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Furpurr, a vet tech's story

I have 5 cats. Two are declawed and 3 are not. If I could go back in time, I would give my babies their claws back, but I can't. I feel very guilty for doing it when it wasn't necessary. Not only that, but I'm a vet tech. I feel I should have known better. I feel that all vets and vet techs should know better, but it blows my mind that the majority of them that I have worked with declaw their cats. At the time, it was my first job at a vet clinic. Looking back at what happened now, having the experience of 3 other vet clinics under by belt, I know that the first place where I worked was an absolutely horrid place! How I could be so stupid and nieve I don't know.

My first vet clinic job was at a very small practice solely owned by an older vet. His techniques and equipment were archaic. He never used gas anesthesia, he used expired drugs (He'd say, "Back when I started practicing there were no expiration dates..they are still good! Not like they automatically go bad on the exact date on the bottle), and his surgical packs were NOT sterile. The instruments were put in a metal ice cube tray with drapes folded and placed on top of the instruments, then autoclaved. In school (to get my vet tech license) nor in any other practice, have I seen it done this way. After autoclaving the "pack" they were placed in a cupboard stacked on top of each other, many times with the instruments exposed.

The ear crop patients and the declaws stayed in the clinic for 2 nights. The cats toes were sutured together after the claw was removed, and weren't even fully awake until the next day. They got their bandages removed the day after surgery, and they would stay that day too to "stay quiet" in the confined area and so we could "observe" them. The cats recieved no pain medication. After their bandages were removed, most of them freaked out and flopped around in the cage and climbed up the bars etc. Many of them broke open their sutures. The cats would shake their paws when you walked by, and you'd get splashed with blood drips. The assistants began putting newspaper over the cage doors so that we didn't get bloody all the time. If we didn't, we spent a lot of time cleaning up blood spatters off the wall across from the cages with a bucket and sponge. The cats would calm down eventually, and sometimes would be standing there looking at me with pools of blood around their paws. I always ran and told the doctor about the poor bleeding cats. He'd humor me and come back to the kennel. He'd take a look and say, "He's fine. When I began practicing, we didn't even suture the toes. Believe me. They are fine." The toes would stop bleeding finally after the cats calmed down. I'd move them to a clean cage. Then I'd clean the cage as best as I could. All the "cat" cages had layers of caked on dried blood that I couldn't remove no matter how much I scrubbed. I worked to get the fresh blood off, but most of it had been there for years. I was also responsible for cleaning all the blood spots off of the cats so the owners didn't freak out the next day when they came to pick them up.

I had a cat when I lived with my parents. We got her from an ad in the paper as a declawed adult. I had to find a home for her when I moved out of my parents house and in with my severely allergic, asthmatic best friend. When my best friend moved out, and my fiance (now husband) moved in, the first thing I wanted was a cat. We got two. I assumed that since I didn't want my furniture destroyed, I'd have to get them declawed. My mother gave us the living room furniture, and she wasn't an animal person. I knew I'd never hear the end of how my stupid animals destroyed the wonderful furniture that she so graciously bought for me. Oh how I wish that I were more educated then! As a poor college student, I let the doctor declaw my two babies since he didn't charge me anything to do it as his employee. I thought that's how all cats were declawed, and that at least I'd be there to comfort them and keep them from banging around and opening their sutures. (an advantage that I wouldn't get elsewhere)

Well the surgery went okay, but the next day when we removed one of my kitty's bandages, she was in so much pain that my docile little angel BIT me! I was shocked, but I understood her pain. I did my best to keep both of them quiet, and they recovered remarkably well. (they were both only 2 pounds though)

Even though they both recovered well, and they still have no difficulty walking etc after 3 years now, the male cat has extra flaps of skin that makes his front paws look deformed.

After working at other clinics I have seen that the older doctor's techniques where very, very wrong. None of the other clinics allow cats to bleed like that. If they do begin to bleed, they re-bandage the paws immediately. One clinic where I worked gave pain medication and the cats seemed MUCH more comfortable than any other place I have worked.

Bottom line is that I switched clinics. The second place that I worked was a cat only clinic. They discouraged declawing, although they'd still do it if the owner insisted. I learned all kinds of valuable techniques for training, and most of all I learned that it is totally unnecessary to put cats through that surgery. Cats and people's furniture CAN be in the same house without ill effects. I vowed that if I got another cat I'd try out the training skills that I had learned. I now have 3 cats complete with claws and BEAUTIFUL furniture. IT CAN BE DONE. I cannot believe that I just happened to get 3 cats who just happened to be non-scratchers or "easily trained". I know it was because of the simple training that I did, and the scratching places that I offered them. My newest cat was a STRAY. He even uses the scratching areas.

I can't give my first two fur babies their claws back, but what I can do is educate people. The first doctor that I worked for is BY FAR the WORST vet that I have ever heard of. Why did people go there? His prices were CHEAP. Know what's even cheaper? A $5 cardboard scratching pad at pet supply stores. Then there's no need for a painful surgery, they get to scratch, and you have no regrets. Give them a chance.

If you need training tips check out lisaviolet's links, and I've also written training info at http://www.homestead.com/comfycreatures/cattraininginfo.html

PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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