By Anna Gamez, Animal Care Manager
Declawing cats is still a normal practice for many pet owners. They may see declawing as a quick fix to stop unwanted scratching on furniture or to themselves. What many people do not know are the negative long term effects that come with declawing. People often think declawing is taking the nail off - just like people trim their fingernails. False. In fact, the process includes surgery and the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on humans, it would be cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. It doesn’t sound too great when we put it in our terms. When performed on cats, the end result can be life lasting and negative.
Unfortunately, this is how life is for our beloved Mountain Lion, Sacajawea. Sac came to Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary when she was just over 2 months old. She was then declawed (all four feet) January 2008. There is no reason as to why she was declawed. The sanctuary was in a turn over situation and had no Executive Director during this time frame. The board president at the time had made the decision to have the declawing performed [this person is no longer involved with YWS].
September 18, 2019 was Sac’s wellness exam with our local veterinarians. This exam was checking everything from oral health, blood, and x-rays on all feet and pelvis. The main focus was on her feet and pelvic area due to her poor gait. Everything checked out great for her except her feet. We could actually feel the way her bones healed from the declawing. They had curled inward permanently causing a great deal of strain and pressure every time she walked. The x-rays were still being processed. Once the x-rays were received and our vets had looked them over, it was concluded that for some time Sac has been in some amount of pain and discomfort. All of this was caused by declawing.
Knowing what we knew, we had already set in motion to move Sac into our Bobcat’s enclosure and vice versa. Her “new” enclosure has flatter terrain to alleviate the unwanted pressure to her feet. Along with moving her into a more suitable habitat, she is now receiving Gabapentin, which treats chronic pain.
Since the habitat switch and the addition of Gabapentin, Sac is much more content. She is out and about in her enclosure much more than before and has been observed making sounds that signify play. With all of this being said, her overall well being would greatly increase had she not been declawed.
We always do the best we can for the animals at Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. This is their forever home. No matter the injury, age, or illness that occurs or they come in with, we will always give them the best quality of life that they deserve.