Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Rule Britannia

I often grumble about my country of birth. England to put it bluntly has gone to the dogs. Morals have completely disappeared, most of our traditions are now politically incorrect, including Christmas and Easter, the Labour government is being pilloried, the Countryside Alliance have infiltrated the Conservative Party and are baying for the hunting ban to be repealed while MP’s are living high off the hog using taxpayers money to clean their moats and buy chandeliers, champagne and light bulbs. I know that cruelty is at an all time high and that dreadful things are happening everyday to humans and animals alike.

But this morning it dawned on me, you know what? For all that, I’m bloody proud to be English! And the reason is that there are some bog standard, run of the mill, everyday people who are absolutely, wonderfully and genuinely kind and who love their animals just the way they are.

I was browsing an English cat lover’s forum and came across a question from someone who’s cat keeps insisting on scratching the wallpaper off, and I believe when they said off they mean just that, the wallpaper is gone, removed, shredded and merely tatters remain. Full of trepidation I looked at the replies, I say that because as readers may know I frequent Yahoo Answers Cats section quite a lot and on there a question like this would receive numerous answers from those over the pond in the USA, I then decided to compare English answers and USA answers to this type of question.

So I did a bit of a search for a similar question on Y/A USA, and these are some of the suggestions to similar problems. OK here we go, the least offensive is of course trim the claws down, no problem with that if the cat is happy to sit and have the claws clipped without panicking, if that solves the problem then sighs of relief all round. Then there are the dreaded soft paws, now I shouldn't criticize this weird invention because I know that their use has saved many a cat from being declawed but somehow I still don’t like the thought of sticking rubber caps onto cats claws. For a start do they not stop the claws from retracting into the sheaths? I would imagine they’d feel pretty uncomfortable in that case and think that’s probably one of the reasons why cats chew them off as quickly as possible, plus the thought of a cat with pink/blue/ yellow caps on it’s claws “looking cute” seems a bit sad and undignified for such beautiful creatures. And when they chew them off do they not run the risk of making their toes sore or even swallowing them? Could they get lodged in their intestines I wonder?
Then there is often sticky paper suggested, this must be something like the glue traps that small creatures get stuck on and perish. I wouldn’t like to think I’d deliberately made one of my cats get his paws stuck and have to drag them off the sticky paper risking sore pads or twisted “ankles”. One suggestion was “sticky tape and shouting” whereas another of just using masking tape seemed kinder and more reasonable to me. There was a suggestion to put chilli pepper in the area – hmm what about the cat’s delicate nose and eyes then? There was one suggestion to take a tin and fill it with pebbles and shake it to “frighten” the cat away (But away from what? From the owner I’d say). Get a balloon, blow it up and squeak it at the cat, get a Doberman (Get a Doberman? How helpful is that? Would another breed not work as well I wonder?) Get a water pistol and squirt it at the cat when it claws, and here there were a variety of suggestions as to what to put in it, there was lemon juice, vinegar, chilli pepper (yes again) in water and all sorts of horrible liquids, and plain water of course. And then in the end it came, the answer I’d been waiting for “Declawing it is your best solution”.

Everything there was doing something to the cat, shout at it, frighten it, wet it, make it’s eyes sting or alter it’s paws in some way, from merely trimming the claws to sticking things on them or going all the way and amputating the offending claws along with the toes they were joined to.

So, going back to the English board here are some comments in reply to the person who asked what they could do about their cat scratching the wallpaper to kingdom come. Someone said exclude it from the room, someone else said get a scratching post and point the cat at it and give it treats when it uses it, and someone else recommended a spray from Kleeneze that smells of lemon to spray on the wallpaper (not the cat) but my favourites, and I can’t really choose from them because I love them all are: One, surprisingly from a man is “Take the wallpaper off and paint the wall”, I just love the logic and simplicity of that, remove the problem by removing the paper. Two is ”Mine scratch more when their claws are clipped to sharpen them again, but they also scratch when they need clipping and in between as well - nothing works but I still love them. And three is a beauty – “Nothing on this planet will stop our beautiful feline friends doing what they want”

See what I mean? What a difference in attitude. On the one hand it’s all about “punishment” and the other it is all about tolerance.

