This week’s post comes from one of the women behind the scenes here at Dezi & Roo. Carrie has been working with us for a few years now, and she wanted to share with you a story about why she stopped declawing her cats.
When I first started working at Dezi & Roo with Dr. Bahr I knew she was staunchly anti-declawing. In fact, Dr. Bahr is proud to say she’s never declawed a cat in her entire veterinary career. And I agreed with her. I’ve never thought it was a good idea to declaw cats. It’s a major surgery. It’s an amputation of their toes. It’s wrong.
But I had a secret. And I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want her to know that we had declawed cats. And when I finally did tell her, I left out the fact that we were the ones who paid for the surgeries. That we were the ones who amputated our cats’ toes. I was ashamed. And I was afraid she’d judge me.
I was wrong. Not just about the declawing, but about being judged.
As cat owners, we’re often bombarded with feline allies who will loudly proclaim, “Never declaw your cats!” And I appreciate their passion, but if it hadn’t been for Dr. Bahr’s more gentle approach, with kind and loving support, we may never have stopped declawing our cats.
I had my first declawed cat when I was in my early twenties. My roommate had moved out and I was considering moving across the country to live with my older brother. He had three cats and told me both my cat and I were welcome, but she’d need to be declawed. So I did it. My vet supported me.
I ended up not moving across the country, but a couple years later, I got a second cat. And since my first was declawed, I thought, “Well, I’d better get him declawed also so she doesn’t get attacked.”
This went on and on. Each time we got a new cat, we’d say, “Well the others will get beat up. They won’t be able to defend themselves.” And we always had a vet who supported our decision.
I always knew cats were better off with their paws intact, but I didn’t know I could change. Instead of making me feel like a bad cat parent for my previous decisions, I saw from Dr. Bahr’s example that cats just need healthy outlets for scratching, and their claws will only serve the functions they were intended to: catching prey, playing, climbing, and stretching.
Without the benefit of claws, kitties can’t grasp toys as easily, they are less stable on perches, are unable to climb normally, and are likely insecure because of the amputation.
As I write this, my 10-year-old dilute tortie, Zooey, is draped across my arm. One of her sweet grey paws is resting on my chest. Zooey doesn’t have her front claws. She doesn’t seem to know the difference, but I feel guilt about it every day. Because I could have doomed her to lifelong pain, anxiety, and myriad other issues.
I’m extremely lucky that none of my declawed cats have had any long-term issues from their surgeries. But that’s not always the case. When we amputate our cat’s claws, we are essentially leaving them disabled and unable to hunt, fight, protect themselves, or even play the way they want and need to. Why do we think this is okay? I can’t believe I paid someone to perform an unnecessary surgery.
We stopped declawing a few years ago, but it was a recent foster fail that made me realize just how misguided my beliefs had been.
Our newest cat Peg was seriously injured by an animal attack when she was just two weeks old. She lost a litter mate and was so badly injured she almost didn’t make it out alive. The wound went from her chest to her paw. It was weeks of daily vet visits and antibiotics before she was out of the woods. And when she was about 7 weeks old, she lost one of her paws due to necrosis.
Today, at six months, Peg only has one front paw. She only has one set of claws to help her run, play, jump, and climb, but she does it all. I think she actually plays a little harder than my other cats.. She’s our little miracle baby. You’d never know she was any different than our clawed or declawed cats. And if she knows she’s different, she doesn’t care.
But I also know not having that paw hurts her. When she lands on it wrong, I see her shake off the sting. When she climbs, I see her struggle to grab with her one good paw. She’s a happy and healthy cat, but if I had the choice, I’d give her that paw back. And that’s how I know, I’ll never declaw another cat.
I encourage you, despite what you may think or what your vet says, not to declaw your cat. Not even if you already have one who is declawed. It’s not too late to change your mind for your next feline companion. It might mean a few more cat scratchers around the house, but you won’t regret it. I speak from experience.
Do I have more scratches on me now than I did in the past? Sure. But I wear them with pride knowing that my cats have all the tools they need to live a healthy and playful life.