Medical drawing of cat de-clawing (The Daily Beast)
It’s hard to go overboard protesting one of the most common forms of animal abuse – the declawing of cats – but The Daily Beast came close to doing that today in an article that ran to more than 3,000 words.
The long and short of the issue is this: Many people opt to have their cat(s) declawed in the interest of preventing cat-scratching on furniture or other objects. Veterinarians, who make a lot of money from performing this kind of mutating surgery – and declawing is nothing less than that – defend the practice “as a necessary evil to protect public health and [to] keep finicky pet owners from discarding ‘problematic’ cats to shelters where they might be euthanized,” as The Beast put it.
I can’t imagine where they or anyone else sees “public health” coming into this picture. That is a totally crazy stretch like something from the playbook of one of the zanies running for U.S. president this year.
Think of a cat’s claws as extensions of its ‘fingers’ and ‘toes’ – the nail portion. Declawing involves moving back upstream, as it were, and amputating that section all the way back to the finger or toe’s first joint.
Ordinarily done with the aid of a local anesthetic, the procedure itself may not be painful to the cat, but the aftereffects most certainly are: Sort of the equivalent of you having the first joint of your toes cut off and then having to walk, supposedly normally, for the rest of your life.
(Like people, cats use their toes as navigational aids. When those aids are impaired, or destroyed, so is the ability to navigate the way evolution prepared one’s body to.)
People who choose to have cats’ claws removed think they have a ‘right’ to have that done as ‘owners’ of the animal. First off, no one owns a cat, or any other domestic animal. You can elect to be a cat’s surrogate parent — its caretaker, its protector, and the source of its food and other necessities – including, hopefully, a comfortable place to sleep. Not that cats are particularly prone to sleep exclusively, or even primarily, in ‘designated’ places! If you’ve shared your home with a cat, you know that they tend to do pretty much what they want to, on their own schedule.
Usually: Of the three cats resident in this house right now, two readily respond to curled-hand ‘come’ signals, tend at times to be almost too constant companions – as when they insist, for example, on sharing the pillow supposedly dedicated to being my head-space in the bed my wife and I share (with those same two cats!) – and when one of the two pretty much insists on lap-sharing with me during evening TV-watching hours. The second of those two has a Pavlov’s dog-like reaction whenever a can opener cracks the lid of a tuna fish can: She comes running from wherever in the house she is, anxiously awaiting the depositing on the floor of a saucer filled with the water from that container!
The companion of those two, a small Russian Blue, literally begs, amazingly often. for whatever ‘daddy’ is getting ready to cook – and this is not a ‘trick’ she was taught by example: By having been given bits or bites either while people food is being prepared or when it’s being eaten!
Somehow, in the magical way cats and humans sometimes communicate, we’ve convinced them that, since they are loath to having their nails trimmed – so they won’t get caught in material, or whatever – we are accepting of them performing nail-shortening rituals on one piece of furniture: A simple pine storage cabinet worth its weight in, well, pine boards, and little more. One corner has been ripped to shreds by periodic cat attacks, but that’s the only item they touch. In part because we, as long-time cat ‘parents’, know how to dissuade them from scratching elsewhere: There are a number of sprays that have a greater or lesser effect, and one can always cover ‘likely to be attacked’ surfaces with, say, a two-sided tape a scratching cat is likely to ‘stick’ to. They learn fairly quickly that such surfaces are to be avoided – or to use a provided cat-scratching post or pad! There are many commercial versions of those available, and they often work well. Often, but not always without a little ‘incentivizing”: Adding a scent, via a spray or a powder, that a cat is likely to like. (Ask your vet, or a pet store. The former’s a better option.)
I once housed a declawed cat – one that had, indeed, been put in a shelter after the procedure left it crazed. (That’s not uncommon: The craziness, I mean. The ongoing pain, the feeling of being defenseless – those things act on a cat’s psyche, and can damage it forever.) Fortunately, in the case of the one I had, a particular affinity I have for cats helped us bring her around, make her re-adoptable, and she eventually was placed in a wonderful ‘forever home’.
(Re. my affinity for, and ability to communicate, with cats: I once did a home inspection of for a family that intended to do a long-distance adoption of a rescue cat, and the rescue organization insisted – as is fairly common – that the family’s ‘suitability’ and the environment the cat would share with them needed to be checked out. The man of the house showed me around, pointing out several cats as we went from room to room. A few minutes later, we went onto an enclosed porch, where we sat for a chat. There was a table behind me. One of the cats from the living room jumped onto the table then onto my shoulder. The homeowner’s jaw dropped: “He’s never that friendly with strangers,” he declared.” “Well,” I responded, “I was talking with him with my eyes in the other room!”
(Slow blinks can tell a cat you are friendly, and mean them no harm. If they respond positively to such a greeting, as that one did, you’re already made a friend!
(There are a number of other things a person can do to gain a cat’s trust – things rescuers of feral (wild) cats often do to help socialize those creatures and, hopefully, prepare them for being adopted. I think the most difficult one I ever had was Samantha, a dilute tortoiseshell. Like calicoes, tortoiseshell cats tend to have ‘difficult’ personalities. Samantha certainly did.
I can’t remember the not-so-nice environment she was in when I used a trap to rescue her. I put her in my basement, which was finished, and accommodating for a cat – but it had an ‘open’ ceiling, with joists a cat could crawl behind to hide.
(Samantha hid, ninety percent of the time, for nearly 18 months. I would sit on a chair near where I knew she was and talk softly to her for stretches of 15 minutes or more, several times a day. She’d come down when there was no person in the basement and partake of the food and drink left for her – and use the litter box.
(Eventually, she became more trusting, and didn’t immediately disappear when I or someone else entered ‘her’ space – the basement. Then, over a period of months, she let me touch her, then pet her; then she responded as cats tend to: with a purr.
(Fully a year and a half after I rescued her, Samantha was free to roam the entire house, and interact with the other cats and a couple of dogs. She got along well with the pets, and, in time, with my wife and I. Then, in what seemed like no time, she made it clear she really, really trusted me – by climbing on me while I was sprawled on a couch watching TV! That was a highlight of the 3.5 years I spent rescuing, caring for and adopting out cats!)
I encourage you to read the entire Daily Beast piece. It covers ground I haven’t here, and it includes some pretty gruesome photos (one of which I’m borrowing) to make the point.
One strong thrust of their piece is the fact that there are people and organizations across the country pushing for legislation to ban cat declawing. Try this: Google ‘cat declawing+[your state]’ (without the brackets. That, and contact state-level legislators, urging them to pursue bans. If you choose the latter route, do some homework first: The more information you provide your legislators, the more likely they are to reach out to pursue this cause.
It is a good, and humane, one!