We all love stories with a happy ending. This story will need a miracle to end happily, but it has to be told because it may prevent unnecessary suffering and mindless cruelty in the future.

On January 9, when the temperatures dropped well below freezing point, a cat was found sitting on a rural road in the town of Essex. She freezed to the point that she was motionless. An officer of the Windsor-Essex County Humane Society rushed the cat to a vet because the poor animal was dying. According to the WECHS, “The cat’s temperature was so low that it would not even register on the thermometer. Her body was so cold it was shutting down her organs, and she was convulsing.” However, in a few days, the cat, now named Elsa, got better and was brought to a foster home. The officers started an animal cruelty investigation and were seeking information about the case. It could be another story of a successful rescue, the one that makes you think better about humanity.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end. Elsa couldn’t walk well, and when the veterinary team took X-rays of her paws, they figured that she “has been suffering severe complications from being previously declawed, impacting the bones and tendons in her paws.” If you put two and two together, you’ll see Elsa’s story. Somebody took the kitty home and declawed her. When the cat grew older and gained more weight (she weighed 18 pounds when WECHS picked her up from the road), the bones and tendons in her paws started aching, and inflammation processes developed. Probably, the kitty started behaving strangely (that happens when cats are in pain) – she could have become aggressive; maybe she peed everywhere (too painful to go to a litter box). She became too much of a nuisance to the people who first made a cripple out of the gorgeous cat. Were Elsa’s owners sadistic? Probably not. Probably they couldn’t understand what was going on with their cat and, having the empathic capacity of a teaspoon, they simply got rid of her – out of sight, out of mind.

What really should surprise us here is not the callous hearts of the cat owners – they could be simply ignorant and saw no difference between a leaky old toilet bowl and a troublesome sick cat. The real shame is that veterinarians in Ontario still perform declawing. This barbaric surgery is banned in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, the United Kingdom, parts of Europe, and a number of states in the USA. Nova Scotia and BC banned declawing province-wide. Why is it still legal in Ontario?

The Paw Project, a non-profit organisation that educates the public about the effects of declawing and promotes animal welfare through the abolition of the practice of declaw surgery, writes on their website:

● Declawing is amputation; it is not merely the removal of the claws. To declaw a cat, the veterinarian cuts off the last knuckles of a cat’s paw – cutting through bone, tendons, skin, and nerves. In a person, it is equivalent to amputating each finger or toe at the last joint.
● Declaw surgery can be an extremely painful procedure with associated health risks and complications such as infection.
● Declaw surgery can produce permanent lameness, pain, or arthritis.

Health issues associated with the declaw surgery are numerous – from a permanent “pebble in the shoe” sensation caused by displaced bone fragments to arthritis that is likely to develop due to abnormal posture, to life-threatening infections, and serious behavioral problems. Most people often don’t know what declawing is and trust veterinary clinics where the procedure is routinely offered. Veterinarians are aware of the complications but keep doing it because there is a demand from pet owners.

WECHS is doing its best to save Elsa’s life, getting in touch with the experts in this specific area, but “it may be more than her body can handle.” It may come to the point where the best thing for the poor kitty would be to put her out of her misery, i.e., to euthanize her. Until the declaw surgery isn’t banned in Ontario, there will be new kitties with crippled paws thrown out of their homes for “bad behavior” to die on the road curb.

Update: Unfortunately, Elsa didn’t make it.This is what WECHS wrote on their page on Facebook:
Elsa’s neurological symptoms continued worsening, and despite active warming efforts she continued to be hypothermic. The Humane Society veterinarian who has been treating her consulted with the emergency veterinarian, and both agreed that the kindest option was to let her go. She passed peacefully in the arms of her foster mama. We all hoped to give Elsa the happy ending she deserved, but sadly, sometimes that’s out of our hands.

Photos courtesy of Windsor/Essex County Humane Society

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