Harrison's Turbulent Years Spent on the Street Are Yet Another Reason Why Declawing Is Not Only Cruel and Inhumane but Dangerous As Well
"For him (Harrison) to be alive after three years, especially being front-declawed, is pretty amazing."
-- Jill Bannink-Albrecht of the Harbor Humane Society
Harrison is not only a very brave and resourceful cat to have survived three years on his own in inclement Michigan, but a lucky one as well. That is especially the case in light of the fact that his owner, Terri Essex, cruelly and inhumanely had previously divested him of his front claws.
She compounded that cold-blooded atrocity by leaving him with a house sitter who carelessly allowed him to escape while she was away in Albuquerque. It therefore came as quite a surprise to her when he turned up about two weeks ago in Spring Lake Township, which is approximately thirteen and one-half miles south of Muskegon where she lives.
"It's unbelievable!" she exclaimed to the Detroit Free Press on November 20th. (See "Purr-fect Reunion: Missing Cat Back with Owner after Three Years.") "I always felt like he wasn't dead, like someone had taken him."
The identification and reunion were made possible due to both an implanted microchip and the fact that Harrison amazingly enough still was wearing his collar. (See photo above of the happy reunion.)
Although his trappers theorize that he survived that entire period on his own, that is highly unlikely. First of all, as an indoor cat he had to learn how to survive on his own and that took time.
Secondly, Michigan winters are brutal and food is scarce. Consequently, someone must have been feeding and sheltering him for at least part of that time. Of course, it is conceivable that he could have lived off of the food that some restaurant tossed out every night and found shelter under a nearby building. Even under those favorable circumstances it would have been quite a feat.
In any case, hungry and cold cats, like similarly situated men, are forced into desperate acts which in turn place their lives in even greater jeopardy. More importantly, it is difficult for declawed cats to catch and subdue prey.
Perhaps even more vital, declawed cats are neither able to defend themselves against predators, both animal and human, nor to climb trees and buildings to safety. "For him to be alive after three years, especially being front-declawed, is pretty amazing," Jill Bannink-Albrecht of the Harbor Humane Society in West Olive summed up the case against onychectomies to the Detroit Free Press in the article cited supra.
These procedures are not only excruciatingly painful but superfluous as well. Scratching posts can be installed indoors for practically nothing and cats can be presented with inexpensive rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, and boxes to dismantle. Furthermore, there are a myriad of humane methods that will deter cats from using furniture in order to hone their nails.
In the final analysis it really does not make any difference if a cat defaces a piece or two of furniture so long as it is happy. Besides, overweight visitors, smokers, drinkers, messy eaters, and those who fail to wipe the mud off of their shoes before entering do considerably more damage to furniture and rugs than cats and no one would dare to suggest that they have either their fingers cut off, their teeth removed, or that their excess blubber be excised via liposuction.
While leaving a cat in its own home and in the care of either a house sitter or a cat sitter is far preferable to uprooting it and warehousing it in a disease-ridden kennel, even those procedures are not foolproof. Of the two, cat sitters are the better bet because of their experience with the species. Their references also can be checked beforehand.
Even if declawing were not cruel, painful, and unnecessary, indoor cats get lost every day and need their claws in order to survive in a hostile world. Essex got away with her barbaric and careless treatment of Harrison but it is doubtful that the past three years were anything but traumatic for him.
Looking ahead, she may have a difficult time confining him indoors now that he has gotten a taste of what it is really like to live. (See Cat Defender post of July 1, 2010 entitled "Bigga Is Reunited with His Owner after an Eight-Year Absence but Life on the Street Has Left Him in Poor Health and Put Her in a Quandary.")
It therefore would not kill her to invest a few shekels in cat fencing so that he could spend some time outdoors in an environment that is safe for a declawed cat. Considering how wretchedly she has treated him, she owes him that much.
Finally, Harrison's plight is yet another prime example of how so many individuals insist upon denaturing cats so as to turn them into compliant appendages of their, in most cases, rather cluttered personal and professional lives. Cats, on the other hand, should be accepted for the exquisite creatures that they are and anyone unwilling to do so should not be allowed to adopt them.
Lawmakers and shelters could help to put a stop to this type of flagrant abuse by following the sterling example set by West Hollywood in 2003 when it banned declawing over the concerted opposition of, predictably, the moneygrubbing and inhumane California Veterinary Medical Association.
Photo: Jordan Travis of the Grand Haven Tribune.