5 Things I Learned by Watching “The Paw Project” Movie


I was probably 14 years old when I met Princess (not her real name). I was warned not to get near this cat because she would bite first and ask questions later. She’d been declawed, I was told, and she’d never been the same since. I was horrified: I’d never heard of such a thing. I couldn’t imagine how it would even occur to someone to rip a cat’s claws out.

Many years later, when I found out what declawing really involved, I became enraged. How could anyone even begin to think it’s okay to amputate the first joints of every toe on a poor feline’s feet?

As time went on, I continued to be vehemently anti-declaw, but I committed myself to taking a non-judgmental approach because people listen better when you’re not waving your finger in their face.

And then I watched The Paw Project, and I realized I didn’t know as much about the declawing issue as I thought. Here are some of the things I learned.

1. The anti-declaw movement started with just one person

Paw Project founder and director Dr. Jennifer Conrad, DVM, was the head veterinarian at a wildlife sanctuary when she first saw the damage declawing did to big cats. She began doing paw repairs on these cats, and that experience inspired her to start The Paw Project. When you see the video of these cats enjoying pain-free life for the first time, you’ll be inspired too.

2. The U.S. really is in the Dark Ages on the declawing issue

Declawing is banned or considered extremely inhumane in 38 countries including Bosnia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. I’m sure these are lovely countries, but it’s embarrassing that these nations, which had to endure so much as Soviet satellite states and then the economic disasters and ongoing warfare that followed the collapse of the USSR, are so far ahead of the U.S. on this basic humane issue.

3. Even immune-compromised people should think twice before having their cats declawed

I used to think that if there was any potential justification for declawing, it was due to the potential health risks of scratches in people with weak immune systems. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control does not recommend declawing, even in the case of people with HIV. Instead, in its 2002 report (yes, they’ve been recommending against declawing for that long!) "Guidelines for Preventing Opportunistic Infections Among HIV-Infected Persons," the CDC says that people with HIV should avoid rough play with cats and situations in which scratches are likely.

4. Declawing ban efforts work best on a municipal level

Enacting legislation on a federal or state level can be an extremely long and emotionally exhausting process, and declaw ban opponents often have very deep pockets. However, working on the town, city or county level is more likely to produce action and raise awareness. Eight California cities have enacted declawing bans, thanks to the efforts of a group of tireless advocates who had the information needed to counteract their opponents’ arguments and the ability to help city councilors understand what declawing really is.

5. We can do this!

The Paw Project has lots of resources at its website, including the text of the declaw ban bills that have been enacted. If we can find kindred spirits who are committed to putting a stop to declawing and we can get this legislation before our city councils, we can make this happen in our own cities. There are lots of big names in our corner, too!

Have you watched The Paw Project documentary yet? It’s available live streaming on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and YouTube. You can also arrange screenings of the documentary in your town or city to get people energized to fight for cats’ right to their claws.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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