The December issue of the Tufts-Cummings Veterinary School's Catnip newsletter featured an article entitled "Curb Destructive Scratching" which includes an irresponsible sidebar section on declawing entitled "The Declawing Option: What You Should Know," which outrageously serves to legitimize and justify cat declawing in certain circumstances.
The article describes declawing as a "relatively simple" procedure with "slight risks." This is recklessly untrue. In fact, declawing is among the most agonizing procedures a cat can undergo, and can lead to chronic pain and disability, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, DVM. While called "declawing," the procedure actually involves amputating a portion of a cat's toes, with life-long adverse affects common.
An important point Friends of Animals has long made to our members is that adopting a cat or dog means taking responsibility for their well being. Declawing-an act of cruelty which should be illegal-means renouncing the responsibility one has assumed when one adopts a cat into one's home. We're so serious about our anti-declawing position that we mandate that our low-cost spay neuter certificates cannot be used in the cat owner also intends on declawing their cat. Our educational pamphlet "Paws Come With Claws: That's One of Nature's Laws," details the various ways that pet owners can protect themselves and their furniture without ever harming their cat.
According to Catnip's editor-in-chief, Tufts-Cummings veterinary surgeon Dr. John Berg, "We do not do declawing procedures at Tufts-Cummings, and would consider it only if one of the very rare instances outlined in the sidebar ever arose." Friends of Animals' New York office contacted Dr. Berg and voiced our opposition to the contradictory message about declawing posed in Catnip's article, yet Dr. Berg insisted that the sidebar was appropriate and even stated that he himself could "imagine circumstances in which I personally would consider performing declawing."
Such a confused and backwards position should not be championed by a well-regarded Veterinary School.
Incredibly, the article also suggests that front-paw declawing does not render outdoor cats defenseless because they can climb "small-diameter trees." What about cats with only wide-diameter trees available, or no trees available? How would a declawed cat escape or defend themselves from a predator then? They would be incapable of doing so.
What are the instances outlined as reasons to amputate a portion of a cat's toes so it can't scratch? If an owner "appears likely to euthanize or abandon the cat unless (it) undergoes the procedure" or if the cat shares a household with someone who is medically compromised.
That is a flimsy justification, and utterly without merit. Many people doing rescue and shelter work know: Declawed cats are abandoned and euthanized just like any other cat.
Although Dr. Berg says he "cannot remember the last time" a declawing was performed at Tufts-Cummings since he started as a faculty member in 1987, Catnip's promoting declawing as a procedure of so-called last resort justifies this cruelty.
And justifying declawing gives vets and uninformed or selfish pet owners the green light to continue mutilating cats for the crime of being cats and doing what comes naturally to them.
Take Action for Cats' Paws--and Lives
Declawing doesn't keep cats in "good" homes. Instead, cats suffer excruciating pain and are abandoned anyway because declawing is not a solution to scratching.
Politely contact Dr. Berg and tell him that Catnip's careless treatment of declawing does a disservice to cats and does not reflect well on Tufts-Cummings.
• Ask Dr. Berg to publish an article in Catnip that takes a humane stand--with reasons declawing should never be done as behavioral intervention. If Tufts-Cummings indeed prohibits this unnecessary surgery it's especially necessary for their newsletter to inform their readers why they take this ethical stand.
• Anyone adopting a cat must accept scratching is a normal characteristic of a healthy cat. Amputating a portion of a cat's toes, or severing its tendons (tendonectomy), to deal with this behavior is patently cruel. There are many humane, sensible options, such as behavioral modification techniques, with rehoming a kinder "last resort."
• Bite wounds are as dangerous as scratches. What then? Remove the cat's teeth? To suggest that a cat should be declawed if an owner is medically compromised is absurd. It's important to also note that once deprived of claws a cat may turn to its only other form of defense-its teeth. It is fairly common for a declawed cat to become a biter, doing so out of fear and frustration.
• Declawing does not ensure cats a secure home. People who select, care for and train companion animals responsibly; who have realistic expectations of a cat's innate behavior; and who make a lifetime commitment to their pets are the only things that ensure a cat a secure home.