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As of early June '07 we have begun to receive hate mail from people who have apparently made it their life's work to attempt to make us feel bad about the views stated below. Their tactics have not worked and will not work. If anyone has a differing opinion than ours, that's fine. We don't try to beat people over the head with our view on this subject, and we'd appreciate it if they would return the favor.
The hate mails have gotten to the point where we're alerting the authorities.
While the hate mail people call us "cruel" and "ignorant," we believe a reality check is in order. My wife and I have dedicated tens of thousands of hours and a sizable amount of money (more than some people earn in a lifetime) to animal welfare. We are the founders of two federally licensed animal charities. We founded, funded and operated a nonprofit, low-cost spay/neuter clinic to serve our area's neediest animals, and each of us put in over 100 hours per week there without pay. We have presented a lecture at a statewide veterinary conference held at an esteemed veterinary school. We founded a citywide coalition of animal welfare organizations, flying in a renowned national expert to speak, and the collaborative improvements continue to save additional animals' lives to this day. We have traveled to top facilities and organizations around the country. We have worked with local and state government to improve animals' lives. We have rescued and cared for many thousands of animals over the last 25 years. We care daily for animals with special needs: animals others would have summarily euthanized. As such, we feel our opinions expressed below are well based in reality, not on hearsay.
The primary problem we have with people who are so staunchly, and vocally, opposed to declawing is that their opinions are often based on secondhand information, not firsthand experiences. We would encourage them to amass our level of experience, then form their own opinions. If they then still disagree with ours, so be it.
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TO DECLAW OR NOT TO DECLAW?
by Julie & Eric Smith, Four On The Floor™ Owners
We've heard all the arguments against declawing and believe that some of them are valid. There is certainly no scarcity of literature, websites and personal stories about the perceived inhumanity of declawing. However, the reality with which we live is that the streets and shelters (and certainly the landfills, post-euthanasia) are full of cats who have been discarded because the destruction they caused to furniture, clothing or skin was not tolerable to the owner. In these extreme—and all too common—instances, we believe that declawing is a very acceptable alternative to euthanasia or abandonment.
We began routinely declawing the cats we rescued after Eric, the founder of Four On The Floor, was scratched by a kitten , Sophie (pictured to the right in one of the cutest pictures ever; click on it to see a full-sized version) at age 4 weeks. Eric subsequently developed a protracted mononucleosis-type illness which after more than a year of extreme discomfort was diagnosed as Cat Scratch Disease, known by many lay people as Cat Scratch Fever*. Despite prolonged antibiotic therapy & tests to verify his lymph system wasn't faulty with some other malady, Eric's symptoms persisted intermittently for 8 years. We had Sophie declawed shortly after Eric became sick and to the end of her life she was a happy, healthy, playful, indoor-only cat. (It should be noted that for her entire life she and Eric were always good buddies; there was no "bad blood" between them ..... pun intended. You can read more about Sophie and some of our other deceased pets here.)
Please be aware that there are several declawing techniques, some of which are much less invasive than others. We have watched declaw surgery on more than one occasion and can honestly say that with today's less invasive, highly precise techniques, there is often minimal or no bleeding during declaw surgery, especially if laser is used (it cauterizes the blood vessels).
It is important to have a highly skilled veterinarian perform the surgery if you decide to have it done. Many of us have heard "botched declaw" horror stories, but given our personal experiences we feel that "botched declaws" can be attributed to poor or outdated technique; they are not, in our experienced opinion, an indictment of the concept of declawing as a whole. Choosing an experienced surgeon will greatly decrease your chances of having a negative experience. Modern declaw techniques have been perfected over the past decade or so and more and more graduating vets are better at declawing than they were in years past. Positive word of mouth has spread, so as more clients request the procedure, vets are becoming more skilled. Regardless how good or updated your vet's technique, though, you should insist that your cat receive post-operative pain medication. If your vet doesn't offer it or balks at your request, find another, more up-to-date vet.
