By Ruth (Monty’s Mom)
This is the story of a gray tabby cat named Suki, who lives at The Cat Network in West Allis, Wisconsin. Suki does not have a sweet personality. Suki’s temperament may cause her to be a permanent resident of The Cat Network. She has an area designated as “Suki’s House” which includes her cage and a bed outside her cage at about waist height which gives her an elevated vantage point without being too high up. She also walks on the table in front of the cages at times. She seems to be inviting you to pet her. One, two, three strokes… she seems to be enjoying it…a sudden flash and pain as Suki strikes without warning! A recent encounter with Suki left me bleeding. More recently she latched on hard to my hand and did not let go for several seconds. Though her teeth did not break the skin she held on so tightly to the back of my hand that I now have a faint bruise there. I was not stroking her at the time this happened, merely standing next to her. She seemed to want me to be near her, so I moved closer. For several minutes Suki sat calmly near me, but without warning she bit me hard. When she finally let go she appeared angry.
I have been around cats quite a bit. I usually can tell when a cat is inviting some attention. Suki seemed to be sitting by me in companionable contentment– just as my cat Monty is often content to just be by me, but doesn’t necessarily want physical contact. Monty will bite if he is overstimulated, but it’s easy to tell when he’s reaching that point. Even then he does not bite hard. Suki bites harder than any cat I’ve known and the ferocity of the attack is always a surprise. Suki is a cat who seems to want human companionship, even human attention, but then rejects it suddenly and without warning every single time.
The volunteers at The Cat Network are quick to warn visitors about Suki and the tag on her cage describes her temperament. It is convenient that Suki prefers the same areas every day, making it easy to recognize her. Since she does not growl or hiss and seems even to invite attention, it is important to recognize her and approach with caution.
Why do I keep trying to befriend Suki even though I know she is going to hurt me? Because something really horrible happened to Suki, and though I can’t prove it is the cause of her attacks, I do feel sorry for her. Suki is a declawed cat. I’m sure many readers saw that coming, were questioning from the start whether this was the case.
We can debate whether painful paws and a sense of helplessness from losing her claws has changed her temperament or whether her aggression is due to some other form of abuse she suffered, or even being taken from her mother too young. We must also discuss what she is even doing there at the shelter. The claim of so many veterinarians is that declawing cats gets them into homes and keeps them in homes. Suki lost her claws and her home. I cannot prove that she also lost a sweet temperament and an ability to enjoy companionship with humans. I do not know what she was like before she became a declawed cat.
I only know that she reacts in a way that seems abnormal for a cat. Most cats hiss or growl or swipe at you before attacking. Most cats who would bite so ferociously would not also quietly tolerate your presence for several minutes prior to biting you. On one occasion my hand came near to her paw, not touching it, but coming near. It was shortly after that that the attack came.
If a cat had phantom pain in her paws from the amputation of her toes, could this not cause almost “crazy” behavior? If the pain was constant and perhaps included weird tingling sensations in the missing phalanges, could this not be a source of such constant discomfort that aggression might become her coping mechanism, albeit not a very good one?
Humans who experience amputation of digits very frequently experience lingering pain, pain for which there is no help. Even morphine will not dull phantom pain. It happens because the brain is wired from birth to receive messages from all body parts. Many brain cells are designated for body parts which perform complex tasks– like fingers. Cats claws have a very complex system of proprioception. That means cats can very accurately sense the position of each claw. The vet can rip off that claw (really the entire distal joint) but he can’t take out the “wiring” in the brain that was connected to it. We cannot prove whether Suki has phantom pain or not, but the possibility certainly exists.
The possibility exists that something was done to her by the person charged with caring for her health, that is even now causing Suki pain she can barely cope with. Perhaps she also feels insecure, having lost a primary means of defense. Perhaps she doesn’t trust humans anymore, since it was in the care of humans that she lost her claws.
The Cat Network’s slogan is “Saving lives one meow at a time.” If someone were to adopt Suki it would be a completely unselfish act. The expectation would have to be that you are giving a home to a cat who may never tolerate attention from you and who is certainly going to inflict some damage upon you, at least in the short term. I believe that there is hope for Suki, if she could find a quiet home where she could be the only cat and if she received some physical rehabilitation for her sore toes and maybe medication (the cat version of Prozac) she might be able to calm down and be a cat able to enjoy human companionship once more. The person who gives her that will do so out of love, just as she has been given a home at The Cat Network for so long as she needs it, out of love.
What does love look like? Does it exist in the person who declawed Suki for his or her own convenience and then sent Suki to a shelter when she was no longer convenient?
Someday someone will walk in who wants to take on the challenge of helping Suki. Maybe he or she is reading this article right now. The people who adopt declawed cats who bite, declawed cats who hide, declawed cats who pee all over the house because it hurts to use the litter box– those are the people who truly demonstrate love. It is my hope and prayer that Suki is adopted by such a person.
The Cat Network is located at:
8121 West National Avenue
West Allis, WI 53214
Their phone number is (414)297-9674.
Their usual hours are Wednesday and Thursday 6pm – 9pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am – 4pm
Ruth (Monty’s Mom)
Note from Michael: Thank you Ruth. Anyone is free to write about any cat and be published on PoC. Just fill in the form below and try and add a photo Your story will be published within 24 hours. There is a button for uploading photos: