Three Pawless Cats

In May of 2015, the owners of three cats, Ryder, Teeger, and Abby, went into San Ramon Veterinary Hospital in San Ramon, California to ask about declawing. The owners wanted to know about the procedure and any potential alternatives. The vets at the hospital were quick to reassure these owners about the procedure, insisting that the cats would be fine and that the vet, Dr. Glen Weber,  who did these declaws was very experienced. The owners finally approved and made the appointment, and the three cats had the procedure done. These cats were not the same afterwards. Due to post-surgery complications, each cat had to have some form of further amputation done to their paws.

Declawing, also known as an onychectomy, is the amputation of the first toe bone in a cat’s paws to remove the claw. Declawing can be done with a laser, scalpel, or metal clippers known as the guillotine. To declaw a cat, the instrument of choice must disconnect the first and second toe bone to make sure regrowth of the claw is not possible. It is a very intricate procedure with a lot that can go wrong.

After the declaw of the three cats, the owners went to visit, since the cats had to stay in the hospital for observation,in case something went awry. The front paws of all the cats were bandaged up. After two days, these bandages were removed, but the paws were described as “not quite right” by Dr. Weber, the vet who did the procedure. The owners also noticed that the cats were having difficulty walking, Abby even opting not to walk at all. The San Ramon Veterinary Hospital typically holds cats for 2-3 days post-operation. However, these cats had to stay for eight days. When Ryder, Teeger, and Abby finally got to go home, things didn’t go so smoothly. The cats were kept in the bathroom, like the vets had recommended, but their paws were not doing well. The bathroom was covered in their blood, the cats no longer were friendly with each other, and they still struggled to walk properly. Their stitches had become undone to the point where the bone was visible. The cats had to go back to the vet and ended up going to a specialty hospital where it was discovered that the bandages were put on the paws too tight, causing poor blood circulation and the death of tissue.  Eventually, a clear line where the live tissue ended and the dead tissue started could be seen, and that was when the decision to amputate the dead areas was made. Both of Abby’s paws were completely removed, Teeger needed further amputations on his paws, and Ryder needed to have his left arm removed and more of his right paw amputated.

Due to the severe complications after their surgery, a veterinary hearing began on October first of this year, putting Dr. Weber’s license at stake. He is being tried for one account of failure to keep records, two accounts of negligence, one account of humane treatment, and another account of failure to record surgical practices.

Dr. Weber did not record which surgical method he used for the declaw, nor did he provide the cats sufficient antibiotics and painkillers during their aftercare. He also failed to record which drug was used to put Teeger under for the procedure. Of course, he also bandaged the cats too tightly, killing the tissue in their paws.

This case of botched declaw surgeries shows how dangerous a declaw can be. Declaws are not necessary for the cat, and often lead to negative side effects, even if the surgery is done perfectly. Back pain and lameness can occur simply because the cat has to readjust how it walks without those first toe bones in their paws. Cats may avoid the litter-box post-surgery because the litter gets into the wounds of the freshly declawed paw, hurting them. Infection and nerve damage can happen with any procedure, but since cats must walk and use their paws right after surgery, the threat of these effects are more likely for them. Some owners also say their cats’ behavior changes in a negative way. Cats are more likely to bite without their claws and tend to be more fearful without their first line of defense.

Despite all these negative side-effects for cats, people still opt for the surgery, ultimately mutilating their pets. In many cases, this procedure is done because an owner does not wish for their cat to scratch up the furniture. Other people declaw because they don’t want to be scratched themselves. There are several alternatives to declawing, such as scratching posts, Soft Paws (nail caps for cats), and proper training. It is important to acknowledge that training a cat is difficult for some because punishment does not tend to get through to them.

Declawing is not a simple nail clipping. It is a very serious surgery that has many potential side effects and no benefit to the animal itself. In most countries, it is seen as inhumane and is illegal. In a human, it would be the equivalent of the first knuckle of a finger being cut off. Declawing serves no purpose to the cats themselves. This horrible practice should not be continued in veterinary hospitals.


Isabelle Garrison

Current Issues Student 2018-2019


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