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Bart, Mally and Nona's Story

The first year after I got married, my husband and I adopted 2 kittens. We loved them both too much to choose, so we took both of them home on the same day. The male (a gorgeous orange and white DSH), we named Bartholomew, which shortened to 'Bart.' The female (a deep blue DSH with a peach spot over her right eye), we named Maleficent, which shortened to 'Mally.'

We took them in for all of their shots and things. For a while, it seemed that we were at the vet's office 2x per week. We loved our new family members, though, and we wanted to 'do the right thing' for them. We didn't know we were hurting our kittens, but we were. We over-vaccinated (they are both exclusively indoor cats). We fed them inexpensive commercial pet food (our vet told us that the more expensive brands were no different and gave no benefit except reduced stool). We also had both cats front-declawed.

We never thought about the declawing procedure as being something out of the ordinary. We trusted our vet, and our vet discussed declawing as though it were not only normal...but also necessary for the health and happiness of indoor cats. We never even TRIED to train our cats to a post because the vet had us talked into a declaw after the first round of shots. Both of my adoring, loyal, and sweet cats had their paws hacked off at the tender age of only 12 weeks. I took them there. I offered them up for this procedure. I felt GOOD about having it done to them. I thought I was doing a good thing for my cats and myself. I never questioned it for a minute. I thought of the 'surgery,' as a manicure more than anything else.

When we picked our kittens up from the vet's office the next afternoon...they were still heavily drugged and sleeping. Their paws had been cleaned up and unwrapped. We could see the ends of the stitches, but didn't know that they had been bandaged and heavily padded to soak up the seepage and blood. We were patted on the head, praised for being such conscientious (and well-paying) owners, and sent home with our kittens. Both cats healed. My Bart and Mally were fortunate. They didn't have the trouble with walking that I've read about in other declaw stories.

Mally bled like mad at first, and I had to take her back in to have the bleeding stopped. Bart's beautiful white paws looked mushy, flat, and shapeless after the procedure. Bart also became a biter, but was eventually trained out of it. Other than that...my two babies healed well and even enjoyed an activity that my husband and I always called, 'pretending to scratch.'

After all of this, we decided that we regretted having Bart and Mally's claws removed without having even TRIED to train them on a post or something, but we still had no idea how dangerous and far-reaching declawing can really be. We adopted a 3rd cat when Bart and Mally were about 1 year old. We named her Nona after Wynonna Judd because she 'sang' whenever we played country music on the stereo. She was an all-black shorthair. She and the rest of her litter had been abandoned as strays. The vet estimated Nona at about 6 weeks old when we took her home. I've never in all my life loved an animal like I loved Nona. She was plump and soft and calm. She was affectionate beyond belief, and she took so much joy out of being touched and held and played with. Her 'happy purring' was audible from the next room, sometimes, because she'd get so loud. I love Bart and Mally...but Nona was my special girl.

I talked to our vet about training Nona to a post because I was hesitant to have her declawed, but the vet said that if she were allowed to keep her claws, she would hurt Bart and Mally. I believed him. Of course I believed him. He's the doctor, right? Nona did NOT heal like Mally and Bart did. The vet called me the next day, saying that she was having 'complications' and would need to stay at the vet's office for two days. I went to visit her, of course, and this time, I saw the bandages. My tiny kitten was wrapped up to her shoulders in casts. She had a high fever, and her 'sockets' (translation: the hollow ends of the stubs that are left after the vet cuts off your cat's fingers) were oozing. I held her and cried and apologized to her. She was so happy to see me. I couldn't take it back though. She'd already gone through it. Nona eventually stopped bleeding, and we got to bring her home. She had trouble using her litter pan - even with the special litter. The scratching just hurt her too much. Her feet hurt her so badly that she gnawed at her toes no matter how hard we tried to pay attention and stop her. She bled everywhere.

It took a MONTH for Nona's paws to heal. The rest of her never did. She didn't play anymore. She didn't sing anymore. She growled and hissed a lot. I couldn't coax her into playtime. She stopped eating almost altogether. I couldn't even get her to eat tuna. She didn't sleep with 'the family' anymore. She chose to separate herself and sleep on a chair in the living room. So...we had this beautiful, loving, cat. She had a sweet personality and wonderful joy about life. Her enthusiasm for play was actually dog-like at times. Then...we got her declawed. After that, she was always sick. She was always depressed. She walked gingerly on her feet, which means that she didn't run or jump anymore - at all. She wouldn't use a litter pan, anymore, and took to urinating and defecating on the floor. She wouldn't play. She wouldn't tolerate her companion cats. She became a terrible biter – even biting Bart and Mally unprovoked.

