Tuesday, March 17, 2015

About the Paw

     I recently saw a video, ( http://pawprojectmovie.com/ which is on Netflix) that opened my eyes to a procedure that many people don't think much about. In America, many cats are declawed routinely to protect themselves and their children from cat scratches, as well as keeping their furniture intact. Some veterinarians include declaw in their kitten wellness packages. The documentary states that 22 million cats in America are declawed.

     I have never actually declawed any of my cats, but I am aware of pet lovers who have had this procedure done. I am pretty sure they love their cats and they would not have intentionally caused their cat pain. But unfortunately, the declaw surgery often causes crippling pain. Since I became aware of this, I noticed some of my client's cats walk very tentative on their feet. I touched the pads on these cat's feet and they were definitely hurting. I hadn't noticed it before or thought it was just arthritis.

     Declawing a cat requires not only removing the claw, but also the bone from which the claw grows. This is done by cutting the bone at the first joint, similar to cutting off your finger at the first joint from your nail. Some vets use a clipper that cuts into the bone with a sharp edge. Other vets use a laser which essentially does the same thing. The bone of the joint doesn't cut perfectly so pieces of bone are left. These pieces are enough to hurt like walking on a pebble in your shoe. Even worse,  from the remaining bone fragment, a claw may start to grow under the skin.

     Why would veterinarians do this is if they know the surgery could cause so much pain? Many say they attempt to dissuade their client from having the procedure done, but they are afraid that the client may abandon the animal if they don't perform the procedure. I would think if the client is that unattached to the cat, it would be better to suggest finding the pet a new home. Some vets and vet techs who have witnessed the pain and blood associated with the procedure, have stopped offering it.

     In England, the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 prohibits procedures that interfere with sensitive tissues and bone structure of any animal. Declawing was never routinely done in the UK because it was considered animal cruelty.  There are at least 37 countries that have made the procedure illegal.  In California, nine cities have banned declawing on the grounds that it is animal cruelty: West Hollywood, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Berkeley, Burbank, and Culver City.  California Gov.  Jerry Brown signed SB 1229 into law in 2012 which prohibits landlords from requiring tenants to declaw their cats or devocalize their dogs.  New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal is currently working on a bill to ban cat declawing across the state of New York.

     Claws are actually an important part of a cat's life. Claws are used for running, jumping, balancing, gripping, climbing and communicating.  Sure, a cat will adjust to any handicap, just like a human learns other skills to deal with the loss of a limb, but is that a good enough reason to cause permanent damage to the animals paws? When walking, cats place their weight on their toes, so if they have pain there, they will shift their weight to the back, or the wrists of their paws. This can produce arthritis or other issues by creating an abnormal body posture. The American Veterinary Medical Association admits in their journal that a Cornell Feline Health Center Study found 33% of cats that were declawed develop at least one behavioral change, such as biting or urinating outside the litter box. Since the claws are the cat's main form of defense, by losing them, the cat would obviously resort to defend itself by biting.  Too many declawed cats demonstrating these unwanted behaviors are surrendered to shelters where they are euthanized.

     There are so many good alternatives to keep your cat from destroying the house. Training your cat to use a scratching post is my favorite method. Some people say that it's not possible to train a cat, but I have easily trained all 5 of my current and previous cats.  Scratching posts that are at least 3 feet tall and are wrapped with sisal, a rope-like material, work the best. Secure the post so that is does not easily tip over. When my cat scratches the rug or the furniture, I will give the cat a firm "no," pick the cat up quickly and set it in front of the scratching post. Then, changing my voice to soft and loving, I praise the cat as I drag its paws down the post. Whenever the cat uses the scratching post on its own, I praise the cat with love and treats. It doesn't take long if you are consistent in your training.

     If training isn't your strong suit, routinely clipping the cat's claws will help.  I recommend  a product called Soft Paws, invented by a British veterinarian.  The nail caps go over the actual claw and come in a dazzling array of colors. I must admit, I just don't have the time to constantly groom my cat's claws, nor do I enjoy the fight. If you are like me, find a vet or vet tech who can apply them for you.

     For those who are being scratched by their cat, learn the proper way to play and pick up your cat. Some cats are not as fond of cuddling as other cats. Respect your cat's boundaries. Young children need supervision so that they too learn the right way to interact with their pet. Never engage in aggressive play that teaches your cat that scratching and biting are acceptable.

     If you have declawed a cat in the past, my intent is not to shame you or make you feel bad. The important thing is to learn and improve the lives of our dear pets. Watch the documentory, "The Paw Project" and let's educate our fellow pet lovers about this cruel procedure.

     All photos are copyright protected 2015 Progressive Portraits.

Sources: http://pictures-of-cats.org/Why-is-Declawing-Illegal-in-the-UK.html

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