Recently, members of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association voted to ban procedures such as debarking, tail docking, piercing and other cosmetic procedures that are deemed as “medically unnecessary”. One of the procedures listed is one that many involved in animal rescue and welfare have been fighting to be banned is the declawing of cats.
Thankfully, more and more places in the world are starting to ban this unnecessary cosmetic procedure.
So why would anyone want to remove their cats claws?
There are cat owners out there who do so to prevent their cat from scratching (which is what cats naturally do).
What does it mean to declaw a cat? I will warn readers who are unaware of the procedure right now, it’s quite gruesome and I am choosing to not show any images of it.
It is not a simple surgery that removes the cats nails or anything like a manicure. As cat’s claws are attached to the bone, declawing involves amputation of the last bone of each claw. In humans, this would be akin amputating each finger at the last knuckle on a hand. I won’t go into much detail, but as you can image it’s quite a gruesome surgery for any vet to be asked to perform.
The procedure itself is awful and then there are the complications that can arise from the procedure. As the soft tissue is still attached, it’s incredibly painful for a cat to put weight on their feet following the procedure. As with any major surgery, there is a risk of infection, tissue death, lameness and nerve damage.
So what can cat owners do to deal with their cats scratching rather than get them declawed?
There are a variety of options for cat owners that don’t involve surgically removing your cats claws that are much more humane and cheaper (because as with any medical procedure for your pet, it’s not cheap).
One of the simplest things cat owners can do is to keep their cat’s nails trimmed. The article linked is a great resource for cat owners of the do’s and don’t of keeping their cat’s nails trimmed.
Another option and a very popular option is to get your cat a scratching post. These can be found at pretty much any store that sells anything for pets. If your cat needs some incentive to use it, try rubbing some catnip on it.
Many people are of the belief that cats scratch items because they are behaving badly instead of realizing it’s a normal behaviour of cats. Cats scratch because they are removing a dead outer layer of their claws, marking their scent (as they have scent glands on their paws) and to stretch their bodies.
Many people are of the belief that unlike a dog, you can’t train a cat and that’s simply not true. Like dogs, positive reinforcement is recommended. When your cat scratches where you want them to, offer them praise and a reward such as a treat and pets. Never yell or throw items at your cat if they are scratching. Instead, behavioural experts recommend that you make a loud noise such as clapping your hands if you catch them scratching something they shouldn’t be.
At the end of the day, cats are going to scratch. Expecting a cat to not scratch is like expecting a dog not to bark or a child to never cry. It’s not going to happen.
So if your solution to a cat scratching is to surgically remove their claws or to give them away or worse, abandon them, I would suggest never owning a cat.
I want to first start off by stating that yes, this blog is about animal rescue, and I am a big supporter of adopting animals (hence why I use the #adoptdontshop hashtag on social media). But, I understand that people love certain breeds of animals and there is nothing wrong with that. I totally understand that as I love Boston Terriers. I always have and I always will, and there will probably be a time where I go through a CKC registered breeder to get a Boston Terrier puppy in the future.
We have had two of them over the years (and one Boston/French Bulldog) and I can honestly say that we will always have at least one as part of our family. We can’t have breeds like labs, shepherds or huskies due to Dean being allergic to them (specifically, the dander).
Before we adopted Freckles, we were in contact with a CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Boston Terrier breeder. Sadly the litter we were planning to choose from did not survive as the mom had serious complications and had to be spayed immediately after. As sad as we were, things worked out and we were able to welcome Freckles to our family.
Yes, we wanted to go through a rescue but, sometimes it’s not always possible (especially if you are looking for certain breeds like Boston Terriers). There are certain behavioural issues that we are just not equipped to deal with (ie. aggression towards other dogs or humans or extreme separation anxiety) which can honestly be tough to find a dog who doesn’t have behavioural issues if you are looking at going through a rescue as they usually have lived through incredibly challenging environments.
This is one of the reasons why people may choose to go through a breeder. The problem lies in the fact that most people do not do their homework when it comes to breeders. Most people will not take the time to research and find a CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or AKC (America Kennel Club) breeder, and may simply turn to sites like kijiji or Craigslist. They want a puppy and are not willing to pay the thousands (yes, purebred dogs from championship bloodlines will cost you in the thousands) or if they are, they are unaware of who they are giving their money to. People are usually unaware they are getting their dog from an unlicensed backyard breeder.
