I took two healthy 9-yr old cats in for declaw surgery last week. Today, I have one living cat and am beside myself with heartbreak.
I did not do this out of cruelty, because I hate cats, or because I am a lazy owner. I clipped my cats claws, provided scratching posts, and still faced the specter of stuffing coming out of new furniture and shredded carpet at my feet. I would hear my cats scratching elsewhere in the house and race to the site with a water bottle, but this was less an effective training device than a too-late exercise in frustration.
When I decided to declaw, it was after talking to many other friends with happily declawed cats who could still climb and defend themselves, and who faced none of these problems as owners. It was after reading a vet's brochure recommending front declaw surgery for any cat spending over 50% of their time indoors. It was with full confidence that I was opting for a very minor procedure. At no time was I dissuaded from this view when I called to arrange it, neither did I think to ask any questions that would have shed a different light.
A small question crossed my mind when I was told it would require a two-night stay, but instead of translating into a full warning bell, I felt that this hospital was being especially caring and conscientious and that they would be practically recovered when they came home. After all, a spay is a much more serious surgery than a "declaw," right?
I received the call Thursday morning saying both cats were "fine" and could come home Friday.
My cats came home Friday, at which point I was given the post-op care instructions and ONLY THEN discovered that what had actually been performed was a removal of the first digit of every one of their toes. I only need to think about this happening to my own feet, to understand the seriousness and painfulness of this surgery. My heart ached to know this is what they went through, but now it was too late. Still I comforted myself with knowing that according to my friends all their cats breezed through it.
While one cat was alert and of normal temperament, my other cat did nothing but lie stretched out on her side in the middle of the floor. She would get up, find a new spot, and flop back down the same way. I found it very disturbing, especially compared to my other cat's fairly normal appearance. I was worried enough to take her to the emergency clinic that evening, where they found she had a slightly lowered temperature and recommended a full blood count. They also felt she would be OK through the night and I could take her back to my normal vet in the morning, which I did.
Saturday morning, within 2 hours of taking her to the vet and leaving her there, being told she was "dehydrated," leaving her there believing she'd be OK, she was dead.
I have no idea what happened. Ruling out kidney and liver failure, the vet offered the hypothesis that my cat had a "weak heart" or a blood clot caused an embolism. I did not approve the final indignity of an autopsy and will never know. What I do know is that my sweet & loving cat's last days were filled with confusion, pain, and a trauma which resulted in her death, from a decision I made lightly based on misinformation.
Had I read all that I now know, prior to making this decision, this never would have happened and I would not be crying over my lost family member. I hope that other people who find this site are getting the same message. "Declawing" is such a deceptive euphamism, that I practically believed I was having my cats manicured. Ethical vets should be phrasing it for what it is..."digital amputation." People then could think about how it would feel to go through the same experience - losing all 10 toes at the first knuckle - themselves. The fact that a cat is amazing in it's ability to adapt and accept the fate we have the power to deal it, and still love us(!), should shame us all the more, not justify the continuation of a cruelty. No more declawing for my cats, ever.
May 18, 1999