Monday, January 19, 2015

Attention Cat Lovers: It's Time To Make Declawing Illegal

Warning: Graphic Content.  Reader Discretion Advised.

Folks, I have a confession to make, and it's not one that I'm particularly proud of, but for the sake of being honest I am putting this out there.  In the past, I declawed my first cat, Callie.  I was young, and she was my first cat, and in my total ignorance, I thought I was doing what I believed to be a humane procedure.  My mom and dad, with whom I lived at the time, made it a condition of her staying in their home.  So, a few weeks after she was fully recovered from her spay surgery, I made an appointment for her declaw mutilation surgery.  

At the appointment, I was asked if I wanted to have all four feet done.  This shocked me, because I was under the impression it was only a good idea to do the front feet only.  I said no, that Callie should have some sort of defense so we decided to declaw mutilate her front feet only. I gave her one last scratch on the head and told her I'd see her that night after work.  If I'm not mistaken, my mom picked her up from the veterinarian butcher while I was working, so Callie was already home when I got there.  She was meowing quite frantically, shaking her paws trying to get the bandages off, and the post-surgery mutilation instructions directed me to remove the pressure bandages that evening.  After fighting her to let me touch her feet, I called the veterinary after-hours number for advice on how to get the bandages off without hurting her.  I was unlucky enough to talk to the veterinarian butcher herself, and she said, I'm not lying, "Just yank the bandages off her feet, she'll lick the blood off of them herself."  I was mortified, and even more so after seeing her paws, or what remained of them, after the bandages came off (I eventually ended up soaking the gauze off her feet, the warm water dissolving the clotted blood that held it to her feet).  She was also sent home with no pain medication.  Imagine having your fingers amputated at the last knuckle and being sent home with no pain medication, AND having your doctor tell you to just "yank the bandages off"...

This was a kitten that I'd had since she was about 4 weeks old, that I'd rescued out of a backyard from a life of neighborhood roaming and being feral.  My cherished, precious Calico kitten who I loved dearly.  A kitten that now, thanks to me, had severely mangled feet and 10 little bloody holes where her claws and dewclaws once were.  I cried myself to sleep that night, knowing what I'd done was unforgivable.

As time passed, Callie's feet healed, but the scars of her surgery mutilation remained.  She walked tenderly and never really correctly again.  She developed what I called a "mean streak" with me, but I never correlated her behavior issues to the declaw mutilation surgery.  My relationship with Callie never really healed; she mistrusted me for most of her life.  The most horrible part of all this, though, happened when she was eight years old.  She began really limping, favoring her right foot, so we took her to our veterinarian in Salem, OR.  An x-ray revealed something horrifying... her claws had been improperly removed all those years ago and began GROWING BACK under her skin, except they weren't growing back normally, but disfigured and extremely painful.  So now, my eight year old cat had to have this horrible, unthinkable surgery again.  My heart broke all over again as I watched her hobble around in bandages almost to her shoulder.  At least this time, she was on a very good pain medication, but even with that one could see the suffering and pain on her face.  

We had Callie another two years, when she passed away at age ten from cancer, just six months after relocating back to her birthplace, Florida.  She is no longer suffering from the ill-effects of my stupidity, but I am still living with that regret and the promise that I will NEVER again inflict this pain and suffering on another cat that I am privileged to call mine.   

I am making Callie's story public because I want this barbaric and cruel procedure made illegal in all 50 states and in US territories.  I would also ask everyone who reads this blog post to watch "The Paw Project" documentary on Netflix and/or visit The Paw Project for more information, and to ask your veterinarian to stop performing this surgery.  Write your State Representatives to ask for this legislation to be sponsored and passed.  Do it for your furbabies.  Do it for Callie and all the declawed cats in the country.  They sure could use our help.

Laws can't change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless - Martin Luther King Jr.