While writing the book Cat Be Good, I had to have one of my own cats put to sleep. Moses was a beautiful black-and-white, declawed cat.
He was picked up as a stray and taken to a shelter. On the fifth day he was scheduled for euthanasia. Minutes before being destroyed he was rescued by a local shelter volunteer. I took him in as a foster cat. He had wrinkled pads on his mutilated feet.
He wasn’t suitable for adoption. He peed in the bathroom sink and a couple of other spots that were not a litter box. He would bite my hands at the slightest movement. He was easily stressed and quick to hiss. He whined when he scratched. He pawed at the area around his box longer than his buddies did.
Many things were different about him. And I knew he had been abused because he paid such close attention to hands and squirt bottles.
It took several months to get his biting under control. In an attempt to solve his peeing problem, I took him to a few different doctors for urine tests and examinations. I talked with a behaviorist.
After many suggestions, Moses was still misbehaving. I started thinking about how amputee humans deal with their pain and stress, and I applied similar techniques to him. My special regime kept his peeing problem at bay for about two years.
Then his peeing became more frequent and less isolated to certain spots. He peed in my dresser, on my desk, in the bed, even on my husband’s neck once while he slept. Some days were worse than others. Moses appeared to want attention, but a closer look told me he was in pain. It kept getting worse. I took him to another veterinarian. Then Moses started peeing on carpet. That’s when I knew it was time to have him put out of his misery. Moses was peacefully put to sleep. He was only three and a half years old.
If Moses had his claws, he could have lived outside. I do not believe declawed cats should be kept outside or left there unsupervised. I also don’t believe it’s healthy or safe to live with cat urine problems inside the house. And I did not want to return a peeing cat to a shelter, all of which are burdened enough with good cats. Besides, he might get a home with people who would abandon him (which may be how he lost his first home). I believe he was suffering. I loved him way too much for the options left to him.
I had named him Moses because declawing makes a cat a slave to his disability and makes the cat owner a slave to the disabled cat. In the end, it’s the owner who becomes slave to the litter box, to the biting, to illness—burdened with chores and bills that should never have been.
I wanted Moses here with me when this book came out to show you just how smart he was. I taught him tricks in just a few lessons. He came running when I called for him. Moses wasn’t an attack cat. Declawing didn’t save his life, and it probably caused his litter box problems. It limited his and my options and paved the way both for his initial abandonment and then for his death.
My tribute to Moses was to find another cat that needed a home. The day after Moses was peacefully put to sleep, and with eyes swollen from crying, I went to a shelter in Denver and found a big, black-and-white three-year-old. He gets along just fine with my other three adult cats. He has beautiful, whole feet and is smart, as most cats are.
I named my new cat Mister Abraham Lincoln in hopes that American cats will be free someday: free from the burden of being permanently disabled. Cats never used to need antidepressants or fancy litters. Cats didn’t used to pee outside the box until they got sick or old. Then declawing came along.