I became a passionately devoted animal lover and activist entirely by accident 20 years ago. Back then I was a 22 year old college student who had never spent any time around animals because I was extremely allergic and being around them (especially cats) would trigger the most severe asthma attacks which in many cases required being admitted to the hospital for breathing treatments. This all changed one day when my younger sister who had been staying with me for a while called me at work to tell me that “there was a cat in my house” and that this tiny ball of fur had just walked right in and refused to leave.
I had to take a crash course in all things related to the caring of an indoor cat all while making nightly trips to the ER because I needed special treatments in order to breathe. I was told by a concerned and responsible ER doctor (more than once) that I needed to either give up the cat or risk needing to be on a ventilator in order to take a breath. With the usual stubbornness that comes from being young and fearless as well as a chance encounter with a true healer who made it so that I didn’t have to choose between my Belle or my breath, I have had the pleasure of being a proud cat lady ever since.
One year later, I ended up getting a part time job working at a local municipal (kill) shelter in CO. By then I had two other cats (Toby and Simon) and along with Belle, the three of them did a number on my furniture, drapes, and carpet.
I was still a little new at the whole cat person thing so naturally my vet, friends, and family started recommending that I look into getting them declawed. Before I made any appointments to discuss the procedure further, I started noticing a disturbing pattern when it came to the cats who were brought in as owner surrenders. I realized that most of the cats (definitly over 50%) who were surrendered for “behavioral” issues such as aggression, biting, and not consistently using their litter box had been declawed.
Thankfully there was a very enlightened vet tech who worked there and she was more than happy to share her honest (and sometimes gory) opinion about why declawing was the worst thing for cats. She also confirmed that the trend I had noticed wasn’t an anomaly but that it was sadly more common than not. That at the end of the day, cats would always be in pain from the barbaric amputation of their bones and in her experience it always “changed who they were” and profoundly affected their personalities.
Sadly although my first experience with declawed cats was a long time ago, I have remained actively involved with animal welfare groups, shelters, and initiatives to this day. One thing that remains constant in my 20+ year experience is that declawed cats overwhelmingly are categorized as behaviorally challenged which makes getting them adopted and even removed from the “kill shelters” by no kill rescue agencies nearly impossible.
In fact the last shelter that I volunteered with rarely saved declawed cats from the local municipal shelter because of their tendency to not be adopted due to many of the behaviors I mentioned earlier. They were a no kill animal rescue agency and as hard as it was to overlook these cats, they had to realistically consider that having a declawed cat in the shelter for an extended amount of time because it couldn’t get adopted was taking up precious space for numerous others to be saved.
In an effort to do their part to help prevent declawing, both local animal rescue shelters near me in SC make cat adopters sign a “no declaw” contract that says if the shelter ever finds out that they had one of their adopted cats declawed that they will be fined up to $1000 dollars. They also work very closely with many local vets who are more than ready to decline and report a declaw request to them which makes me very happy!
It’s a small but important step in the right direction!
Even though my Belle, Toby, and Simon have all crossed over the rainbow bridge, they made me the responsible cat owner and advocate I am today and for that I will always be grateful.
I am happy to tell anyone and everyone I can about the dangers of declawing and am so happy that I never made any of my cats go through that cruel procedure.
They also taught me that contrary to popular belief, cats CAN be trained to used appropriate scratching posts and that declawing is 100% unnecessary.
Lastly, and most importantly, they taught me that saving a couch, drapes, and carpet can never replace saving a life…..the life of a cat, whose chances of making it out of a shelter alive drastically decreases if it doesn’t have claws on its paws.