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The Vegan Grandmother Says, ‘Learn From My Mistake—Do Not Declaw Your Cat’

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The Vegan Grandmother Says, 'Learn From My Mistake—Do Not Declaw Your Cat' by Michelle Rivera

Wanna start a fight? Mention the word “declawing” in a room full of cat lovers and step back. Step way back.

In order to discuss declawing, we need to understand what it is and, therefore, what it is not. Declawing, as the name may imply, is not the cutting off of claws. It does not mean that they simply take a cutting instrument and trim the nails. Declawing is a clean-sounding and deceptive word for a complicated operation, which, if performed on humans, would be called an amputation of the phalanx, something that would never, ever be done in the absence of severe infection, cancer, or major trauma.

Claws are not like fingernails, which sort of lie on top of and slightly imbedded into the nail bed. Cats’ claws are attached to the distal (last) bone of the toe. When they remove the claw, veterinary surgeons must also remove the bone, tendon, ligaments, nerve, and joint capsule. It is far from a simple operation and can have severe side effects that present several serious risks. Aside from the excruciating pain and potential for infection, complications can also include hemorrhage, nerve damage, bone chipping, abscesses, and possible re-growth of a mutated claw, necessitating more surgery (and more pain, more trauma, and so on). Declawing is so cruel, in fact, that it has actually been made illegal in some countries, and for obvious good reason!

So, now that we have a clear idea of what it is, let’s look at some of the reasons why people insist on doing it to their cats. A lot of people see it as a matter of course, a lot like a circumcision. They aren’t informed about the procedure and don’t even know to question it. They believe that all cats should be declawed and that it is just “normal,” and that is often a result of their veterinarian’s failure to provide simple education. Others try to rationalize the idea: “The cat will scratch the new baby” or “The cat will scratch the furniture.”

I will admit that I am not without blemish here. When I was first married, I had a puppy and an older cat. Untrained as I was in introducing animals to each other, I figured they would work it out together. Well, I was wrong. The cat took a swing at the puppy and blinded the puppy in one eye. I have never forgotten that lesson. So when the time came again to introduce a new cat to a household that already had a dog, I decided to declaw the cat. Now this may bring up a whole new debate revolving around which animal has the bigger right here: the cat’s right to his claws or the dog’s right to healthy eyes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are other ways of protecting the dog’s eyes, the baby’s skin, or the new couch that do not involve mutilating your cat.

Trimming cats’ nails is a piece of cake. Most cats will submit to this indignity after they figure out that it doesn’t take long, it doesn’t hurt, and they get a treat during the process and afterward!

Cats need their claws for a variety of reasons that go far, far beyond simple protection. The reasons have to do with their psychological, emotional, and physical well-being, and to declaw your cat is to take away their valuable state of homeostasis, and it can never be returned.

As a grandmother, I am always very sensitive to the lessons that I am inadvertently teaching my grandchildren. Little children are always on the lookout for new things to learn. They soak up their environments like little sponges, and that is why we should always be very careful about the things we say and do around them. That Grandma has a cat who is declawed is not all right. That Grandma’s kitty cannot defend himself against curious, probing toddler fingers is not all right.

If you absolutely can’t handle trimming Felix’s nails, look into getting Felix “outfitted” with Soft Paws,  a protective, pliable vinyl sheath that is applied over the claws and stays in place for approximately six weeks. You can get them clear or in a variety of colors. It is not ideal because it is not natural, but it does not hurt the cat and is very effective. It can be done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech. Some brave, skilled cat guardians can apply them themselves, with some initial instruction.

There’s not a day that goes by that I am not sorry for what I did to “Mommy’s Mikey,” and if I could undo it, I would. But it’s permanent, and so I have learned from my mistake.

And so here I am, risking humiliation writing about my mistake with the hope that others may learn from it and that cats will be spared from this needless, hideously painful and cruel procedure.

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    Jen-X says...

    May 22nd, 2009, 3:17 pm

    Education is the key here. Most people have no idea what declawing actually is, so it’s good to be informed. I talked a woman out of declawing her kitten by explaining the procedure and offering alternatives. I ran into her a year later and she thanked me for the information. And her kitty is still “intact”!

    Linda says...

    May 22nd, 2009, 3:24 pm

    I am one who had their cat declawed also one time. I lived in an apartment and Emily (cat) tore up a big patch of carpet. I had to pay the bill and did not want to again. The vet explained a little about it to me, but nothing like this article. I can’t say Emily was any different after the operation. She was sore a couple days but it didn’t hurt her personality. I have to remember Soft Paws. That might be the ticket.

    Tammy says...

    May 23rd, 2009, 12:46 am

    I am so sorry to say that 18 years ago I had my first cat declawed. I had NO clue that it involved any sort of surgery like that. She passed away this christmas eve and I just feel so guilty knowing that I may have caused her suffering that I didn’t notice.

    I agree tho that education is definitely key. I was a vegetarian only then, because I thought that dairy/eggs didn’t hurt animals, until the internet came along. My first day ever online, I found peta’s site and became a vegan from that moment on. So, like Jen said, education is everything.

    I now take every opportunity to inform EVERYone (politely) about the facts concerning industries who abuse/murder animals. So far, I’m actually shocked at how many people I have helped stop supporting this torture. Friends of theirs say they have been brainwashed by me, but they know the truth! They have just learned about things that our society tries to brush under the rug. I mean really, how can you know the truth and stay involved?

    Don’t be discouraged!!! EDUCATE every chance you get!!!

    Gary says...