For three and a half years, we struggled. We read every book. We tried flower remedies. We sacked our vet and found another - WONDERFUL - veterinarian to help us. We tried all of his suggestions. I know more about the various offerings of litter and the varying types of litter pans than anyone would EVER hope to know. I've read libraries full of books about how to help a depressed cat, an aggressive cat, or a cat that doesn’t use the litter pan. Nothing helped. Her happiness in life was over, and it was all our fault. In the end, it was decided that Nona was causing so much distress to the other cats that she needed to live somewhere else. Mally became an obsessive groomer because she was so upset about Nona's waste smells all over the house. Bart started to urinate and defecate wherever Nona had (just to keep it even, you see). Through more than 1000 days, we lived with this day in and day out. We should have INVESTED in Nature's Miracle. I cried so many times. We'd spent every spare cent we had on the cats (we were NOT wealthy people) - trying to fix whatever 'it' was. My home smelled terrible. Our clothing stank, no matter how often I washed it.

We had three cats that we adored. One was a nervous wreck (Mally). One was becoming aggressive and hostile (Bart). One was the cause of all of it (Nona). I know, without a doubt, that Nona became the way she was because of her declawing. For the 3 months that she was in my home before her declawing, she was the most incredible animal you could ever hope to meet. After her declawing, she never recovered. The pain of it was too much for her. The anger from not having her claws to scratch with, jump with, and climb with kept her depressed and isolated. She just couldn't recover. Her physical healing process took such a long time. I don't think she remembered how to find joy in daily things anymore after the physical pain was gone. I had to let Nona go to save my sanity, my home, and my other two cats. We adopted her out. That’s all I have to say about that.

I IMPLORE you not to have your cat declawed. Sure, you could get lucky. Your cat could be fine. But if you're not lucky...you could lose your pet. It's not worth any benefit YOU might receive to harm your animal in such a painful way.

My husband and I divorced last year. Bart and Mally still live with him. My ex-husband loves them so much, and he takes excellent care of them. They are happy, healthy, and doing very well at 7 years old. I recently adopted a 1 year-old stray kitty cat. Her name is Kismet. She will NEVER be declawed, over-vaccinated, over-medicated, or abused. I introduced her to her food dishes, her litterbox, and her sisal rope scratching post on her first day at home. Kismet still likes to scratch the couch, but she's learning. A water bottle and one short month of patience after she moved in…she scratches almost EXCLUSIVELY on her post. It takes a little effort to train a cat to scratch on a post...but not much, and it's actually part of your JOB as a pet owner to put out that effort. If you don’t want to put out that effort…why’d you get a pet? Love your cat for being a cat...or don't get one, ok? A cat is a family member...and will be in your family for 10-20 years. Cats pee. Cats poop. Cats get hungry. Cats like to jump and be in high places. Cats like to get between you and the phone, you and the paper, you and your books, or even you and your spouse for attention. Cats meow and cry if they don’t get their way. Cats will wake you up at 3am if they feel that you should be petting them instead of sleeping. Cats like to hide under the bed when you vacuum or invite strangers/children over. Cats will vomit if you feed them table scraps. Cats like to sit on windowsills, and they will knock over the pictures and knick-knacks that you’ve placed there in order to make room for their sunbathing. Cats scratch. A sofa is an inanimate object...and it probably won't be around for even half as long as your pet. Your sofa does not love you. Your sofa does not feel pain. Keep perspective. Do your best to train your cat. Accept that cats will scratch because they are cats. Ok?

One last thing: If your vet tells you that declawing is minor, normal, or healthy for your cat…take your cat and RUN out of that office. Vet shop before you choose a lifelong veterinarian. I made a poor choice in my first veterinarian, and I ruined my cat’s life because of that choice. Bart, Mally, and Nona never once scratched up any of my furniture. They never destroyed a quilt or a curtain. It still wasn't worth it. Not even close.

August 6, 2001

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