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Caught red-handed

Caught red-handed

Going for a pedicure is a relaxing, pampering experience that I enjoy immensely. My cats, however, do not share my enthusiasm when it is time for their pedicures. You wouldn’t think having your nails clipped would be a tragic event worthy of tactics of evasion and defensive maneuvers, but in our house, it is. Because we rescued our three kitties when they were adults, we did not have the opportunity to teach them from a tender age that a pedicure is a painless, necessary and frequent occurrence.

On more than one occasion, we have attempted to accomplish this seemingly simple bit of pet maintenance on our own, but have always failed. Despite being a loving cat dad for 22 years, Oregano has not mastered the ability to scruff a cat. He fears he is hurting them and invariably lets go the instant they begin squirming. By default, this has made me the designated scruffer. Since I’m holding the cat, Oregano must be the operator of the nail clippers. Alas, he can’t do this either. Cats have a blood vessel running through their claws called a quick. No matter how many instructional videos he watches or tutorials from vet techs, he hesitates. Even the most patient and cooperative cat gets fed up with the lengthy grooming process and we don’t have patient or cooperative cats to start with.

Before you start feeling sorry for these cats having to tolerate inept humans, let me defend my species. From a numbers standpoint alone, we are at a disadvantage: two humans, three cats, twelve paws and 54 claws that need to be cut. On the rare occasions we have managed to capture a cat and scruff it into submission, we can only clip one paw’s worth of nails before the whole endeavor goes south. We are left with the only option available…take them to the vet each month for their “peticure.”

While going to the vet’s office cuts down on the amount of antibiotic first aid cream and bandages we need to purchase, catching three cats is a challenge. Actually, it’s more like a workout. When I schedule the appointment I make sure that I leave myself plenty of time for cat wrangling. For more than a year, I have managed this feat single handedly. Oregano has enjoyed being excused from this chore.

In order to be successful, I have a system worked out with the boys. First, I make sure all three cats are downstairs then I causally mosey upstairs and close all the doors as quietly as possible. When I come back downstairs, the cats are eyeing me suspiciously with a body posture that suggests they are ready to take off running at a moment’s notice.  Next, I pretend I am taking out the garbage and go into the garage to fetch the carriers. When I come back in the house I have them tucked carefully under my arm. No matter how quiet I am about this, the cats have scattered by the time I cross the threshold.

Their disappearance does not concern me. I remain calm and begin stalking my first victim, Keebler. He is the most difficult. Catching him requires patience and aerobic endurance.We are convinced that he is part orange tabby and part ninja. This cat has the ability to completely hide himself among furniture and curtains. Once or twice we could have sworn that he was hanging from the underside of a table. The most efficient strategy is to let him run from room to room. Eventually he corners himself. Once there, I place the carrier in front of him and he reluctantly hops in of his own accord.

Linus is less challenging. He hides, but always in the same place. Once I flip over the couch he is using for cover, he freezes. He may not take off running, but what he does do is grab the carpet with every single one of his claws. He is the kitty version of velcro. With my right hand, I scruff this fourteen pounder then maneuver my left hand under his body prying him off the carpet. I have the carrier nearby and slide him right in.

While all this is going on, Otis watches smugly from the nearest vantage point. He even runs from room to room just to get a front row seat to all the action.  It’s as if he thinks he is above all of this evasion and fear. He makes no attempt to run and I am able to easily scoop him up and deposit him in his carrier. His fireworks won’t start until we get to the vet’s office. While he is having his nails trimmed, he screams like he is being run over by a firetruck.

Realizing that he has enjoyed the benefits of my scruffing skills and the fact that once a month I have to be the bad guy, Oregano volunteered, “If you can catch the boys for me, I’ll take all three of them to the vet.”

This sounded like a sweet deal to me. It was an unseasonably cold stretch of weather. I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to go out in the frigid temperatures and quickly agreed to this division of labor.

