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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scratch That...

My boyfriend and I just finished trimming our cat's nails. Fiona is a 4-year old calico adopted from the ASPCA, where she lived for 2 long years. Miss Fiona was a difficult cat to place because, well, she was a jerk. The day I went to adopt, I naively asked for a cat who was having a hard time finding a home, since I consider myself to be pretty adept at handling/caring for animals. When they told me she'd been there as long as she had, I simply couldn't walk out of the shelter without her. This was despite the fact that the few moments I'd spent with her involved her sniffing and subsequently biting me. She was almost 20 lbs, hefty from inactivity, and her coat was unkempt. With some TLC, and several band-aids for my cat scratches, we slowly turned her into a social, beautiful, healthy cat.

But enough of my bragging. Getting back to the topic at hand, claw care for cats! There's a commercial on TV for the Emery Cat, a scratching post made of emery board to keep kitty's claws filed. I personally wouldn't waste my money when a free scrap of old rug would probably appeal to my cat more, but if you have trouble trimming nails, check it out. Cats need to scratch. They have to keep their claws sharp and ready for the kill. Unfortunately for us silly humans who tried to domesticate them, cats will scratch on anything that provides nice resistance, regardless of whether or not that carpet or sofa is priceless. Lucky for me, Fiona doesn't scratch too badly on our couch and carpet, and it helps that the combined cost of both was $150 (the carpet was free from my parents...). But she does occasionally use my leg as a sharpener, so we have to keep her nails as short and harmless as possible.

Somehow, with all her pent up anger and her tendency to stalk me for no reason, Fiona is a dream when it comes to clipping her nails. My boyfriend holds her like a baby while I clip her back claws, and she pulls them a little, but she doesn't struggle or get upset. For her front paws, since they're so much closer to her needle-like teeth, he holds her under the armpits and stabilizes her head so she can't try to bite. In all, it takes us 3 minutes to clip her nails. My sister's cat, Spike, was a different story altogether. I had to scruff him under my arm while she sped through each paw because that cat could turn around inside his own skin, and often did, while we tried to clip him. He'd never had a bad experience- he just didn't like the idea of being restrained.

The other day when I was volunteering at the shelter, a gentleman came in to return the cat he had adopted because "he sheds too much". While the patient employees discussed his unrealistic expectations of what having a cat involved, they mentioned clipping his next cat's nails, and he looked at them incredulously and asked, "can't I bring him here for you to do it?", and I realized further how good we have it here with Princess Fiona. But I also realized how often people buy or adopt pets without really understanding how much time and effort they require. Sure, you can go a whole lifetime without trimming your cat's nails as long as you've provided a good surface for him to maintain them. That is, if you don't mind getting impaled every time the cat jumps off your lap, or gouged when your kitty gets overstimulated while playing. Oh, and for the record, there are few things more cruel than declawing a cat. If they're too difficult for you to trim yourself, make an appointment with your vet or a groomer who will probably do it for a small fee. In the long run, it will save you countless headaches over ruined fabric and painful scratches.

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