Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The "urban myths" of cat declaw surgery (a volunteer's perspective)
The article is about pending legislation in New York that would make cat declaw surgeries illegal. If you dive into the comments section, you'll see impassioned notes from people who claim that their cats never, ever struggled with declaws.
I expect these comments on declaw articles. And I understand why people would write this sort of thing. If they admitted that they had harmed their kittens with surgeries, they'd have to do a lot of soul searching. It's just easier to suggest that the cats weren't harmed in the slightest, rather than examining the issue closely.
But there was one little statement in there that gets me.
"I have seen many (front) declawed cats (my parents adopted one that lived to be 21) and I have never seen behavioral issues, litter box problems etc.). It's urban legend."
As most readers know, I volunteer at my local animal shelter. I'm on the board of Willamette Humane Society, as a matter of fact. I am deeply involved in the cat program at the shelter, which means I am often working with cats when they're new to the shelter and unsure about what everything means for them.
That's how I got Popoki. She was a terrified and sick cat in the shelter, unwilling to eat and very shy about what her future held. And, Popoki was a front declaw.
Her surgery was inexpertly done. Her toes are ragged and uneven, and some are almost missing altogether. And she perfectly demonstrates all of the "myths" this reader is discussing in her comments.
For example, Popoki is very particular about her cat litter. I tried using a pellet-style litter with her recently, as I was looking for an eco-friendly option, and she simply would NOT use it. It's easy to understand why that's the case. Big pellets that look a little like gerbil food are too rough for her little foot pads. Her toes probably hurt, so she needs to keep things soft. If I hadn't switched to a softer litter, she very well may have demonstrated very real litterbox issues.
Next up: Behavior.
I've introduced cats to one another many, many times. I've been a successful cat foster to both adults and kittens, and I know all about how to combine cat colonies gracefully. Popoki absolutely stymies me. She flies into deep, deep aggressive states when she feels even slightly cornered by my other cats. If they so much as walk by her, she will dive for cover while growling and screaming.
It's possible, if not likely, that she does this because she has no natural weaponry. She is worried these cats will kill her and she'll be unable to fight back. She CAN'T fight back. She has no claws.
I've seen cats in the shelter that react in a slightly different manner. These cats are terrified in their kennels about the people they don't know, and they cower and slink about. When you peek into their kennels, you see this.
Cats can't stay hidden in their kennels at the shelter. Their cages need cleanings, and the cats need exams and shots. A frightened cat with claws can scratch when cornered, and that scratch could buy the cat time. There are no real consequences for a cat that scratches, and typically, shelter staff gives an upset cat like this some time and space before the issue is readdressed.
But a declawed cat can't scratch. Often, these cats go from hiding to out-and-out biting, and that is a disastrous choice for a cat. Every cat bite has to be reported to the state health department, and a cat that bites often enough can be considered a public health issue. A biting cat could lose her life due to that behavior.
This isn't a myth, people. It's a fact, and it's something that happens every single day in shelters all across the country.
Cats come into the shelters because they don't use cat litter, due to the pain it causes their deformed toes. And when they're in the shelter, they bite their caretakers.
The real myth here is that declawing a cat can save its life. In my experience, the opposite is true.
Now, I'm going out on a limb to publish this, as the last time I talked declawing, I got a nice little death threat as a comment. I HATE being controversial.
But we all need to start talking about the problems we're seeing in our cats that are declawed. We need to share their stories. We need to voice their pain. That's the only way we can combat the idea that declaw pain is a myth.
So who's with me? You? If so, check out the article that spurred this rant right here. Dive into the comments, and let's start fighting!
And thanks to all of you for reading to the end of my rant. I appreciate you!