I was at the vet today picking up medicine for one of my two 17 year old cats, Pilate (pronounced Pilot, not like the exercise) who is dying from bladder cancer. While waiting I flipped through an issue of Catster magazine and read a small article about how Denver had recently passed a law banning the declawing of cats. It made me so angry I felt sick. Even now hours later, lying here in bed with my best buddy of 17 years who I know won’t be around much longer but has brought me such joy, it still makes me angry to think about it, because I wouldn’t have been able to have shared in his life if he hadn’t been declawed.
Years ago, after only having Pilate and my other cat, Newt, for about a year, for reasons too long to get into, I had no choice but to move from where I had been living when I adopted my cats to a place where the only way I would be able to keep my cats would be to have them declawed. There was no way I was going to abandon my cats, so that’s what I did. And while it was painful for me (and I’m sure much more so for them) during the handful of days while they recovered, they did recover quickly and have never exhibited any signs of lingering discomfort or any other after effects that would make me regret that discision. In fact, in Pilate’s case, I can actually say that it brought us closer and let us bond more than we would have been able to otherwise.
For years, until only just recently when he became ill, Pilate’s seemingly favorite thing in the world (and I admit, one of mine and something I already miss dearly) was to climb into bed with me, lie down on his side under my arm and facing me, and kneed his paws into my neck and face. It became such a custom that after a while he wouldn’t allow me to fall asleep unless I lifted up my arm to “let him in” so that he could do so. If I didn’t he would persist by either curving a paw under my chin to turn my head to look and see that he was waiting (if somewhat impatiently) or, less subtly, just stick his cold pink nose into my ear and breath really loudly until I gave in. Then for anywhere between 10-20 minutes he’d kneed away, purring like crazy the entire time (and for the first several years when he was still young, drooling like crazy (seriously, there would be a huge wet spot on the pillow under his face)). And although he’d often rub my neck until it was red I loved it and wouldn’t trade the memories of those times for anything in the world. Had he still had his claws, that’s something we would never have shared.
That’s the personal aspect of what makes me so angry about Denver, or any place, making it illegal to have cats declawed. But what’s even more disturbing is thinking about the overarching effect such laws will have on cats in general. Before I began to write this I did a quick internet search to see how many cats are euthanized annually in the U.S. The number I got was somewhere around 860,000. Over three quarters of a million cats are being killed each year because there aren’t enough homes for them, and somehow there are people who think not allowing people who wouldn’t be able to have cats if they weren’t declawed to declaw them is a good idea. That sickens me. Even those people who could have a clawed cat where they live but choose to declaw them should have that option, because there are many for whom not being able to do so would be the deciding factor against adopting a cat at all. Yes, chopping off the ends of an animal’s toes isn’t a very pleasant thing. But if anyone were to tell me that it is kinder to kill a cat as a kitten rather than let it have a full life in a loving home without the ends of its front toes I’d tell them that they were insane. I’d also ask them if that would apply to them as well; if they’d chose death over a life without the tips of their fingers. I don’t think any sane person would chose the former, so why make it apply to cats?
Yes, there will still be hundreds of thousands of cats euthanized in the U.S. each year either way. But no matter how you look at it that number will be higher if you tell people whose only option or choice is a declawed cat that they’re not allowed to do so.
That’s not only wrong it’s inhumane.
I’m looking at two cats right now who have had 17 good years in a loving home. For the record they both concur.