Hey - Those Are My TOES!
A Companion Animal Care Article from All-Creatures.org

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Stay Pet Advocacy

It happens all too often. You take your cat in to be spayed or neutered, and the vet asks you if you would like to have your cat declawed at the same time, with the same tone as “Would you like fries with that?” “What does this entail?” you ask. The vet informs you that the “procedure” is the removal of the nail and the nail bed – and the vet makes it sound basically routine. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Don’t be fooled. This is not a procedure. It is surgery. And as so many articles point out – this is not a manicure. It is surgical amputation. And cat guardians learn all too quickly that what was just done to their sweet pet was not a simple procedure involving the cat’s claws – they just had their pet’s toes amputated, as the following account attests:

“I was sick for months after learning on the internet what I had done to Trent! I apologized to him every day for at least 6 months. Actually the regret came much sooner than that. In the days following bringing him home his paws hurt so badly that he wouldn't walk anywhere, so being the doting Mommy, I carried him. We were given no pain management medicine; in fact the vet never even mentioned the amount of pain he would be in after the surgery. Each morning and when he woke up from naps I would carry him from his cave-type bed to his litterbox, where he would go to the bathroom despite his obvious pain, then I’d carry him to his food and water to let him eat and drink, then to the bed where I would pet him and love him and he would try to get comfortable with drumsticks for front legs and paws. He shook his paws a lot, whether trying to shake off the bandages or shake off the pain, I’m not sure. He slept most of the days and nights, and when he woke up he would quietly meow to let me know he was awake and needed to use the litterbox, or needed comforting.

“Then his paws got infected and we literally almost lost him. He was so very dehydrated, and wouldn't move on his own to drink or eat. We were forced to make a midnight trip to the emergency vet two days after Trent came home (and with the money that cost on top of the surgery itself, the vet’s office made a good profit from us). Of course, you have to realize, this was all happening the week that my mother passed away. Trent was neutered/declawed and brought home on Thursday, Mom passed away on Sunday night/Monday morning. I still believe the only reason that he is still with us is because I was home on Tuesday making a memorial for Mom, and at least every hour I brought him out of his hiding spot to love on him and to bring him to the food and water he desperately needed. After that day he started getting better.

“But I know NOW that for the rest of his life he is at risk for arthritis, back problems, joint problems, and foot problems for which he would not be at risk if his toes were not amputated. And this is all because of MY decision, even though I feel like I was tricked into it. Declawing is NOT just removing the nail and nail bed, and that is the exact explanation the vet gave me when I asked what all is involved in declawing. You just don't know how horrible it makes me feel, every time I see Trent struggle to jump all the way to the top of the cat tree while Ophelia just scales it, every time he snuggles me and I see and feel that a large part of his paws are missing. It just makes me want to cry.

“That is why I'm so big on the vets being HONEST, and legally being held accountable to tell the truth about declawing. They lied to me and Trent paid for it with his toes. They made it sound like it was standard procedure to do when you bring them in for spay/neuter. They put me on the spot when we dropped him off, I had no chance to research it, and I trusted them when they gave me the explanation of what it involved. But they LIED to get more money out of me. And apparently a lot of vets do the same thing.”

Did the vet mention that a cat, when awake, spends about 1/3 of its time grooming itself? That the claws play an important role in this function, and that grooming is the way a cat helps to control its body temperature, its scent signals, skin irritations, and more? (See “Why Claws Are Important to Cats,” by HDW Enterprises and Foothill Felines Bengals and other links, below).

Did the vet mention that the cat requires its claws for balance, to jump, to climb, and that “declawing” your cat then makes your cat susceptible to back problems, arthritis, joint problems and other foot problems that he would not otherwise face – because declawing results in a gradual weakening of the back, shoulder and leg muscles? Did the vet mention that cats walk on their toes, not the pads of their feet, and declawing forces them to walk in an unnatural way?

Did the vet mention that many declawed cats resort to biting as an alternative method of defense? That some declawed cats become very aggressive because their primary defense is taken away? That many declawed cats stop using the litterbox because it is so painful?

No. Unfortunately, too many vets do not tell us these things before we have our cats declawed. And many caring but uninformed cat guardians agree to declawing on the advice of the medical professional they should be able to trust. We applaud those vets who do tell the truth and inform their clients fully about this “procedure.”

And here is what else the vet didn’t tell you:

“A 1994 study by the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine found that of 163 cats who were declawed, 50 percent had one or more complications immediately after surgery, such as pain, hemorrhage, lameness, swelling, and non-weight bearing. Of the 121 cats whose progress was followed after surgery, 20 percent had continued complications, such as infection, regrowth, bone protrusion into the pad of the paw and prolonged intermittent lameness and palmagrade stance (abnormal standing posture).

”Seventy percent (70%) of cats turned into pounds and shelters for behavioral problems are declawed cats.” (“Clawed for Life,” ©1997-2003 by www.sniksnak.com - link to article below in our Articles and Links section).

The “declawing” of a cat is toe amputation, and it is painful and traumatic for both cat and owner. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales have all banned declawing except in the case of medical necessity. It is illegal in these countries. Why? Because these countries have determined that “declawing” is inhumane and an unnecessary mutilation. “Declawing” makes us think that we are removing our cats’ claws, which most of us think of as simply a form of toenail. This is not the case!!!!! When we declaw, we are amputating our cats’ toes and putting him at risk for many potential immediate and future problems.

Scratching is not a behavior problem. It is a natural function of a cat, and as cat owners/guardians, we must address their need to scratch. There are MANY alternatives to declawing. In this section of Stray Pet Advocacy, we include links to educational resources on declawing as well as educational resources on the alternatives to declawing.

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