by Melissa Byrd of PAWS of Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County, with Julie Hall
Baby is a 6-year-old short-haired large brown tabby who came to us via a local shelter. Baby had lived happily in her previous home until the couple started having children. As is the case in many homes, the adults did not teach their children to respect the animal in the family. They let the kids run roughshod over Baby, and she reacted in the only way she knew how—by scratching at the kids in defense. Sadly, the parents reacted by having Baby declawed on her front feet.
Declawing is an article on its own, but I will briefly touch on it for Baby’s sake. Declawing typically involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. If aftercare is not diligent, the cat can wind up with infections, disfigurement, lameness,and serious mental issues. Many declawed cats develop litterbox problems and become biters. Some people resort to this surgery to save their expensive furniture or “protect” their kids. There are other alternatives. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed and giving him/her plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces is the easiest solution. There are rubber nail caps that can be applied that allow cats to still extend and retract their claws but don’t allow the nails to make contact with any surfaces. These need to be replaced every 4-6 weeks.
Of course in a case like Baby’s, where a cat has no history of scratching or biting and is simply defending itself from what it perceives as repeated harassment and attack, the obvious solution is to teach the kids good animal etiquette. Teaching your children respect for animals should be right up there with potty training and learning how to walk. It’s that important and elementary—for your children’s safety as well as for proper socialization. Even if you don’t have pets in your home, your children should learn to interact appropriately with animals, since they will encounter them throughout their lives in other people’s homes and in public. Being able to connect positively with other species will make your kids happier too.
Not surprisingly, after Baby’s recovery the children continued to chase and grab her. This time, though, the only way she could protect herself was to bite, which was the last straw for the parents.
Baby is now at PAWS and looking for a properly socialized family who will appreciate how very friendly and affectionate she is. As for other cats, she’s tolerant but not enthused. Since she has started to lick the fur off her belly and back legs, she is getting checked for food allergies and will probably get a prednisone shot to settle down any itching.
If you want a new Baby who has been through some rough times, please email Melissa firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time.
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Photos courtesy of Melissa Byrd.