Julie McDonald Commentary: Declawing Cats Continues to Be a Barbaric Practice

I am not a cat person. I’ve never been, probably mainly because I’m allergic to furry cats, or more precisely, their dander. We always had dogs, but never cats.

That is, until my teenage daughter begged us to have her precocious sibling kittens adopted from the Lewis County Animal Shelter. It was love at first sight.

I gave in despite my allergies. I just took an antihistamine daily and learned to live with it in the family room (which happens to be the only room in our house with air conditioning, but that’s another story).

The kittens were a godsend when my daughter’s childhood friend died in a tragic accident. For months, the only time I saw a smile on my daughter’s face was as she watched their precious pussies play.

The two of them also romped outside, often catching field mice and voles and leaving their prices on the deck so that my husband could clean them up.

When they rushed into the family room, they would often stop on the corner of the couch to scratch themselves, despite the scratching post in the corner.

Fast forward a couple of years and my daughter was going to college. In her sophomore year, she moved to a pet-friendly apartment and took her cats with her. She needed furniture too, so we dragged the scratched hideout couch, kitchen table, and bed to Pullman, which for the first time in decades gave us an excuse to buy new furniture.

We live in the country, and when Nora’s cats were gone, we worried that field mice might sneak into the house in winter. Nora was planning to give her father a new cat for Father’s Day, and when she returned home this month we ventured back into the Lewis County Animal Shelter. She and her father were visiting first and he said absolutely no kittens. When my daughter and I stopped, adorable as the kittens were, we went to the room that housed adult cats.

As The Chronicle reported last week, the shelter has been inundated with kittens and cats this year, largely because pets taken in during the pandemic could not be neutered or neutered at closed veterinary clinics. According to the article, the shelter had twice as many cats and kittens as in 2020 – from 88 to 184 cats and from 113 to 205 kittens.

On the day my daughter and I visited, a worker said that Seattle Animal Shelter employees recently picked up cats from Lewis County because King County didn’t have many strays.

When we examined the cats, a precious black and white cow that resembled a Holstein cow caught my attention. We released her from the cage with permission. In a few minutes when we took photos on our cell phones, it captured our hearts.

We signed the paperwork, paid the $ 75 fee, and agreed to pick her up from Cascade West on Thursday, the day after she was neutered. I ordered the rabies and feline leukemia shots and the flea treatment.

At home we discussed names for this kitty cat. My husband liked dominoes, my daughter preferred panda, and I preferred pixels.

Nora returned to her job at Washington State University in Pullman preparing for Cougar Marching Band Camp and a new academic year, and I drove Thursday with my sister-in-law, my husband’s twin sister from Colorado, who surprised us a visit to Centralia. She and her husband have owned cats in the past so they enjoyed petting our new one I simply referred to as Pretty Kitty.

But they both noticed that it wasn’t scratched.

“It was declawed,” said my sister-in-law.

What?

In fact, we couldn’t see any claws even when we squeezed the middle of their front paws. I googled the procedure and was horrified to find that declawing cats entailed amputation of the cat’s toes – like cutting off a human’s fingers on the first knuckle. Cat’s claws grow out of the bone, so removing the claws requires major surgery to sever the bones, tendons, and nerves.

It’s barbaric.

Nail regrowth, bone fragments, inflammation, and infection can cause excruciating pain for life. Some cats don’t use a litter box because it hurts their paws.

“Clawless cats can develop health problems such as infections, arthritis or lameness,” according to solutions.pawproject.org/, they can experience disruptive personality and behavioral changes that lead to them being abandoned or given to an animal shelter. “

Israel, Switzerland, England and 39 other countries have made declawing illegal. The process is also banned in the state of New York, Denver, Colorado and eight major California cities.

According to a May 2017 article in Popular Science, a study showed that clawless cats have difficulty walking because they have to step on soft cartilage with the tips of their toes removed. Many also become more aggressive after surgery. The study found that “Clawless cats were seven times more likely to pee in inappropriate places, four times more likely to bite people, three times more likely to be aggressive and three times more likely to coat themselves. In addition, the cats without claws were three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain (possibly because they had to change their gait due to missing toe bones) and / or chronic pain in their paws. ”

I called the local clinics. Many don’t offer declawing, saying the doctors don’t believe in it. One said a doctor would remove the claws, but only after consulting a client and with the restriction that the cat would stay in the hospital for three days to recover from the painful procedure. Another clinic reported a cost of $ 330 to declaw the two front paws, the only ones they would do. A woman who answered the phone at a local veterinary clinic said her five cats all used the scratching post to scratch. Instead of declawing a cat to keep it from scratching furniture, people, or pets, she said, it’s better to just trim its nails.

So we brought a cat with no claws home to kill mice.

I called the shelter and spoke to the manager, Jennifer Teitzel, who sounded agreeable to work with us, even though I signed papers saying I adopted the cat “as it is”.

“Much of what is generally imported declaw-free is reclaimed from its owner, but not always,” said Titzzel. “We don’t recommend it.”

She mentioned an unfriendly cat at the shelter who doesn’t like people but would make a great stable cat.

But I had already grown fond of our furry female; I wanted to keep it. My husband preferred to trade them for the Mauser.

That night while I was working on my laptop, Pretty Kitty jumped up and stretched across my stomach, which was a bit of a challenge to reach the keyboard. As she lay there, her front paws stretched and curled on my arm as she kneaded happily. During an extension, I looked down, frowned, but then winced with joy. I spied claws! Their previous owner must have trimmed them, but they would grow back.

Now we just have to agree on a name. Any suggestions?

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Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, can be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.