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The declaw debate

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Culture & Entertainment

The declaw debate

The Paw Project posterWhen I was a kid, my parents adopted a male tuxedo kitten for me and my sister. Patches was rambunctious, to say the least. He shredded the lining of my mom’s lampshades and hung from her sheers with his tiny, razor-sharp claws. Like many cats, he refused to be trained and avoided nail trimmings like the plague. So he said goodbye to his front claws. While I played no role in the decision to declaw him and I didn’t have a clue what the procedure entailed, I still feel guilt to this day. I now know that declawing is much more than just a permanent nail clipping. If you adopted your cat from a shelter or cat rescue, chances are you were asked whether you’d declaw. I’m a volunteer adoption counsellor with Toronto Cat Rescue and that’s one of the questions I ask each adopter. It’s also one of the deal breakers for clawed cat adoptions. If you plan to declaw, we won’t allow you to adopt a cat with intact claws, only those that were declawed before they came to TCR. You’ll also be required to sign an adoption contract stating that you won’t declaw the feline. Why such a firm antideclaw policy? Declawing used to be a standard practice of cat ownership. In many cases, vets recommended the procedure to cat owners, who weren’t educated about what the procedure entails, namely, amputating the cat’s toes at the joint. Not only is the nail removed, but a portion of the bone is as well. That means the animal’s walking is impacted (the weight shifts to the wrists, or sometimes to the elbows, leading to arthritis), and fragmented bones can create severe discomfort. If any of those fragments contain residual nail-forming tissue, the nail can grow back inside of the paw, resulting in infection and inflammation. The ugly truth of cat declawing was brought to light for me in the documentary The Paw Project, which you can watch on Netflix or iTunes, or order online. It follows filmmaker Jennifer Conrad, a veterinarian and animal rights activist, as she helps rehabilitate declawed lions, tigers and the like, and fights to have domestic declaw procedures criminalized in cities across California. In Canada, there is no such ban, and last week, Nova Scotian veterinarians voted against a ban on declawing that would have outlawed the practice in the province. Declawing is banned in 38 countries across the world. Conrad's efforts faced staunch opposition from associations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, which protects practicing vets, many of whom rely on declaw fees for revenue and believe that it’s a simple, nontraumatic practice or that it’s better than the alternative: rehoming or euthanization. But the fact of the matter is that there are other ways of coping with a cat’s claws, like SoftClaws, scratching posts and double-sided tape, to name a few. The bottom line: If your couch is more important to you than your cat’s well being, you probably shouldn’t adopt in the first place. Since Patches passed away in 2009, just three months before his 19th birthday, I’ve adopted two cats who both have all of their claws. My faux leather sectional is proof. They don’t scratch at the couch as if it’s another of their scratching posts, but their nails do catch the upholstery when they run and leap across the cushions. It’s part of the deal of being a cat mom, so I’ve learned. But their happiness and comfort is worth so much more to me than a piece of furniture. Support a ban (Ontario only) and watch The Paw Project trailer:

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(Photo courtesy The Paw Project)
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The declaw debate

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