DEAR DR. FOX: I have had a sweet rescued cat for two years. She is declawed. I recently decided, as per your advice, to adopt another cat so Megan would have company.
Phil is 2 years old and so cool -- very playful. He is not declawed, and I thought that could lead to problems, but no! Phil is so gentle, and they play, chase and wrestle every night.
Megan seems much fitter and less depressed. Phil regularly uses their two scratching posts, generally just before play and when he gets up in the morning. But what impresses me how he uses his claws to hold things, pick up small objects like pipe cleaners, and zip up his 7-foot condo tower in a second. He is so dexterous compared to Megan. It’s so sad; she just watches him pick things up with a claw or two like she wishes she could.
Comparing the two cats, it is my conclusion that declawing cats reduces their quality of life and is just plain wrong. People who get scratched by kittens need to learn how to play with them, rather than having their claws removed. -- G.L., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR G.L.: I appreciate your observations. Many people with declawed cats will say they are just fine, but many develop serious paw and mobility problems stemming from this all-too-common mutilation.
Even if they do seem OK, they lose considerable dexterity as well as their first line of defense, which is essential if they get outdoors. Veterinarians who do this surgery as a routine when also neutering young cats should reflect on this. In many countries, declawing or onychectomy (amputating the first digit, which is equivalent to amputating all our fingers at the first joint) is not done at all.
There are many things cat owners can do to keep cats from clawing upholstery. Good scratching posts and cat condos are ideal for satisfying the behavioral need to scratch, which is so strong that many declawed cats will do it, too. Cat-owner education is critical, and veterinarians who neglect this essential service and instead opt for routine declawing are violating their professional responsibility to first “do no harm.”
DEAR DR. FOX: I read about the poor man who had his hands and legs amputated when he got an infection from being licked by his dog.
You have said in your column that it’s OK to let dogs lick us, and that their saliva has healing properties. Our two rescue dogs lick us, but now I worry about my kids. What is your opinion? -- H.L.G., St. Louis
DEAR H.L.G.: Yes, I was concerned about this very rare case, and a similar one diagnosed subsequently. The American Veterinary Medical Association recently shared this information with its members:
EXPERTS SAY NO NEED TO FEAR DOG DROOL
Veterinarian Jennifer McQuiston, a CDC expert on capnocytophaga (the bacteria at play in these cases), says that most capnocytophaga infections respond well to common antibiotics. People with alcoholism, the elderly, people with weak immune systems and those who do not have a spleen are at highest risk of sepsis from capnocytophaga infections. Recognizing the symptoms, which can include pain, swelling, fever and discharge, is key to recovery. (USA Today, Aug. 14)
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