    May 23rd, 2009, 9:31 am

    Good Post…!
    We have all made mistakes in our relationships with our Animal companions.
    The de-clawing of a Cat to save household fabrics is like amputating the fingers of a child to save the good dishes, and it is wrong, cruel and immoral.
    People who do this need to stick to 2 breeds of Cat:
    1) Fisher-Price
    and…
    2) Disney
    Thank You for reading, and…
    GodSpeed…!
    Gary
    in Tampa

    Barbara says...

    May 23rd, 2009, 11:32 am

    http://www.petitionthem.com/default.asp?sect=detail&pet=4312
    http://clawsforever.ning.com/

    Just don’t declaw that cat, cats need their toes for the purpose of living their lives to the full and no-one should deprive them of that right.

    Lisa B. says...

    May 23rd, 2009, 3:52 pm

    I agree that education and information is the key. All my life my family have had cats for pets and did have them declawed (not really thinking or knowing any better). I really do cringe at what our beloved kitties were put through. As of now we have our one cat that we refused to have declawed because of information that we received about the procedure. I won’t say that she doesn’t scratch (that’s natural for all kitties) but with a little coaching & training & a lot of patience, it’s very rare for her to scratch anything in the home except for carpeting, but oh well! I just wish that we’d known the truth about declawing much sooner.

    Deneen says...

    May 24th, 2009, 7:37 am

    I’m glad to learn about this declawing procedure. My oldest and youngest daughter loves kittens and cats to no end. I have suggested to my oldest daughter who have a cat to get her declawed. Praise God she has not got around to doing it, now I will advise her not to and inform her about the cruel procedures. She would be crushed to know she put her beloved cat “Raja” through such pain. Thanks for the lesson in declawing. It’s a shame that vet’s would perform this surgery on cats without telling the pet owner all that’s involved. Money is truly a factor here. Again, a shame.

    Jared C. Hester says...

    May 24th, 2009, 3:34 pm

    My dad declawed our cats so that they wouldn’t scratch his hard wood floors. It was so horrible, and you could tell that it was very traumatic to them. It was the first time I ever saw a cat actually cry. I think he regretted it, though. I know that I would never do something like that to a companion.

    Pamela says...

    May 26th, 2009, 10:01 pm

    Funny post, Gary, and absolutely right, no de-clawing, ever! I never had a piece of furniture or carpet or any “thing” that was more precious than a living, beautiful cat. And, horribly enough, the hardest learned lessons are the ones where we realize that we were wrong, wrong, wrong, we can’t go back and undo the damage, and we didn’t suffer the consequences (you could live with that), we hurt the one we love. The only way to get past it is to try to help and educate so that it doesn’t happen again.

    Pamela says...

    May 26th, 2009, 10:16 pm

    Barbara, thank you for the petition site. I signed and sent then sent it to friends.

    dian m. holbrook says...

    May 27th, 2009, 7:02 pm

    i hate to say that until a few years ago, i was misinformed as well. i was never told about what declawing actually was, but something happened to make me swear off of it forever. as a matter of course, i always got my cats declawed. never noticed any lingering ill effects. (or didn’t i want to see them?) a few years back i adopted a stray from a friends porch. she was about 6 months old and after trying to find a lost owner without any luck, i whisked her off to the vet. i had a shelter kitty at home and didn’t want to infect him with anything she might have. (he was declawed when i adopted him.) she was to be spayed, given her shots and declawed. when she came home, i was horrified. she seemed to be in such severe pain and she walked around on her “elbows” for days. i vowed then and there never to declaw a cat again. i adopted another tiny kitten later that same summer. he is a little stinker and he claws everything i own, but i’ve decided no inanimate object is worth what i did to my sweet little girl. even when he tries to jump over me while i’m asleep on the couch and doesn’t quite clear my head and i have to go to work the next day with a scratch down my face, i don’t care. i usually use the opportunity to let everyone in earshot know why he isn’t declawed. furniture is replaceable!!!!!

    Barbara says...

    June 5th, 2009, 11:40 am

    Thanks to everyone who signed our petition (especially Pamela for sending it on) there are now 1426 signatures but of course we still need many more before submitting it to the AVMA along with true stories and comments such as those that have been made here.
    http://www.petitionthem.com/default.asp?sect=detail&pet=4312

    To those people who declawed their cats and then learned the full horror, don’t beat yourself up too much what’s done is done, the way forward is to educate and save other cats from the same fate.

    Mrs. Lois Koch says...

    June 6th, 2009, 1:15 am

    Hello –

    I know I would feel the same way about declawing as you. Please, don’t forget that you did not know all about it — that you have the courage to tell us all about what it is. I am sure cat owners all over thank you for letting them know what you went through and your cat went through.

    Linda L says...

    June 8th, 2009, 11:28 am

    Okay…I’m going to throw a bomb into the room, but I think there’s a point to be made.

    I do think there are times declawing a cat is justified. Example: my elderly mother adopted a cat who clawed her without provocation, even as she slept. Her frail, thin skin was torn to shreds, and at times looked to be infected. The decision to declaw this particular cat had nothing whatsoever to do with superficial nuisances due to scratching of furniture, walls, etc.

    So, in my mind, if this difficult to place cat was to keep its home, declawing was a necessity. And, truly, there may be other circumstances where a cat’s life depends on declawing. And what is better: A declawed cat with a good home, or yet another shelter cat/stray with claws?

    As a matter of follow-up, this still-ornery cat is now almost 11 years-old and has a home with me after my mother died four years ago. It is exclusively an indoor cat, as is my other cat who has not been declawed. So, please people…..don’t think that declawing is ALWAYS done for superficial reasons by cruel, self-centered people who are clueless about pets.

    Valerie S. says...

    January 22nd, 2011, 11:35 pm

    Linda L. Please, if something like that happens again, go to Soft Paws or just trim the cat’s nails so they don’t scratch instead of amputating their toes.

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