Earlier this summer, my veterinarian invited me to a screening of The Paw Project, a documentary about the practice of declawing cats.
Although it's considered inhumane and is illegal in most countries, it's a procedure that's still commonly performed in the United States. This heartening new documentary chronicles veterinarian (and now filmmaker) Jennifer Conrad as she leads a courageous grassroots movement to enact legislation in California to ban the procedure, city by city. She started out big, doing corrective surgery and rehabilitation on Hollywood lions and tigers who were maimed after being de-clawed so that they would be less dangerous while making films. In 2004, The Paw Project team led a winning campaign to legally ban declawing of wild or exotic cats throughout the entire state of California.
Conrad and her associates then turned their attention to domestic cats, and were successful in efforts to legally ban declawing of domestic cats in 8 California cities: West Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Culver City.
The Paw Project is now working with two local veterinarians, Aubrey Lavizzo and Jean Hofve, to introduce a bill to the Colorado Legislature to ban the practice statewide.
They expect to meet with resistance from veterinary associations, though, since it's a fast and lucrative procedure. Performed with a laser, scalpel, or guillotine-like trimmer, declawing severs the tendons, nerves, and ligaments that normally enable function and movement of the paw, and can result in problems with the litter box, biting, chronic pain, arthritis, lameness and being defenseless. Those who support the procedure say it keeps cats in the home who might otherwise be surrendered to shelters for scratching the furniture; but critics say there are better alternatives, such as scratching posts and nail caps, that don't involve radical surgery.
Conrad has faith that pet owners want to do right by their pets, though. "While many cat owners are unaware of the true nature of this surgery," she says, "they are never told that it is an amputation of the last toe bones in a cat’s paw; and it actually does more harm than good."
The Paw Project (see trailer below) will be shown by the Denver film Society on Wednesday, September 25th, and Dr. Jennifer Conrad will be present for a discussion afterward. For ticket sales go to www.denverfilm.org.
CAT SENSE : HOW THE NEW FELINE SCIENCE CAN MAKE YOU A BETTER FRIEND TO YOUR PET by John Bradshaw (2013)
HOW TO SAY IT TO YOUR CAT : SOLVING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN WAYS YOUR CAT WILL UNDERSTAND by Janine Adams (2003)
ENTENDER, EDUCAR Y CUIDAR A TU GATO by Javier Villahizán (Spanish,2006)
Cat Scratching.com - Solving problem scratching
De-Clawing.com - A Directory to Every Major Declawing Site on the Web
Thank you for bringing attention to this issue and practice. I recently heard a radio interview with the author of Cat Sense, he talked about human amputees feeling phantom pain and at least being able to understand the phenomenon, but how it's possible that cats who have had this procedure feel that as well, but cannot understand why.
Thank you for our comment - for more information on the issue, including phantom pain, check out last week's Westword article, The Cruelest Cut by the brilliant (ok, he's my husband) Alan Prendergast.
There are ways we alter nature in animals in order to domesticate them, but declawing is certainly not a necessary part of that. Good article, Lisa, and thanks for the links and spreading the word.
Thank you for your blog and bringing this issue to the forefront. I am a cat lover and have always been against this practice.
Thanks for posting this information. Plan to attend event -
I feel terrible that my cat was "altered" before i got to her, it is certainly not something i would advocate doing