The Daily Prompt of December 24, 2013: Share a time when you were overcome with guilt. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome you guilt?
I have never overcome my guilt at torturing my beautiful tabby, Blackfoot – by having her declawed. It was the worst decision I ever made. I didn’t feel guilty at the time – I had
been convinced that it was a good idea to save my furniture (which was relatively new – I had only bought it two years before when I moved into my own townhouse) and that the cat would get over it. I hadn’t done enough research of both sides (to do it and absolutely not to do it), just talked to some people who had declawed cats. The veterinarian was tepid in his advice that I consider this carefully and I was told only to have the front ones done, because that way if the cat ever gets out, she can at least climb a tree using her back claws and defend herself using her rear paws (I did wonder how exactly she would do that if confronted by an animal in front of her). He didn’t tell me what declawing really was and how much she would suffer. (He was paid handsomely for these operations, to be sure).
When Blackfoot came home after having had her front claws removed (she spent 2 days at the veterinary hospital), I was ready with a litter box full of shredded newspaper instead of litter, which would get stuck in her paws and open the wounds. I had been instructed to do this and was told that after a week or so, I could go back to the regular litter, as her paws would have healed. I didn’t know how to judge that exactly, but watched her behavior. When she got home, she looked weak and sick – traumatized, probably. She had bandages on her paws and blood seeped through them. She was very listless. She had no desire to walk, jump up on my lap or on furniture. When the bandages were removed, she spent most of her time lying down and licked her paws a lot. She got up to eat and go to her litter box, but didn’t want to play or get on my lap as she had before. She also got blood on the carpet when she shook her paws after licking them. She smeared blood on the newspaper outside her box. That’s when I started to feel guilty. Actually, I began to feel guilty the moment I saw her after the declawing, clearly in pain.
After a few days, she improved and started to move around more, but still seemed to be in some pain. I waited until all her behavioral symptoms went away and she no longer shook her paws, there was no more blood. That took about two weeks, but I waited a few more days to be extra cautious so I didn’t go back to her regular litter for about 3 weeks. I felt confident that, by then, her wounds would be healed.
The first day that I put regular litter back in her box, she got some caught in her paws – which opened the wounds! She shook her paws, splattering blood onto the wall – more than she had before, when she first had come home after the operation. This happened more than once; I had to go back to newspaper, but it was then that I realized I had made a terrible mistake. My poor, beautiful kitty that I loved so much, was suffering, in pain! I pampered her, empathized with her, did everything I could to “make it up” to her, which of course I couldn’t. Although she recovered and regained most of her former personality, she appeared more jumpy, more vulnerable, than she had before.
It wasn’t long after that that we got a second cat to give her some companionship. We had this second cat only a short time –he got into everything, climbed the curtains (not declawed, obviously!). He was full of mischief, but Jayme loved him and preferred him to Blackfoot.
This second cat, however, caused Jayme to have an allergic reaction which developed into asthma. We took him to an allergist who tested him and diagnosed him with severe allergies to cats along with a host of other things in nature – pollen, ragweed, certain grasses, etc. There wasn’t much we could do about those things, but we could get rid of our cats. I gave the second one back to his former owner right away – we only had him for about two weeks. The former owner was a colleague of mine in the export shipping business and wasn’t upset about taking him back.
I’d hoped that with the second cat gone, Jayme’s allergies would improve, but they didn’t. I couldn’t give Blackfoot back to her former owner, who I didn’t know and we’d had her several months already. I ended up giving her to a friend of mine at the time, who I thought would keep her inside and love her as I had. But she didn’t. Blackfoot got out one day and had a fight with a raccoon, who tore part of her ear! I did visit her at the friend’s house, and at first she remembered me, but later she seemed not to. Then this friend gave her away to someone who lived in the country on a large property with a lot of cats. I was angry with her for doing that, but in retrospect Blackfoot might have ended up better off. I don’t know – I never found out what happened to her.
I would not even consider declawing my new kitty, or any other cat, for that matter. I have since learned what declawing really does to a cat. It’s like pulling out one’s fingernails from the roots! Actually, it’s worse than that. The ASPCA describes it on their web site: Some people declaw their cats to prevent or resolve a scratching problem. The term “declaw” is a misnomer because it implies that only the claws are removed. In reality, declawing (onychectomy) involves 10 separate amputations of the last bones of your cat’s toes—including nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments and the extensor and flexor tendons. Cats suffer significant pain while recovering from these amputations. … The ASPCA discourages …declawing … because of the extreme pain these surgeries cause. [This procedure is] illegal in some European countries because they’re considered cruel to animals. We only recommend such surgeries if a cat caretaker has unsuccessfully tried everything else to resolve scratching behavior and is considering euthanasia.
“Homeward Bound” (http://www.hbky.org/content/please-read-declawing) also advises against declawing: Your cat’s claw is not a toenail. It is actually closely adhered to the bone. So closely adhered that to remove the claw, the last bone of your the cat’s claw has to be removed. Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat’s “toes”. When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing.
No cat lover would doubt that cats–whose senses are much keener than ours–suffer pain. They may, however, hide it better. Not only are they proud, they instinctively know that they are at risk when in a weakened position, and by nature will attempt to hide it. But make no mistake. This is not a surgery to be taken lightly.
Your cat’s body is perfectly designed to give it the grace, agility and beauty that is unique to felines. Its claws are an important part of this design. Amputating the important part of their anatomy that contains the claws drastically alters the conformation of their feet. The cat is also deprived of its primary means of defense, leaving it prey to predators if it ever escapes to the outdoors.
I have also had people tell me that their cat’s personality changed after being declawed. Although, the medical community does not recognize this as potential side effect.
I feel guilty even today for having subjected my cat to this procedure. Reading the information above renews my guilt feelings and I feel pain for Blackfoot, even after all these years and although she has most likely died by now.
Also see: http://www.catscratching.com/ – Information and advice about how to get your cat to use a scratching post.
http://www.purrfectpost.com/ – Website on which you can purchase scratching posts (it’s helpful to watch the video!). I recently purchased two scratching posts from this company for our new pet tortie. To get my cat to use them, I rubbed catnip on them periodically and also tied one of her toys to the post. In trying to get to the catnip and her toy, she discovered that the post was a great place to scratch, and now she uses it every day!