Well, what’s so bad about that?
Backyard breeders are only in it to make money. They do not care about the wellbeing or health of the animal. These dogs are forced to live in crates without ever going outside. They are never or rarely ever house trained. They never get their vaccinations to prevent them from getting diseases such as bordetella (aka. kennel cough) and can die from the bacterial strain, and rarely get any veterinary care except if something is seriously wrong or jeopardizing that dog’s ability to breed.
By getting your animal from a backyard breeder, you may be getting a dog that is extremely sick and there have been many cases of that and where the dog (which is usually a puppy) has to be put down. Backyard breeders have been known to dock certain breeds tails or ears in non-sterile or anatomically beneficial manners, and those dogs usually end up with infections or risk paralysis from spinal nerve damage because the “breeders” don’t know what they are doing.
Once a dog no longer produces puppies for them, those dogs are disposable. Freckles was a dog that her original owners thought she was disposable. They actually took her (a two year old Boston Terrier) to the vet to be put down because she was no use to them anymore after she was no longer able to have puppies. When she was young she developed an eye injury, and because she is a fairly rare ginger coloured boston terrier, they opted to have surgery to keep her alive, but then forced her to have litter after litter to recoup the costs of the surgery. In the end, the owners surrendered her for all of $50 to an animal rescue volunteer in order to cover the remaining costs of vaccinations following her surgery.
By going through sites like kijiji and Craigslist, these are the kinds of people you are supporting (as registered breeders NEVER advertise on these kind of sites).
How do I know I’m going through a registered breeder?
There are a number of things that registered breeders will do and not do. The first is that they will have you fill out an application form (just like all rescue organizations do). They want to make sure their dogs are going to a proper home. They will take the time to ask you questions and they are willing to answer any questions that you will have. They will allow you to see the parents in person if you ask (this is a huge red flag if they don’t). They will have certificates of being CKC or AKC registered (you can also check on the CKC or AKC website to see if they are good standing with them) and will have all the certificates for their dogs and show the genealogy of the dog and through at least 2 generations. They will never allow you to take a puppy home earlier than 8-12 weeks (again, huge red flag if it’s earlier than that). They will ween, crate train and house train the puppy for you, and ensure they have received all mandatory vaccinations up to the age they release the puppy for adoption.
There will also be very strict health standards that any of their animals will need to have met before being bred. If they do not meet these standard, that animal will not be bred. Their animals will also only be allowed to be bred a very small amount of times and will not be immediately after every single litter.
They will make you sign an agreement where you will NOT be allowed to breed that dog and will also have in the agreement that you will spay or neuter that dog. They will not meet you in a random parking lot somewhere, grab the cash, throw the dog at you and run (if they do, they are are backyard breeder and do NOT give them money).
Going through a registered breeder will never 100% guarantee an animal’s long term health. I know someone that went through a registered breeder for a Boxer and the Boxer ended up with a brain tumour and had to be put down at the age of five.
I know there are people who are going to read this and be angry that I am talking about going through a breeder and not only adopting. Yes, in a ideal world, everyone would adopt an animal and not go through breeders. However, in many cases, animals who come from backyard breeders tend to wind up as rescue dogs, much like Freckles. By understanding how to avoid backyard breeders when you’re looking for a specific breed, you can ensure you end this barbaric practice and avoid those who only want money without looking out for the welfare of their animals.
In an ideal world, animal rescue organizations should not exist. All animals should be loved, cared for and wanted. Everyone would spay and neuter their animal. No one would every abandon or abuse their animal. There would also be no such thing as racism, bigotry, misogyny, poverty, addiction or abuse either in an ideal world.
All I (and those involved with animal rescue) can do is educate people to make informed choices. I will always support animal rescue (through either volunteering, donating or adopting when I can) even if I ever choose to go through a CKC registered breeder to add to our family. The two do not have to mutually exclusive. We will always have rescues in our home, and will always have Boston Terriers as well.