The Saturday morning of the nail appointment arrived and I came downstairs at 7:30 a.m. to find all three carriers lined up in the living room. I shook my head. This was going to be trouble.

“Um… when did you bring their carriers in the house?” I asked Oregano as I leaned over to give him a good morning kiss.

“I brought them in from the garage when I got up around 6 a.m. The temperature is in the single digits, so I wanted them to warm up a bit before we put the boys in them,” he replied innocently.

“Your concern is heartwarming, but foolish. A sneak attack is always a better approach. Seeing the carriers makes them freak out which makes them harder to herd,” I replied as a veteran cat wrangler.

“They’re not the least bit fazed by them,” he said pointing towards a napping Otis and a very anxious looking Linus. Keebler was noticeably absent.

An hour and a half later it was time to load up the cats.

“I haven’t seen Keebler since I woke up. Do you know where he is?” I asked Oregano.

“The last time I saw him he was under our bed. You know how he likes to lurk under the dust ruffle and pounce on unsuspecting feet and felines as they pass by.”

“Oy! Under the bed increases the degree of difficulty of this exercise,” I sighed grabbing the carrier and climbing the stairs.

Much like their natural capacity to always land on their feet, cats have an innate ability to find the exact center of a queen size bed and hide directly under that spot. It is always too far for a human arm to reach and just beyond the length of a broom handle. I was really hoping that Keebler was indeed hanging out at the bottom of the bed under the dust ruffle.

I quietly entered the bedroom, closed the door and began to reconnoiter the situation. The tiniest tip of an orange tail was peeking out from under the foot of the bed. There was no telling if he would stay there or move to the elusive middle of the bed.

As I stood still strategizing, the tip of his tail disappeared. I wasn’t sure where he was and the dust ruffle obscured my view. I lifted the fabric hoping that Keebler would shoot out from his no longer secret hiding spot. When that didn’t happen, I reached my hand under the bed trying to ascertain his location.

Instantly, Keebler swatted my hand with the very sharp claws he was going to have cut. To my surprise, when I retracted my hand from beneath the bed, there was dark red blood oozing steadily from a tiny hole. Very quickly a small river began running down the back of my hand and onto my forearm. I dove for the nearest box of tissues causing blood to drip onto the floor and speckle the bed frame.

As I applied pressure to the injury, I ran down to the kitchen sink to rinse off my hand. Oregano was standing there washing dishes. I hip checked him out of the way and thrust my bloody hand under the running water.  

Oregano stared at the blood soaked tissue. “What the hell happened?”

“Keebler swatted my hand when I reached under the bed. He must have hit me just right to puncture a vein,” I said calmly as I continued to apply pressure to the still oozing wound.

“Why is it swelling so fast?” Oregano asked with a touch of alarm in his voice.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the blood leaking out of the vein into the surrounding tissue,” I replied calmly while marveling at just how quickly my hand was morphing into a mitten.

“Did you catch him at least?” Oregano inquired.

I looked incredulously at my husband of 23 years and said, “Your concern for my well being is really quite touching. Call me selfish, but when I saw how much blood there was, I thought it prudent to stanch the bleeding and clean the wound. Cats carry bacteria on their claws and this puncture needs to be disinfected immediately to prevent a serious infection.”

“Oh, ok,” he said. “I guess you can just take Keebler during the week by yourself. Can you help me catch the other two cats so I can take them today?”

I gave him the look. “Would you mind if I wait until the bleeding stops and I bandage my wound? I would hate to get blood on Linus and Otis when I scruff them.”

“Ok, but our appointment is in 15 minutes. How long do you think that will take?” he asked completely oblivious to my annoyance.

Stunned into silence, I wrapped a paper towel and ice pack around my swollen hand then went about the business of collecting Linus with my one functioning, non-dominant hand.

“I think you are capable of putting Otis in a carrier,” I said as I headed upstairs to bandage my hand and locate the fugitive feline.

