The Crime Against Felines
Most modern families and individuals consider their companion animals in the home to be part of the family; they are bound to us by the love and devotion that we would have for a fellow human family member and would never consider doing anything that would cause them any amount of pain or suffering.
Some people, however, consider a feline animal companion to be nothing more than personal property, on the same level as a car or a piece of furniture. There are those who place their cat on an even lower level of possession than a couch. And because the cat has now descended below the level of furniture, priorities about care become skewed and eventually a line gets crossed.
Cats are a unique species. From the King of the Jungle down to the tiniest Munchkin, the feline family has a few characteristics that are common all the way down the line: they all have keen senses of sight and smell, they all walk on their toes, they all have hairy barbs on their tongues and so on. One physical attribute that is common in ALL felines are their retractable claws.
A feline’s claw system has evolved as a very intricate and important part of the cat’s locomotive movement, as well as its balance, motor skills and its ability to hunt, climb and (probably most importantly) to defend itself. The claws stay retracted most of the time, being extended for climbing, playing, stretching and hunting prey. Part of the maintenance of claws is stretching them on a surface that can help them shed old sheaths and keep them sharp.
Somewhere on the timeline of bringing kitty into the home, human caretakers found out quickly that this natural urge to stretch and sharpen claws could be destructive to indoor surfaces, especially on couches, love seats, recliners, carpeting and curtains, among other places. Rather than providing the proper tools and surfaces inside the home to train their feline housemates to use these to satisfy their natural scratching inclinations, the human caretakers concluded that the only way to keep the home intact and avoid these confrontations, was the physical removal of the cats’ claws as the effective solution.
Mutilation by any other name…
This is where the human element enters, and it’s not humane at all.
Veterinarians call this procedure “onychectomy,” but in reality, it’s a phalangectomy procedure. The first term means “claw removal;” the truth of the matter is the correct procedure is an amputation. The reason that this distinction is important is because there is no way to correctly keep a cat’s claws from growing back without actually cutting through the bone, tendons and muscles just below the equivalent of your first finger joint on your hand on every finger. This is because the mechanism that creates the claw in the first place is located in the knuckle area itself within the bone.
Before we go further, we want to address the moral reasoning behind this gruesome procedure.
When a veterinarian graduates from medical school, they take an oath, similar to what a human medical doctors does. That oath goes as follows:
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence. [Emphasis added]
This oath is commonly known as the “do no harm” oath.
This RARELY NECESSARY medical procedure costs an average between $100-250, dependent on the vet. The disturbing issue is that this is done thousands of times a year. As a matter of statistics, is it estimated that veterinarians have declawed nearly 25% of all domesticated cats in the United States! This represents a significant source of revenue for a veterinary clinic. So why do veterinarians continue this practice (especially when, in most places outside of the United States, this procedure is illegal outside of the bounds of necessity when it is done to relieve suffering from injury and/or deformity)?
Declawing is a big source of revenue for clinics in the USA and many are unwilling to turn that money away simply to support a “moral obligation” to “do no harm.” Typically the only reason for doing this procedure is infection of the claw follicle, injury to the paw or toes, infection or a deformity that would cause undue pain to the cat. Otherwise, this operation is not required; it becomes a “cosmetic” procedure, which doesn’t reside within the calling of veterinary medicine.
The reason this procedure is done so often is out of shear vanity of the cat’s caretaker. They have done little (if anything) to provide their cat with the proper tools necessary to meet the feline’s natural urge to stretch, scratch and sharpen their claws. With proper care and attention, a cat can be trained to use scratching posts and other assorted cat furniture designed to satisfy this natural instinct in the home. The lack of these things in the home will compel a cat to look for a solution just to simply do what comes naturally.
The Unintended Consequences…
Declawing a cat is plain and simple MUTILATION! This is not an acceptable alternative to training. And this goes against the very mantra that the veterinarian society mandates in its own oath. It is an elective vanity surgery for the benefit of the caretaker ONLY. The cat becomes deformed and defenseless and it’s life is altered until the day it dies.
We have had numerous discussions and arguments on social media with people who are beyond “pleased” at the results, arguing that their feline companion has no issues, no complications and no adverse side effects. They are tickled pink that their furniture has been spared, their carpeting stays intact and they no longer need worry about being scratched. Well, even mutilated humans will find ways around a disability, although life will be more complicated and difficult for them in the future.
Declawing causes many unintended consequences, including litter box avoidance, the inability to jump and climb, as well as neurological issues. And believe it or not, declawing can cause severe depression and separation anxiety in a cat. If a declawed cat somehow manages to escape the safety of its human counterpart’s home, they have no defense mechanism available to them except for their teeth.
Several studies have confirmed that other complications from declaw surgery are prevalent:
- Declaw surgery exposes cats to the risks of general anesthesia and complications of the surgical procedure, which include bleeding, infection, lameness, nerve damage, gangrene, extensive tissue damage, and death.
- A report published in the January 1, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) by Yeon, et al., states that 33% of cats suffer at least one behavioral problem after declaw or tendonectomy surgery.
- Jankowski, in JAVMA (August 1, 1998), reports that acute complications “develop in up to one-half of onychectomized (declawed) cats. Long term complications of the procedure (are) reported for about one-fifth (20%) of onychectomized cats.”
- Martinez, in Veterinary Medicine (June 1993), reports 11% lameness, 17% wound breakdown, and 10% nail re-growth post-operatively in cats having declaw surgery.
[Emphasis added: http://www.pawproject.org/faqs/]
The Paw Project
A grass roots effort is underway in the USA that is working tirelessly to educate the public and the veterinary establishment of the senselessness of this surgery. The Paw Project, founded by Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, has successfully convinced lawmakers of many cities around the country to ban this procedure for the same reasons they are banned in many other parts of the world. She has had to stand up against her own profession to convince lawmakers that this procedure is an elective procedure that does little more than appease the vanity of the cat’s owner and that in the end, the cat is mutilated and physically altered irreversibly, with unfortunate consequences.
The unbelievable part is that the major veterinary associations continue to condone and encourage this procedure, attempting to mask the ethical contradictions by citing progress in veterinary medical breakthroughs such as better anesthesia or laser-equipped scalpels that allegedly lessen the recovery time of surgery. They have utilized political lobbyists to convince lawmakers that bans on declaw surgery somehow limits a veterinarian’s (and the cat owner’s) ability to make smart medical decisions in the best interest of the cat.
Attorneys for these big veterinary associations also try to convince legislators that declaw surgery lessens the number of cat being abandoned to shelters as well as the number of euthanasias performed each year. That line of logic is misleading and has no empirical data to support it. In fact, true numbers indicate that a large majority of surrendered cats in shelters are already declawed and the reasons for the surrender is that declaw surgery often times created more problems for the owners than keeping their claws intact ever would.
The Paw Project has produced a wonderful documentary that goes into great detail about this procedure, including the strides made and the setbacks suffered in attempting to outlaw this practice outside of the necessity of the health, welfare and safety of the cat only. You can view this film online here:
© 2013 The Paw Project, Dir.: Jennifer Conrad, Prod.: Jennifer Conrad, James Jensvold
For more information about this initiative, please visit http://pawproject.org
- Our Buyers’ Agreement/Adoption Contract expressly forbids the declawing of ANY AURYN Maine Coon Cat or Kitten and we will enforce our contract for the safety and welfare of our cats to the end of their lives.