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Abigail's story

This story isn't about my cat, it's about a cat who belonged to neighbors of mine at a previous apartment. They had adopted a kitten they'd found in a cardboard box on the steps of an elementary school (the wife was a school teacher), a beautiful little brown and grey spotted tabby. He was a very young kitten, and a flying ball of fluff. I met him several times, as he often darted out of his apartment when the door was opened. I asked about him a lot because he looked a lot like my cat at the time, a spotted tabby tomcat named Tatsu.

He was adventurous and rambunctious as little kittens tend to be, but this family didn't seem to know much about kittens. The husband in particular wasn't always as gentle as he should have been with a small kitten, or as wary of the kitten's hyperactive behavior. The kitten scratched them a few times, probably in play, as kittens are wont to do. They complained that the kitten was mean, and used his claws too much when they tried to play with him. When he was old enough, they had him declawed both front and back. They thought that would solve their problems.

Well soon they started complaining that the kitten would bite them when they tried to play with him. When I asked what they'd done to try to curb his behavior, they said they yelled at him. I asked about toys, and they said he didn't have any.

A few months later, the wife found out she was pregnant. When she said that they were awfully sorry they'd have to get rid of the cat (because he was biting them so much and didn't want this "mean and dangerous cat" around their baby) I gave them the number of a rescue group from whom I'd adopted two cats. Last I heard, they'd surrendered the cat, who was now classified as a special needs animal.

Now I have two cats who are declawed, both by previous owners. These two cats are my most fearful when it comes to interacting with other cats. Any of the other cats can bully them or push them out of the way. In both cases, the cats will panic and bite in a confrontation with either humans or cats. The other cats, who still have their claws, are not as prone to panic and play with each other. The declawed cats, Shoken and Basia, do not play with other cats, and get nervous when others approach. Basia is basically living in isolation because she is terrified of other cats.

I can't help but believe that both of these cats would be more confidant and playful if they hadn't been senselessly mutilated for the convenience of their owners. I also believe that the kitten who belonged to my neighbors would have been a happy and loving animal if his people had taken the time to train him and educate themselves rather than taking the simple but brutal steps they did. He bit them for the same reason that Basia bites me, he felt defenseless and he had no effective means of intermediate warnings of distress.

I would never have a cat declawed unless it was a medical necessity for the health of the cat. I'd rather live with a healthy happy animal than a scared and scarred one.


October 15, 1999

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