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.”