We do not recommend declawing geriatric cats or cats who are overweight. On the other hand, kittens tolerate declawing exceedingly well and we have quite successfully had the procedure performed on kittens as early as 4-6 weeks when they were spayed or neutered (if you're unfamiliar with early-age spay/neuter, you can read more about it by checking out a site or two on our LINKS page). We have literally had two-pound kittens who had to be confined to a cage for 48 hours because they wanted to jump off tables, run around, wrestle and play on the very day that they had their surgeries. Try as we might to keep post-op cats and kittens quiet, they never fail to be more active and spry than we expect them to be.
In our experience of rescuing, rehabilitating, re-homing and yes, declawing, hundreds of cats, we have not observed any of the horrific outcomes that anti-declawing protestors report. We have never had a cat exhibit aggression, depression, prolonged paw tenderness or any number of other outcomes that others have "reported." (We put "reported" in quote marks because most of the horror stories seem to be anecdotal, not firsthand.) Out of hundreds of cats and nearly 30 years, we have had three instances of moderate bleeding which responded well to 24 hours of pressure bandaging and one instance of a mild infection that responded well to antibiotics. (The moderate bleeding and mild infection were due to a not-too-skilled-or-up-to-date vet's technique we experienced while living for a short time on the Gulf coast of Florida; the veterinarian was primarily a "farm vet" and we wish we hadn't have used his services.) These both occurred nearly twenty five years ago, before techniques were perfected and back in the days before recycled newspaper-type litter (which is much less likely to become lodged in a cat's paw during the post-op period). We will say, though, that we know people whose cats have recently had less-than-optimal declaw surgeries, so it is important to express your concerns to your veterinarian. For your sake and the sake of your pet, you need to feel comfortable with your vet's declaw techniques. Laser or scalpel doesn't matter: it's the technique that counts.
We believe that the decision whether or not to declaw your cat is a personal one that only you, your family and your veterinarian can make. Things to take into consideration are your cat's age, size and temperament, but more importantly, your patience and willingness to teach your cat non-destructive scratching (if there is such a thing) and your ability to tolerate a certain amount of damage to your furniture, clothing and skin (including that of your children and guests). There are many cat owners enjoy the companionship of non-declawed cats and either succeed in teaching their cats about appropriate surfaces on which to scratch or they simply tolerate indiscriminate scratching. Advice abounds on how to try to prevent your cat from destructively scratching. Do note, however, that a cat scratch or puncture to one's eye can be catastrophic.
We have had as many as 43 cats in our care at one time, all of whom were declawed at the time of their spay or neuter surgery. They and the hundreds of others live/lived (waiting for adoption) inside our private rescue facility, but also have a large screened porch where they can get fresh air and sunshine. All are very nice, well-adjusted, happy and way more playful than many of the anti-declawing folks think they would ever be. Incidentally, we found that when we started declawing cats, this greatly improved their chances of being adopted.
It bears repeating that these declaw surgeries (as well as all other veterinary care) is funded entirely by our private funds. No dollars donated to our charities have ever been used to declaw cats we've rescued.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to declaw your cat, talk with your veterinarian. Ask lots of questions and don't consent to the surgery until you feel totally comfortable with your decision and have the utmost confidence in your doctor's skills and technique. Remember that with good care, a cat can live for up to 20+ years, so it's important to make the right decision...for you and your feline friend.
NOTE: We used to have some helpful information posted here which we copied from the Cat Fancier's Association website and which pertained to data gathered about Cat Scratch Disease (also known as Cat Scratch Fever). Unfortunately, we were instructed by the doctor who wrote the information that we were violating her copyright by publishing the information here, so we have removed the information at her request. If you have an interest in reading the information, you'll have to visit the Cat Fancier's Association website. Sorry for the inconvenience. We would have thought she'd want to help more pets and their guardians by sharing her information here, with attribution, of course.