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Believe it or not, we have 5 cats, 4 outside and 1 inside. We chose to have 2 cats who before they went to their reward had litters from whence we got 3 of the cats we have now…so you could say we chose 3 but ended up with 5. Confusing, I know, but a typical cat-story.

At various times along the way of family life and raising kids we’ve had dogs, as many as 11 cats one time when two (mentioned above) had simultaneous litters, rabbits, fish, and hamsters.

We never went the bird route, but hey, we like birds. As a matter of fact we like all animals, so we enjoy the deer, pheasant, rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, chipmunks, opossum, raccoons, and more that frequent our yard in all seasons.

I grew up in a small town five minutes from Grandpa’s farm. So big farm animals and all that went with them was part of my youth. Animal husbandry, therefore, is something with which we’re familiar. And from at least an intellectual point of view, so is conservation, hunting and animal rights, and use of animals in research. No matter how you slice it, we’re “animal people.”

This cat-story, though, focuses upon the “inside cat.” Her name is Abby, she’s probably about 5 years old, and she’s from California. She first came to the Rogers clan via our son, who acquired Abby from a local shelter in Pasadena as a gift for his wife. Abby lived happily in their home, moved from CA back to MI, and then came to our house with them when they transitioned from an apartment to their first home. Meanwhile, baby is on the way, so our son and his wife decided they didn’t want to take Abby into their new home to be around their newborn. Now you know how Abby came to reside at our place.

Abby is the most social animal I’ve ever known. If you let her, which my wife does and I don’t, she’ll climb onto your lap at all times in all places. She’ll climb onto your laptop keyboard. She’ll walk on you in the bed at night, if you let her, which I don’t. When my wife’s gone for a few days and I return to an empty house except for Abby, she’ll meow for an hour or more, upset from lack of companionship.

All in all, if you like cats, Abby’s about as nice as they come, even though two cat-isms drive me crazy. Abby sheds and periodically sharpens her claws on the back of the furniture, even though she has a scratching post.

So a couple of months ago we investigated getting her declawed. The cost was not an issue, but the more I read online about this procedure the more I didn’t like it, the more I realized how invasive it was to the cat—not like us clipping our fingernails, but painful, possibly injurious long-term, and most of all, permanently removing something that makes a cat a cat. We opted to put up with periodic scratching behavior rather than declaw our cat.

Since then I’ve read more about declawing cats and an even more invasive procedure, devocalizing dogs. These practices are part of modern urban life.

The ASPCA opposes declawing, debarking, and a host of other physical tweaks people make on their pets. Yet some 60% of pet owners, including 55% of cat owners, say declawing is OK, while only 8% say debarking a dog is OK. Another 47% favor making debarking illegal but 44% do not agree. So on the whole, Americans are fairly open to declawing cats but pretty negative on devocalizing dogs. I can’t go with either.

I’m not against all forms of physical interventions with animals. Having been close to the farm I know that horns are cut from cattle primarily for the safety of human beings working around them. Now we have polled breeds wherein horns have literally been bred out of the line. Sometimes cattle’s ears are cropped for identification. And then there’s the old practice of branding. Birds' wings are sometimes clipped to prevent them from flying away. In urban areas and beyond we’re being encouraged, and many are doing it, to have tiny computer identification chips surgically placed in pets, especially dogs. Even bobbing some dog breeds’ tails is considered appropriate.

I am not suggesting everyone who chooses to intervene physically with their animals violates some principle of animal husbandry. Nor am I saying that a person who physically alters his or her pet is ipso facto a person of moral disrepute. I’m simply calling attention to the fact that such a decision should be made carefully with due consideration to genuine need and the well being of the animal.

I must say, though, that declawing and debarking seem to me to be more about human convenience than about protecting the animal, making its life better, or even securing protective identification. Both surgeries can apparently be successful and seemingly not hurtful to the animal long-term. But there’s much evidence that both surgeries can also cause considerable discomfort, illness, and death in the animal. When you opt for declawing or debarking you really don’t know what will happen to your animal.

For us these latter possibilities weren’t worth the risk. We decided we’d rather have a cat that’s a cat, whole and well, and enjoy and/or tolerate her cat behavior. It’s why after all we have a cat.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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