behavioral issues in their home, I see the all too common connection between what pet owners decide to do for convenience sake, or “as a last resort”, but they fail to see the larger picture; medical issues and behavioral issues are often intertwined. A quick fix is never the solution. And a “simple” medical procedure such as declawing often later becomes a complicated mess in the home, hidden behind a myriad of behavioral issues. As Jacqueline explains, there are times when we need legal oversight to ensure that our animal family members are protected. I agree. My hope is that the bill will be passed and this will be the last time we talk about this outdated, risky, and inhumane procedure.
Some people feel it’s unnatural to remove a cat’s claws, and it’s done for the owner’s benefit and not for the cat’s benefit. There are many other arguments you can make for this — the pain they go through, the complications after declawing. But I think it really boils down to cats are born with claws and they should keep them. ~ Drew Weigner, Atlanta veterinarian and president of the Academy of Feline Medicine
Don’t Give Up on Your Cat and His/Her Claws!
Do you feel like declawing is “your last resort”? Please don’t give in to the justification for declawing, and don’t give up on your feline family member. There are many other humane options! The four cats that we have shared a home with all have their claws intact. Have we had any issues in the past with undesirable scratching in our home? Sure. It’s what cats need to do. But I didn’t chop off their toes because of it. We compromised. And I taught my cats where and what to scratch on. I took the time to learn my cats’ individual preferences, and their individual thresholds so they would never feel the need to scratch inappropriately. It’s humane. It’s fun. It works. And you can do this too! Don’t give up. Find a qualified feline behaviorist to help guide you and your feline family members. You can create a harmonious home.
“Cats are sentient beings who deserve to be respected. “