You may not know it, but many captive wild cat species have been declawed in the USA and around the world. Declawing is a very contentious operation. It is, to be brutally frank, barbaric and that word comes both from me and from Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM the well-known veterinarian and author.
The news media has picked up on this I am pleased to say. An estimated 25%-43% of domestic cats are declawed in the United States according to the Paw Project which equates to many millions of cats. Often, they are declawed as kittens. The thought of it makes me wince. It is utterly cruel to mutilate an innocent kitten in this way.
A lot of people still believe that declawing cats is simply trimming the nails of the animal. It is not. It is a partial amputation. The last phalange of each toe is amputated from the last joint i.e. the distal joint. Often shards of bone are left in the paw. The operation is often carried out carelessly. It is often botched. The animal is left in pain. Sometimes it is chronic pain and it can affect their gait and general well-being.
It affects behaviour. Declawed domestic cats are more likely to bite. They are more likely to inappropriately eliminate which means peeing and defecating outside the litter box because the litter substrate is uncomfortable for them due to tender paws.
Captive wild cats especially cubs
Today I want to mention the captive wild cat species particularly the big cats. In the US, different laws apply to exotic animals where declawing is widely legal except in about nine cities and in two states where it has been banned against a lot of resistance from the veterinarians to continue to carry out the operation. I understand that stopping it will impact their income but they callously ignore their oath and the ethical issues.
The news is that “declawing is still carried out on large cats like lions and tigers, often in an effort to allow cubs to be more safely handled in photo opportunities or for entertainment purposes”. In other words, when these cats are exploited by commercial enterprises, they declaw them so that they don’t scratch the customers! There is no worse reason for declawing an animal than that. It is a double whammy of exploitation and animal cruelty.
I am sure that there may be similar issues with wild cat species. I wonder if the operators of these commercial enterprises realise it. Perhaps they drug the cats as well to make sure that they are passive and pliable. If they do it would not surprise me.
A recent study looked at the muscular anatomy of over a dozen exotic cats from medium-sized wild cat species such as servals and bobcats to the big cats such as lions and tigers. The objective was to determine the effect of declawing on their forelimb musculature.
They found that there was a 46%-66% decrease in forelimb strength depending upon the size of the cat. They state that “other muscles in the forelimb did not compensate for these reductions”.
They also found that the muscles which operate the forearm’s digital flexors were reduced by 73%.
This is particularly cruel because as Lara Martens – a NC State undergraduate student and lead author of the research – states, “Big cats are more reliant on their forelimb. They bear most of their weight and these big cats use their forelimbs to grapple because they hunt much larger prey.”
On this basis, “biomechanically speaking, declawing has a more anatomically devastating effect on larger species.”
The lead authors recognised the cruelty of the practice. They added that, “These are amazing animals, and we should not be allowed to cripple them, or any animals, in this way.”
The study is published in the journal Animals. NC State undergraduates Sarah Piersanti, Arin Berger, and Nicole Kida, and Ph.D. student Ashley Deutsch, also contributed to the research. The work was done in partnership with colleagues from Carolina Tiger Rescue, a sanctuary that rescues exotic carnivores, especially big cats, who have often been neglected or mistreated.
My thanks to the NC State University website. I have been quite liberal in quoting them for accuracy and for impact.
Example from Thailand
It hurts me a lot to read on The Dodo website that in Thailand, they declaw tiger cubs when they are just 10 weeks old. They never have the chance to be a normal tiger cub. They are brutally mutilated when innocent and then used to entertain customers in petting and photo sessions.
Here’s an example. Pika was taken from his mother at six weeks of age at the Safari Park Open Zoo and Camp in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. He was then put to use immediately so tourist could bottle feed him and take selfies.
Then, when Pika was about 10 weeks of age, he was sent a veterinarian to be declawed. After the operation he was never the same again The Dodo reports according to Michael, a volunteer who once worked at the Thailand zoo and who helped to raise the cub. Michael’s name has been changed to protect him from this cruel business in case there is retribution against him.
He came back with low energy Michael said. He added that, “He would not walk, play, bite or anything. He just lay in a corner. The only time he would move is if he didn’t like being handled.”
He stopped eating and drinking and needed nutrient injections to stay alive. Inexperienced volunteers gave Pika injections to keep them alive. Remarkably, he eventually got better although his paws will never be the same again. He was then put back on display in a cub section of the zoo where tourist could play with him.
The story is very telling about the cruelty of the operation. It almost killed this tiger cub who must’ve been deeply traumatised. It probably changed him for life in terms of his attitude, character and mentality.
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