The Nightmare of the “D” Word

My sweet Captain, aka Cappy Mills, came to us 4-paw declawed. ALL FOUR PAWS. We still cannot fathom a reason. He was living outside when a brave member of a veterinarian team in Muncie (Chirp Chirp!) rescued him. A friend of mine, who worked at this clinic, called me and said I know you want a cat and I have the perfect one. Perfect could not be more accurate. This cat makes cat-haters feel okay about cats and cat-lovers love them more. Trust me, Cappy Mills lives a life of bliss now and those non-claw paws are not stopping him from being an A+ kitty-cat.

Declawing. Repeat that word and just ponder how it sounds like it might feel.

Just envision for a moment you are the one they are taking to the doctor to get “declawed.”

I am not judging you. Heck, my family and I had a cat we had declawed in her early life several years ago before we knew the true affliction and torture behind the “d” word. And don’t get me wrong on this one; there are cases, in my opinion, that this procedure is necessary. Say you have tried all other solutions to keeping your furry friend around but your child or you, yourself, are extremely immunocompromised and a simple scratch could be detrimental to your health. Plus, you cannot find a reliable, trustworthy home so that furry friend you love so dearly will quickly be placed back in a shelter. I get that. The cat needs a home and you love that cat. Maybe, then and pretty much only then, is declawing sort of ok.

BUT knowing what I know now, please allow me to reveal to you some of the facts about declawing.

Declawing is, frankly, the amputation of the last digital BONE on every toe. Did you read that sentence carefully? It is physically asking a veterinarian to cut off your cat’s toes! OUCH! Can you imagine that?

Cats have to retrain themselves to walk. Excuse me, come again? Yes, your 9 year-old cat who seemed to not be a problem until you decided you wanted a new couch, has to learn how to walk AGAIN.

They shall now be permanently indoors or in a yard they cannot escape from because unequivocally, your precious kitty can no longer protect himself from harm in the wild or even in your backyard.

It is a bone-removing surgery so the risks associated may include, but are not limited to, excessive bleeding or trouble during anesthesia (please at least opt-in for the pre-anesthetic bloodwork on this one).

If the bone is not removed in its entirety, the nails can eventually grow back. This is so extremely painful. It is probably equivalent to a unicorn losing its horn and then the horn mysteriously pushing back through the skin years later. (At least I would imagine. I haven’t really met any unicorns. But I will keep you posted. Enjoy this picture of Unicorn Cappy as you wait.)

Screenshot (302)

Most felines do not wake up from this procedure a positively changed kitty. It is confusing and strange to them. How could it not be?
I credit the ASPCA for their wisdom on this topic:

“The ASPCA is strongly opposed to declawing cats for the convenience of their owners or to prevent damage to household property. The only circumstances in which the procedure should be considered are those in which all behavioral and environmental alternatives have been fully explored, have proven to be ineffective, and the cat is at grave risk of euthanasia.”

http://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-declawing-cats

I have been present for this monstrosity of a procedure, with a veterinarian who also entirely loathes performing declaws, and it truly is horrible. At the time of the declaw, I had already assisted with several tooth extractions, exploratory surgeries, spays and neuters, and more, and I still had to ask if another assistant could take over halfway through so I could catch my breath and not pass out atop the poor, soon-to-be toe-less, kitten. Disturbing.

I urge you to look at alternative options. They do exist! Talk to your veterinarian about what they recommend. Here are some examples that come from my personal experiences:

1. Scratching posts. Your easiest solution. Try this first! I have a very witty uncle who turned their seasoned furniture arms into scratching posts because sweet Jenkins loved to scratch the couch. Brilliant! Wish I had thought of that one myself!
2. Trimming your cats nails. This is actually easier than it sounds. I trim my Gandalf’s nails about once every 2 weeks. Treats are your friend. You don’t even need anything special. You can simply turn your own fingernail clippers to the side and trim the ends of the nails. Or if you feel uncomfortable, many veterinarians or grooming salons can also do this for you. Or call a friend who has experience in this field (cough, cough! I am always available to hang out with your cats).
Here is my “little one” getting his nails trimmed while his human dad feeds him treats in between toes:

20160720_181716

3. Some grooming salons also offer “soft nails.” These are similar to fake nails for humans and go over the kitty’s claws. The kitty can proceed to prick and scratch but the fake nail protects whatever they are scratching. These do have to be redone, similar to our nails, so probably not the best option for the extremely anxious vet-going cat. But still a solid alternative.

Ask your veterinarian for some more options. I am sure there are some new and improved substitutes I am not aware exist.

I will tell you what I was told the first day of college: Ask questions. Do not just believe the first thing you hear. There are other options and your veterinarian probably has many in his/her back pocket.

It has probably been over a week and a half since Gandalf’s nails were trimmed so I better end this blog here while nail trimming is fresh on my mind.
Thanks for reading! Blessings to you and your cat!

*The majority of information in this post comes from my own professional and personal experiences.

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