That’s why I’m proud to be English today.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Talk about wearing blinkers

I read something this morning written by a Dr Kathy Babbitt who is the owner of Lima Animal Hospital in Ohio, she is trying to dispel some "myths" about declawing. Here is her first remark: "Declawing is the removal of the end of the toe on a cat usually to prevent destruction of household items such as a couch."

Well there we go folks, straight to the heart of the matter, lets get our priorities right and prevent the destruction of the couch. Lets destroy the cat's feet instead, it's so much cheaper than buying new couches and scratching posts do make the house look so untidy don't you think?

Then Dr Babbitt makes a glorious pronouncement: "In fact, in one survey 70 percent of owners of declawed cats reported an improved relationship with their cat after the procedure." Well yes I can see that once the owner has had the toes with the offending claws amputated they're going to feel smugly content that the couch is saved, and there'll be no need to "yell at the cat", "squirt him with water" "Bop him on the head" or even stop junior from pulling his tail or his whiskers out because the claws are in the bin at the vets.

OK, lets try this one then "Declawed cats are not as effective at climbing trees as cats with claws but declawing does not prevent tree climbing." Right, lets assume the cat can shimmy up the tree using his back claws to push with, but let's not forget that most declawed cats are not allowed outside anyway so this is probably a mute point, but for those that are outdoors and are chased by a dog or some other creature (apparently coyotes kill 99.9% of cats outside that's why you should never ever ever in their entire lives allow them so much as a whiff of fresh air outside the house, unless they are in a "cat stroller" ye gads!) and take a flying leap at a tree they are at a serious disadvantage by not having the front claws to anchor themselves by to start the climb wouldn't you say?

"Declawed cats are not as effective at catching prey as cats with claws but declawing does not prevent effective hunting." She doesn't say how she knows this, perhaps she's made a study of declawed cats that have been dumped to fend for themselves on the streets.

"Myth No. 4: A declawed cat has lost its ability to defend itself and should not be allowed outside.This one is actually true. Without claws, a cat has indeed lost an important part of its defense system. I feel strongly that declawed cats should be housed indoors only." I rest my case!

Now this makes me so damned sad! "Declawed cats do not seem to realize they have no claws. They will continue to scratch ineffectively as if they did not know the difference. Studies have shown no increased biting tendency after declawing." The poor little souls "do not seem to realise they have no claws", surely cats that have enjoyed the use of their claws know when they no longer have them, the point that Dr Babbitt is missing is that the scratching reflex is instinct, they don't have the choice they just do it, I can't imagine a more pitiful sight than a declawed cat trying "ineffectively" to do what a clawed cat can do - plug in and, fat bum going from side to side, enjoy a full stretch of their entire body from toes, up their legs and through their chests and backs. (Incidentally some folks think it's hilarious to watch a declawed cat try ineffectively to strop his claws - but they are morons) Yeah OK sometimes the couch is used and we all know that couches are protected species, but equally as often a scratching post is used - if provided. Now kittens that have been declawed before they've even had the chance to realise they HAVE claws...I suppose they don't know the difference...they probably assume that the blunt little nubs they have are what they've been allotted, but I bet they also try and follow the age old activity of stropping non existent claws too. In fact I worry that all this ineffective scratching will make those amputation sites sore, chafing away at a rough surface with sensitive stumps must surely cause a lot of sore and bleeding paws. Good for topping up the takings of your friendly local vet if nothing else.

But wait...what's this about no increased tendency to bite? I have many quotes from people who think differently, here's a couple "Its been almost 5 years since the last surgery until now, Kiki hasn't been the same she shares the house with a younger male cat and her only defence are her teeth, poor Kiki got so bitter after being declawed (she had a very stuck up attitude before, but after her experience she only lets you pet her 4 times and then bites)." ( Kiki had two lots of surgery, after her declawing a claw started growing back so she was taken to another vet for a further op, she was also denied pain relief) Here's another one "When I was working at the shelter we had a couple come in one day to surrender their cat to us. Why? Because they had all 4 paws de-clawed at the same time. He was only 2 years old. They said he was the sweetest nicest cat before they had him de-clawed. After the surgery they said he turned out to be so vicious they couldn't even get near him with out him attacking. Sadly, he had to be Euthanized as we couldn't place him in anyone's home." So this declawed cat is dead! No biting there now!

