Wednesday, October 7, 2009

California's Catfight Over Declawing

I wish I could post here the article I just finished reading in VIN about the proposed ban on declawing cats in San Francisco and the SF-SPCA's surprising opposition to the proposal. Unfortunately, it is from a vets-only site and is copyrighted.

So, in a nutshell, SF activists are in a big rush to ban declaws before a new state law goes into effect at the first of the year making such city ordinances an illegal interference in the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. I fully support the new state law, and feel that local bans on any medical procedure are fundamentally inappropriate.

The SF-SPCA, to my utter amazement and delight, opposes the anti-declaw activists for the simple reason that cats who are truly destructive of property and cannot be made to stop are likely to be abandoned or relinquished, or even euthanized, so in many cases the daclaw saves a cat's life and keeps it in a safe, suitable home. This has always been my view, and why you won't hear me issuing any blanket condemnation of declaws.

We get occasional phone calls about our declaw policy, so I will reiterate it here. We DO perform declaws, but very infrequently, and only if I have determined that the cat is genuinely destructive, and the owner has made reasonable efforts to get it to stop. The procedure is a last resort, and definitely never a first option.

The declaw procedure consists of amputation of the last bone of all 10 front toes. It is not taken lightly, and is more prone to post-op complications than any other surgery I do. We always perform it under anesthesia, and two to three nights hospitalization are mandatory to ensure "bed rest". We administer post-op pain medications as needed, which has made it less stressful for hospital staff (when a patient is in pain, so are we!) in addition to the patient, and helps to greatly decrease complications due to waving sore paws. I have, after many years, placed severe age restrictions on my declaws - I will only perform them on cats from 6-8 months up to 3 years of age, unless there is a compelling medical reason to do so. We also will not ever declaw hind paws without a medical need in the patient such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

If you are considering declawing your cat, we recommend an office visit so we can spend the necessary time discussing alternatives and behavior modification techniques (we regret that this lengthy discussion is not suitable for a phone call). We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves anymore for training kitties to "leave the darned sofa alone!!!" (can you tell I have personal experience with this?).