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A Close Shave

Nothing like herding cats when the fur’s flying

Five after 9 in the morning. Our appointment was in 25 minutes. I had plenty of time. “If you want to catch her, I think you’d better get her in the house first,” warned my husband, eyeing Mandy, our longhaired cat, who crouched in a dark corner of our garage. Feral as a kitten, she’d calmed down so much with age that I just smiled sweetly at James and ignored his suggestion. “Aw, she’ll be easy to take to the clinic for shots and a shave,” I thought.

Wrong. Ten minutes later, beyond frustrated and mad, mad, mad, I had a towel in my hand and no cat. Mandy, owl eyed and scared to death, had beelined around the house. Twice. With me in dogged pursuit. Somehow, we managed to corral her back into the garage. “I might as well call and cancel!” I sputtered, near tears and defeated.

But not James. Onward he rallied. As Mandy bolted and we lunged with towels, a butterfly net—one we’d bought to capture wayward birds in our garage—unexpectedly swooped over her head. James and I looked up in shocked surprise. At the other end of the net stood Joe, a local fix-it guy we’d hired to paint house trim. “It was handy,” he shrugged.

By 9:25 a.m., I was second-guessing the need for vaccinations, much less barbering. “You’re going to SHAVE a cat?” friends asked, dumbfounded. “No,” I told them, “not a cat. THREE cats!” Yes, I continued, because Mandy’s long fur mats into thick clumps in the summer. However, after her first (and only) buzz, our semi-Siamese cats, brothers Abe and Gabe, pegged her for a stranger. So for days, they tormented and chased poor Mandy. I worried endlessly that they might really hurt her. Which was why I’d decided to have all three shaved.

“We’ll call you when we’re done,” Penny, the groomer, said. She’s shaved many a cat in her lengthy career. So three more—even one glaring through a net—didn’t faze her. “Oh, they’ll be fine,” she assured me. “Don’t worry!”

Dubious but trusting, I slipped out the door, then returned two hours later to fetch my furry felines. Or rather, fur-less felines. No one said much on our short drive home. And I didn’t want to peek in anyone’s carrier. I knew the cats would associate me with the harrowing experience they’d just endured until at least day’s end. “We’re almost there!” I said, soothingly. “Everybody’s going to be just fine.”

We’d soon find out. In our driveway, Abe and Gabe, blinking their sky-blue eyes, cautiously sniffed the air, then ventured out from their carriers. At the sight of our two manly cats—who now sported only cheek tufts, fuzzy knee-high boots and a skinny rat’s tail—I had to laugh!

But not for long. As soon as the brothers took one look at each other, the hissing and growling ensued. Gabe, who looked like he had a hangover, sounded serious. Worried about possible bloodshed, I ushered him inside the house. Then I STUPIDLY tried to corral him back inside his carrier. YRRRWWW! “Well, go ahead and kill your brother!” I stormed as Gabe streaked past me, back into the garage. “I DON’T CARE!”

Meanwhile, Mandy remained in safe seclusion in our darkened living room. Every hour or so, I’d tiptoe in, pull back the towel and peek inside her carrier. All I could see were two huge owl eyes. She never uttered one sound. But I could read her mind: “Watch your back, Bozo—you’re gonna be history soon!”

Fortunately, by the next morning, Mandy had forgotten my lead role in her traumatic experience. She was more concerned with keeping a safe distance from the boys, who were more concerned with bullying one another. “Yrrrrrrrrrrr,” Gabe growled from deep within his chest whenever Abe got close. Then paws swatted. Teeth bared. Snarls rumbled. No fur flew, though, because there was none.

I just didn’t get it. The two apparently had no recollection of having lived together since birth!

“Mandy?” I said, peering under my car in the garage. Two owl eyes stared back at me. Forget it, she wasn’t coming out any time soon. “Just wanted to make sure you were OK,” I added, backing away. Behind me, I heard Gabe growling. Or was it Abe? I fled back inside the house. “I am NEVER going to have those cats shaved again!” I vented to James. “Never ever! This is way too much drama!”

Day two unfolded much the same. The brothers hissed and spit. Mandy hid. So did I. And I did for most of the next day, too, until I ventured outside to water plants. At the sight of Abe and Gabe, I cringed. Instead of squabbling, though, they frisked up a nearby live oak. Then back down again. They raced and played in the yard like kittens. Meanwhile, Mandy, sprawled on a patio chair, snoozed contentedly.

“They must really feel good without all that fur,” James observed.

“Yeah, they must,” I agreed. “I’m so glad we got them shaved! Aren’t you?”

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers is a frequent contributor to Texas Co-op Power.