Let's move on to Myth No. 6: The post-operative period involves tremendous pain.The key to alleviating this pain is to make sure your veterinarian using appropriate pain control at the time of surgery. No matter which method, including laser, is used pain is caused. The declawed cat will indeed have sore feet after surgery. The larger the cat, the more the discomfort and reluctance to bear weight. Pain relievers are often prescribed. However, this recovery period should not last longer than a week or so. Healing should be complete by two weeks.It is not normal for a cat to have chronic pain after declaw surgery. If the toes are not comfortable, the cat seems to be "walking on eggshells" after the recovery period should have been over, or seems irritable about his or her feet, a check up is warranted. Sometimes an infection is present. Sometimes a bit of surgical glue has not properly extruded and must be removed. Sometimes a residual bit of bone is creating a "stone in one's shoe" sensation and the bone must be removed. Am I just being a soft namby pamby or what? That sounds a lot like tremendous pain to me! Have you ever walked with a stone in your shoe? How many steps do you take before you have to stop and lean against a lamp post and get that dastardly stone out of that shoe? Well Dr Babbitt seems to think that a bit of residual bone might make the cat want to take his shoe off, I'd say it would! If the poor bloody thing could take it off!!! So let's get back to imagining walking in that shoe, with that stone digging in, but the shoe doesn't come off and the stone keeps on digging until lo and behold an ulcer appears, for a declawed cat this broken skin, used for digging in litter box, can be the cause of serious and life threatening infection, I know of cats that have lost limbs and lost lives through infection in declawed paws.

And finally we have Myth No. 7: A declawed cat will not use a litter box again.
It is very important that litter not get impacted in the declaw incisions during the recovery period. Shredded paper is the usual recommendation during recovery and some cats simply will not use shredded paper. The recycled newspaper litters are an excellent alternative. The only litter problem one might expect would be lack of acceptance of a new litter during the recovery period. Declawed cats do not lose their litter box instinct.

Well my friend Annie Bruce would disagree with that, she says http://www.catbegood.com/ "In three years of experience as a cat owner consultant, Annie Bruce (author of Cat Be Good) received 95% of calls about declawed cats related to litter box problems, as opposed to only 46% of calls about clawed cats—and most of those were older cats with physical ailments"

She also says "Dealing with the urine problems of a cat that cannot learn to use a litter box requires the patience of a saint. And few of us, when it comes down to it, are saints. How would you feel if your couch was totally ruined by urine? Or your carpet, pad, and floorboards stank to the point that they had to be replaced? Owners of declawed cats report the worst home repair bills. People who own clawed cats rarely experience damage as extensive as this.
Many people simply can’t and won’t face the stench of urine, and not many cat owners will let a cat destroy an entire house. In desperation, they may try to force him to live outside. When he’s outside, he is an easy target for predators"

So there you go, all those non existent problems, all those myths exploded, all those cats declawed, crippled, laughed at, dumped, dead.

Oh, and here's what that ulcerated paw would look like, you remember the one caused by the stone in the shoe sensation and a few more "pretty pictures" too
I'm sorry to those who, like me, hate the very idea and name of declawing, it's not fair to preach to the converted or add photos, but if only one person stumbles across this blog by chance and stops to think that maybe declawing isn't such a good idea then our sadness is worth it.
God bless all cats clawed and declawed, let the day come soon when all cats enjoy what is theirs by right, fully clawed paws.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Not unlike foot binding

When I first got myself steamed up about the number of cats being de-toed in the USA I had recently read a novel set in China in the days of foot binding of the daughters of upper class families. The process of breaking the toes and folding them under the foot and by applying the bindings tighter and tighter over a number of years so that eventually the foot folded right back under itself and the resulting fold being more attractive the deeper it was made me think about the whole ridiculous business of some people having the sort of power over other people or animals that they can perform excruciatingly painful procedures on them and justify their actions to themselves. So using the "golden lilies" as my subject I asked the question on Y/A, was it not a similar thing to declaw a cat as to bind the feet of a Chinese girl child. Needless to say I was shot down in flames and even ridiculed for making the comparison but hey...I got the link to the petition on and got some signatures so what did I care?

But there are similarities nevertheless. Bone from the broken toes of the girls could break through the skin of the foot in the same way that bone from the shattered remains of a cat's toe can break through the remaining skin of the paw. The initial breaking and folding back of the bones in the toes of the girl child could be botched by a mother who couldn't bear to put her daughter through the excruciating pain, just the same as the cutting or lasering through bone, tendon and ligament of toes of cats can be botched, not by vets who don't want to cause pain but by vets who do this operation routinely and quickly and regard it as almost an assembly line procedure, part of a package offered with neutering and vaccination.....money in the bank.

