Declawing your Cat is cruel as Dr. Jennifer Conrad explains In ‘The Paw Project.’ [Interview]

Photo: (Paw Project)

Photo: (Paw Project)

One-fourth of American cats are declawed, but many people are speaking out against the procedure since it’s a very painful form of amputation. Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad is on a crusade to stop declawing, and her documentary “The Paw Project” tells all the reasons why.

+ Watch “The Paw Project” trailer.

Declawing has already been banned in many countries and in parts of the U.S. and it’s increasingly being seen as animal cruelty. But “The Paw Project” doesn’t have gruesome, bloody imagery or try to horrify you or guilt trip you. It explains how declawing actually works, why many people are against it, and leaves you empowered knowing you can do something about it. I spoke to Jennifer to learn more about her documentary and alternatives to declawing.

ACT: For people who haven’t seen “The Paw Project,” why are you taking a stand against declawing cats?

JENNIFER: Declawing is a surgery that’s one of the most painful routine surgeries done in veterinary medicine. More often than not, I think the owners don’t know what they’re subjecting their cats to. They don’t realize declawing is the amputation of a bone. It is not some fancy manicure. I thought I owed it to the cats to expose what declawing really is.

If the equivalent of declawing were done to your own hand, you’d have the last knuckle in each of your fingers removed. In our hands, the nails grow from the skin. But in a cat paw, the nail grows from that last bone. In order to get rid of it, the bone has to be amputated. If some vets say that’s not how they’re declawing, I find that very suspect. After working to repair the paws on all sorts of cats for many, many years now, I’ve never seen a harmless way to declaw. There’s no good way to do it.

PAW-articleLarge-Insert

Photo: (The Paw Project)

ACT: Why is declawing such a popular procedure for pets?

JENNIFER: I think there are two reasons. Some veterinarians offer it as if it’s the right thing to do for cats and a lot of people don’t know what it really is. If you look, you’ll often find it in a kitten package: they’ll offer vaccines, spay or neuter and declaw. Most of the owners I come across are mortified when they learn what declawing really is.

The other reason it’s very popular is because many veterinarians can do the surgery very easily. It takes about 11 minutes to declaw a cat. But surgery should not be employed to remedy a behavioral problem. Behavioral training and modification should be what someone uses to change a behavioral problem. Some veterinarians aren’t very well versed in that, so they are more comfortable doing surgery to address a behavioral problem, even though declawing actually causes other behavioral problems that are far worse than scratching.

Declawing causes cats to stop using the litter box in some cases. They’ll go into the litter box and it hurts their paws to dig, so they’ll stop using the litter box from that point on. It also causes them to bite more because they know they’ve been robbed of their primary defense, their claws. Because of those behavioral problems, declawed cats lose their homes at a rate to two to one compared to regular cats. That’s why I’m fighting so hard. By the way, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other public health organizations don’t advise declawing for the cats of immuno-compromised people. It seems only declawing veterinarians advise that.

ACT: “The Paw Project” shows how you succeeded in getting declawing banned in some cities. What actions against declawing are you currently taking?

JENNIFER: We’re trying to educate the public on what declawing really is and hope that’s enough to get it stopped in this country and Canada. I think when people find out that declawing is really an amputation of toe bones, they won’t want to do that to their beloved animal.

declawing-cats-billboard-Insert

Photo: (The Paw Project)

ACT: How can people watch “The Paw Project”?

JENNIFER: Currently “The Paw Project” is in multiple theaters across the country. If you go to PawProject.org, you’ll see what theaters are playing the movie. And if there isn’t one near you, you can request that the movie come to your city through an organization called Tugg. You go on there and set up an event. If you get enough people to want to watch this movie with you, it will come to a theater in your town.

PawProjectMoviePoster-Insert

Photo: (The Paw Project)

ACT: Many people get their cats declawed to protect furniture. If a person has a cat who’s ruining furniture, what options are out there?

JENNIFER: There are humane options. For instance, you can clip the cat’s nails every two weeks so the nails aren’t sharp. You can put Soft Paws on, which are little vinyl sheaths that cover the nail so the animal can’t do any damage while it learns it shouldn’t be scratching on the couch. That gives you some time to train the cat to an appropriate scratching surface, like a scratching pad or scratching posts.

Now, scratching pads and scratching posts come in a multitude of different materials and you have to try to figure out what your cat likes to scratch. For instance, if you cat likes to scratch the legs of a table, you have to simulate that in a scratching post made of wood. Pay attention to what the cat is liking to scratch. So if the cat likes to scratch carpet, then get a carpet scratching post. I think the cheapest and most effective ones are the cardboard ones. Every cat loves those. The cat is scratching to mark territory, so you can’t sequester the scratching post behind the dryer and expect the cat to use it. It needs to be in a prominent place.

ACT: Besides not having their own cats declawed, how can people take action on this issue?


JENNIFER
: This is a campaign of education. If people are against declawing, they need to tell people what declawing is. I often run into people who don’t know what it is and are even about to have it done to their cat. It helps to get the word out and let people know declawing is a bad idea.

I made this documentary because I think it’s going to give me the biggest voice I have ever had in this campaign. I hope that the people who care about this issue join me and recognize that I too love cats. It’s not a gruesome, horrible, try-to-make-you-feel-bad movie. It is a movie where the animals actually win, and I hope that audiences enjoy it. I made it that way so I could also sit through it. After all, I’ve had to watch it well over two hundred times.

conrad-2

Photo: (The Paw Project)

take action

Paw Project

Paw Project

Learn more about declawing and get involved with The Paw Project!

take action

Follow on Twitter!

Follow on Twitter!

Keep up-to-date with The Paw Project by following it on Twitter!