Five years ago, I had my female calico, Sassy, spayed and declawed at the same time. According to the vet, it was preferable to do them both at once since the cat would only have the anaesthesia risk once. She was 6 months old when we had the procedures done.
She spent two days in hospital and when I picked her up, she was so happy to see me. I received her in her cat carrier, so I did not actually see her walking around at the vet's office.
I got her home, and let her out of her carrier. Imagine my horror when I found that the only way she could walk was on her entire front legs. Picture yourself as a cat, and then bend your elbows and "crawl" around with your entire forearms pressed to the ground, not just your hands. I immediately called the vet's office, and was told not to worry - that she was still really sore and that this would go away on its own in a few days. As long as her paws weren't bleeding, don't worry about it, is basically what I was told. My other cat had also been declawed a couple of years before, but never ambulated this way after the surgery. I let it go for a few days, and when STILL no improvement, I called the vet's office and DEMANDED to bring Sassy in. She said "No problem", so I took her in. She then looked at Sassy, and told me that some kitties are super-sensitive to the surgery, and that obviously Sassy was one of them. She told me to "massage" her paws and proceeded to show me how to do this. (It looked awfully rough, and the poor kitty yelped every time the vet or I did this to her!)
I felt so bad. I started second guessing myself as to whether I had done wrong by having the procedure done. I didn't even have a good reason for having it done, except that my other cat was declawed, and I was afraid that this one would tear him to bits if I didn't have her declawed too. (Oh - and she was scratching at the furniture - big deal).
Almost a month after she had her procedure, she finally started to walk on her feet, rather than her entire front legs, but I noticed that she walked very "gingerly" and her paws looked terrible. They were deformed! She used to have cute little tiny paws and now they looked big and flat and "mushy". Plus she walked on her FLAT feet instead of almost up on her toes, like most cats do.
I took her back in for another opinion, only this time, to an entirely different vet in another office, in another end of the city. He first described to me that this was not an unusual thing to see after a declaw procedure, and that Sassy would likely always walk this way. He told me that the procedure is not without risk. If I had thought for one minute that this would be the end result of the surgery, I would have never had it done. He took some x-rays of her feet to make sure that a small "nub" of bone wasn't left over, sometimes when this happens it causes a cat extreme and excruciating pain. Nope - x-rays looked perfectly normal, and unfortunately Sassy was one of the kitties who didn't do so well after a straightforward declaw procedure.
I took her in for a third opinion, and this time no x-rays, but just confirmation by the vet that what I had been told was consistent with what he was seeing.
Even today, FIVE YEARS LATER, Sassy will shake her front paws violently, as though she is in pain, or has touched something really hot. This can happen while she is walking, or sometimes even when she is sleeping. I talked to yet another vet about this, and he told me that sometimes when a nerve is nicked during the procedure, this can be the end result. This was not, in his opinion, all that uncommon. He compared what Sassy was feeling to someone striking their elbow on a table, and hitting the "funny bone". That terrible tingly feeling. Ouch!!
If this isn't enough to turn you off, imagine my horror when my normally docile kitty turned into a biter. She is still a love considering all she has been through, but if she feels threatened or if she is scared, an attempt to reach out and pet her may result in an angry bite. I believe this is attributable to the declawing as well. Once a cat loses her main means of defense (front claws), what else does she have but her teeth? And who can fault her for this considering we did this to her.
As a result of all this, I no longer believe in declawing. I cannot see how this procedure benefits a cat in any way. So many people out there say well - if I didn't declaw the cat, then it was going to an animal shelter because it was too destructive. What a terrible excuse. If this is an argument, why are so many shelters filled with declawed cats? I have a new kitty who has so far had no problems using a scratching post. I will not declaw her. I do not want to have to risk this tragedy again, ever.
April 26, 1999