Our precious male cat, Patches, was the pet of the week in our newspaper. My husband was recovering from heart surgery at the time, and he spotted our new pet. Patches was about 18 months old when we adopted him -- a puffball of white and gray patchy fur. We noticed three things about him: First of all, he didn't make sounds. Second, he was terrified of anything that looked like a broom or dust mop. Third, his paws hurt him if you touched them. Those clues told me that he had had a less-than-happy past and that his declawing procedure had been a botched job. His paws were tender his whole life. The other things, like making sounds, appeared after we talked to him and soothed him. I think he conquered his fear of the household equipment. I always felt sorry that he had been declawed. In fact, I think they cut off half of his front paws. It is an atrocity that this remains common practice.
E. and M.H., Estero, FL Jun 18, 2012
I appreciate hearing about your adopted cat Patches, and I trust that your husband made a full recovery from his heart surgery ordeal. Cats can be excellent heart therapists, helping slow down the human heart rate and blood pressure. Many cat owners tell me how relaxing the cats' contented purring can be, and more doctors are recognizing the therapeutic value and healing powers of companion animals. Studies have shown that people with an animal in their homes enjoy a faster recovery after major surgery and have fewer relapses. Having a companion animal can help ward off depression and thoughts of suicide. Children benefit from having fewer allergies when exposed to animals in the home from an early age. I believe that you are correct that Patches had a trauma-filled life before his adoption. Never purring or making other vocalizations can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder in cats, which Patches confirmed by starting to speak when he felt secure in his new environment. As for his tragic paw mutilations, I find it abhorrent that cats continue to be declawed by veterinarians, even when purportedly less painful, more advanced surgical techniques are used. I document many of the harmful consequences on my website, DrFoxVet.com. Laypersons will also do this claw-removal using physical restraint and wire cutters, which I regard as felony animal cruelty.
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