Keebler had cornered himself in the office. I shut the door to prevent an escape, placed the carrier in front of him and tried to coax him into it.

Oregano called to me from behind the closed door. “Did you get him yet? I really need to leave.”

I didn’t want to use my remaining uninjured hand to guide Keebler into his carrier, so I said, “Do you think you could get your ass in here and help me? He has his head in the carrier, but I can’t get him in all the way.”

Oregano opened the door sheepishly. He walked towards the carrier that contained the front half of a cat and scooted the remaining portion of Keebler into it and zipped it shut. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he said.

I stared at him with disbelief.

“Do you think you need to go to the doctor? I can take you when I get back,” he offered.

“I’ve stopped the bleeding and I imagine the swelling will eventually subside after some colorful bruising. My only concern is about infection, but that is a wait and see issue. I don’t need to go.” I answered.

“Let me take a picture of your hand to show the vet,” he suggested. “She will know if you need medical care. I’m sure this has happened to her.”

He quickly snapped a picture of my swollen hand before heading out the door with his three crated charges.

Fifteen minutes later, as I sat there with an ice pack on my hand, I received a text from Oregano.”The vet said to make sure you clean the wound with alcohol and keep an eye on it for signs of infection. She also said I shouldn’t have taken the carriers out so early.”  

swollen hand

Thankfully there was no infection, but it wasn’t pretty to look at. 


About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

25 responses »

  1. Yes, there’s nothing quite like a little “visual prompt” (like the immediate ballooning of an extremity) to make something stick; )

  2. Oh — ouch! And oh, so funny, too. Thank you for sharing!

    My cats had to put up with my climming their front paws (blend of “trim” and “clip” — has become my word of choice), but I only ever did them when they started getting stuck on the carpet — or me. I’d corner the cat under my arm on the couch, and it wasn’t too hard to do. I never tried their back claws, although I’d occasionally get the vet to take a look when they were in for something else.

    I have never had the joy of taking both cats to the vet at once. I can’t imagine two, much less three! With one (and living in a smallish condo) it was easy enough. I always put the cat crate in the bathroom a couple of days in advance (so it would become background) and on the day would make sure I closed the bedroom door as soon as we were all out. Then carried on with life until we had to leave. I picked up unsuspecting cat, walked into the bathroom, shut the door behind me, and then deposited the cat — with some bit of argument involved — in from the top (never had success with the “front” door on the crate). All good, at least from my perspective. The cats would disagree.

    Giving the cats a bath was not as successful — I tried three times with two of my cats. That was all. I valued my life too much to try again. My last cat never had a bath in her life. And I felt really guilty about this, but the vet said she’d be fine. I chose to believe her.

    Do you have bath stories?

    If it makes you feel better, I had a cat stay at my place for a week recently, and his claws had NOT been clipped before he arrived. The beastie’s favourite schmoozing place was stretched over a shoulder. I didn’t have the heart to traumatize him with the clippers, so have now a large needlework pattern on my back — and one of my favourite tops is awaiting some patching before I can wear it again.

    Thank you for making me feel better. And laughing.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Diana.

      We tried the bathroom trick once thinking it would be easier. Oregano got Keebler into the bathroom while I waited downstairs. I heard a terrible clattering and things shattering. Oregano yelled down that he was ok, but the ceramic toothbrush holder and cup didn’t survive the experience.

      I’m both sorry and not sorry that I don’t have any cat bathing stories. I can’t even imagine trying to do that, bit if I had to, I’m sure I would have a lot more to write about.

      • Do you mean your cats don’t get baths, either? Please say that is so!

        I am sorry the Oregano-Keebler bathroom experience wasn’t a good one — and I hope the broken pieces were not ones dear to your heart. But I am glad that you have such a wonderful way of recounting these adventures.

      • Our cats do not get baths. That’s the beauty of short haired cats…self cleaning.

        Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Oh, and you might want to be sure Oregano gets a printed copy of this post for future reference?; )

  4. While all is visible on line, there’s a problem on the WP app… “Going for a pedicure… cats do not share” is included with the title… [All of this part is missing from WordPress app] The post picks up from here: “… and frequent occurrence.” Hope how I attempted to document this makes sense? Very weird, at any rate. Sure hope your hand has recovered?

  5. Having a pedicure is … cats do not share… [missing from WordPress app] and frequent occurrence.

  6. Holy cow, Paprika! While I’ve been nicked by claws too from time to time (while capturing our cat for her frequent trips to the v-e-t), I have never, thank Heavens, ended up with such a swelling! Jeepers…. Are you okay? Has the swelling gone down? Are you typing this one-handed??

    I think it was a very good idea indeed for you to write down this story in full (hilarious) detail – has Oregano read it through properly? More to the point, has he learned from it what the correct strategy is for the future? 😉

    Like you, we also never managed to clip our cat’s nails. As she grew older, and no longer used scratching posts and tree trunks to do her own pedicure, we ended up taking her to the vet every couple of weeks too. The only upside was that, as she got older, she was easier to corner and catch… but the feeling of guilt! Oh! To be on the receiving end of reproach from a cat…. Oh! It cuts one to the quick, it does!

    • Excellent use of a pun in the comment, Reggie!

      Thanks to my commentary and the vet backing up my philosophy, Oregano has now learned not to take the carriers out in advance. Sometimes I think it is harder training him than the cats 🙂

      Thankfully, my hand is fully healed. I didn’t develop an infection, but my hand sure did look hideous for quite a while.

      With any luck, my guys will slow down in their old age. The only downside to that is that I’ll be older and slower, too.

  7. While pedicures are never easy, I’ve had a cat that had trouble keeping her captain’s quarters clean. I would use a clipper to trim the fur around the butt. She hated noise. Clippers make noise. It was always traumatic and on more than one occasion I got a bite as my treat afterward. You must work on that division of labor thing.

    • Thanks for making me feel better about my pedicure perils. Using the clippers sounds much worse.

      After 22 years, I no longer have hope that Oregano will be able to scruff a cat. He does always scoop the litter boxes so I’ll call the division of labor even.

  8. Uncle Sea Salt

    Perhaps there is a business opportunity here. Pet Pedicure House Calls? Fortunately, my cats are soooo laid back, they don’t fuss. Or perhaps it’s the sodium pentothol I spray into the room beforehand. Hmm…

  9. Cookie would scream bloody murder whenever she had to go to the vet or the groomer. It was one-trial learning for that poodle who was too smart for her own good. While driving, if I had to stop for a traffic light, I made sure the windows were up so that the driver next to me didn’t think I was dognapping the little beast or worse. However, her screaming did have a benefit. We were never kept waiting very long at the vet’s office.

    • The car ride to the vet is the cherry on the sundae.

      Good idea to close the windows to prevent people from calling the ASPCA. It also kept Cookie from jumping out a window and running back home.

  10. Oh good grief!! Your poor hand!
    This post had us laughing out loud!! And poor Oregano trying to help! And Basil cant stop saying “they do this every 30 days??” Loved this one, Paprika!!

  11. I am now the proud cat mama to two cats. so pawdicures have increased from 20 to 40claws. Madi at 3 years was pawdicure trained since we got her at 3 months old. I wait till she’s on her tower, get the scissors and cut away. My Gracie also was pawdicure trained at a early age so again no difficulty level there. Your story brought back many funny memories of early training days. And treats when it’s over is a most – a kibble or two for them, M&Ms for me and my husband (someone has to watch).

    • Having more than one cat definitely ups the game for the humans. I’m glad you have them both trained. Everyone I know who is successful at providing in home peticures has had their kitties since they were young.

      Rescuing adult cats is wonderful, but they come with baggage and it is our job to unpack it for them.


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