OPINION: You wouldn't remove the tips of your fingers; it's time to stop declawing cats
Published Sunday, September 26, 2021 2:22PM EDT Last Updated Sunday, September 26, 2021 2:22PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Here is an interesting fact: all mammals originate from the same evolutionary ancestor. Felines are mammals too, which means they give birth to their young alive, provide milk to their babies, grow hair, and most importantly, have a mammal's brain.
Few know that we share 90 per cent of our genetic material with cats, making them one of our closest living relatives.
If we were to place their brain next to ours, carefully compare its form, each structure, its adjoining spinal cord, and branching nerves, we would notice reoccurring a design, one that grants us both our sentience. All cats feel, they experience subjective states, reason, act morally, and can appreciate how their life is faring.
Armed with this knowledge, we may then ask a fundamental question: are cats and people more alike than different?
Cats are show-offs. They strut about our homes on the tip of their toes like ballerinas. They navigate the narrow backrest of a couch as if they were gymnasts on a balance beam. Some can propel themselves to the top of a door. They can catch the door's edge and hang there, supporting their body weight at the tip of their fingers. They, like people, are natural climbers.
Contrary to its canine rivals, the domestic cat can comfortably rotate its palms to the sky. They have meticulous control over their paws and claws. Every subtle movement is a coordinated adjustment of their claws.
These talents emerged over millions of years of evolution -- whether it be for sneaking, climbing, or catching prey, cats have evolved to use their paws in ways most animals cannot.
Like a human hand, the paw of a cat is highly specialized. We both have five fingers with three knuckles each. We have similar tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, arteries, and veins. When we place our hands beside theirs, compare them carefully, we can appreciate our shared architecture. Not only has evolution blessed us with fine motor coordination, but it has done the same for cats.
Picture a tendon, your tendon, that secures the top of your forearm to the tip of your finger. It slides through each joint like a rope in pulleys, connecting point A to point B. It lets us squeeze our hands into a fist. We can observe how the muscles of our forearm flex when we make a fist. The tendon also turns our fingers into tentacles and allows us to grasp objects with remarkable precision. Well, the cat, too, uses the same tendons to control its fingers. But instead of tentacles, they wield daggers, capable of gentle affection, ferocious predation, and every subtle movement in between.
When carefully examining the features of our hands, we can appreciate their perfect design for handling objects. The fact that we can move our fingers with such grace has enabled magnificent feats. We can build, create art, play music, and write.
What if we lost a portion of our fingers? Would we still carry the gift of fine motor coordination?
Sure, some things would still be possible, but losing our fingertips would inhibit our dexterity and prevent us from living our lives to our full potential as humans. Without the tips of our fingers, many important, meaningful, and uniquely human activities would be hindered.
Such an amputation would incur a tangible loss, whether that be emotional, intellectual, physical, or all three. Besides, doctors would never take our fingers without a valid medical reason.
So, I come back to cats. Are we disillusioned about the importance of feline claws here in Quebec?
What falsehoods do we promote when we target these beautifully engineered hands of theirs via declawing? Why are we taking the tips of their fingers away from them?
Why is Quebec one of the only provinces not to have banned this controversial surgery?
Maybe we can spare a few minutes to get to know our cats better. We could touch their paws gently, admire the movement of their claws, and appreciate how they connect to their body. What does this connection mean to the cat experiencing its life as a sentient being? Are these appendages essential to their proper movement like fingers are to us? What happens to their fluidity and athleticism without the tips of their fingers?
Beyond their ability to move, what can we conclude about a clawless cat achieving its full feline potential?