Those wounded feet/paws in girls and cats can, did and do result in gangrenous infections and the loss of feet/paws - and lives. In the case of the Chinese girls lucky enough not to succumb to any infection they had to spend many hours each day for the rest of their lives caring for their mutilated feet, unwrapping the bindings, washing the feet, cleaning the deep fold and the remains of their toes and then rebinding the feet. This is similar to the attention that should be given to the mutilated paws of declawed cats, they should be examined daily and kept clean because even years after declawing pieces of bone can work to the surface (in the same way that pieces of tooth long extracted can work to the surface of the gum) .

Finally, having been bound the girls had to learn to walk in a new way on their "golden lilies" over very short distances, with short steps, picking their way very slowly, avoiding stepping on anything that would cause pain. Similarly declawed cats have to adapt and learn to walk in a different way, using different muscles and a different way of balancing their weight. Owners say they manage just fine...but what choice have they? Cats don't have access to wheelchairs or palanquins (covered litter for a person carried on poles, formerly used in India and the East) as used by the Chinese girls.

Foot binding is history now, why isn't declawing history too?

Cats have their lives to live whatever that life and whatever their owner chooses to inflict on them and being the brave creatures they are they hide their pain and distress and get on with it.

But that doesn't make it right does it?

Here is the petition calling for a ban on declawing of cats in the USA

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The fight against declawing

Last November (2008) while browsing a site called Yahoo Answers it was shockingly brought to the attention of my sister and myself that kittens and cats are still being routinely declawed in the USA (and Canada) and in fact there are certain veterinary practices that actively promote declawing included in packages with neutering and vaccination of kittens. We noticed that almost daily there were posts commenting on the after effects of declawing (onychectomy) there were people asking why their cats were toiletting outside of their litter boxes, why they were hiding away, biting, holding up paws etc etc etc and what emerged to my mind were two types of people. There are the ones who blindly follow either a family tradition of declawing pet cats and never give a thought to how it happens and what the cat thinks about it or they follow the advice of their veterinary surgeon, who let's face it charges quite a whack for what is after all cosmetic surgery. The other type are the ones who really don't care if it hurts, disfigures or disables the cat as long as A) their furniture is OK B) their kids can torment the cat without fear of getting a whack from a clawed paw in retaliation or C) they never get scratched themselves while performing their (un-neccessary) routing bath of their "kitty" (this makes me so angry...why can't they call them cats?)
Disturbed about so many toes being amputated we contacted the AVMA asking what their policy was, the reply was that each state of the USA made their own policy but the guidelines of the AVMA were that declawing should be performed as a last resort when all other means of eliminating inappropriate scratching had been tried or if the health of the owner could be compromised by a clawed cats ( e.g deficient immune system). So we contacted the chief executive of veterinary medicine in every state of the USA and the ones that bothered to reply referred us back to the AVMA statement. So it's a bit of a closed shop then? Too true!

In an attempt to do our bit to get declawing (deTOEing) relegated to history we started a group called the Claws Connection and a petition to the AVMA calling for a ban on the declawing of cats Through the group and through continuous answering of the questions on Y/A we have made some good friends and we call ourselves The Troops and we try as often as possible to educate people about the horrors and sheer non necessity of declawing cats, offer advice on solving problems that may have led people to consider declawing and provide links to sites that give good sound veterinary advice. Amongst our troops is author and cat behaviourist Annie Bruce who has written the book Cat Be Good and has two websites Good Cats Wear Black and Cat Be Good both packed full of good advice.

But what a struggle it is to spread the word, if we lived in the USA we'd be out there on the streets with posters & petition but living in England and being not quite over the hill but rapidly approaching the summit from whence it's all downhill we can only rely on the pen being mightier than the sword (or in modern speak the keyboard being mightier than the sword or the pen). We need thousands more signatures before we present it to the AVMA and we need people in the USA who are against declawing, and yes there are many many people against it, to get out there and shout about the horrors of it, to visit and lobby vets to stop doing it and to get it in the media in any old way they can.

Cats have the right to their claws, why on earth should anyone be able to decide to remove their cat's toes?