24 Apr
2013-04-10 14.16.59

The Classic Lion Cut

I used to hate cats. It wasn’t so much a hatred as a deep fear. Being in the same room with one would give me anxiety. If one walked on me or touched me, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Everything about them freaked me out, from their long, curling claws to their rubber-band like skeletons.

Then, during a particularly rough time in my life, I met these kittens. They were so helpless and adorable. We kept them at the clinic for a couple of months, as I watched them grow from innocent kittens to adorable, gentle cats. It somehow helped me break through the fear. I still didn’t LOVE cats, but I was no longer panic stricken by being around them.

My boss sat me down a couple of months ago for my performance review, it was a rave review…except for one little thing. Cats. I don’t handle them well. As a vet tech, my greatest struggle is dealing with cats. I believe that there are two types of people in the world. Dog people and cat people. I don’t know whether it’s nature or nuture or divine providence, but everyone has a preference, whether slight or definitive. I will always sway towards dogs. Two of my co-workers (a vet and a fellow vet tech) are both avid cat people and are consistently trying to change my mind, to teach me to love cats. Their guidance has helped me a lot in learning what to look for in an angry cat (tail flicks, low ears) and how to coax a cat into calming down. I’ve become my clinic’s resident expert on the lion cut (see picture) where I shave matted cats. I love doing it. Something extremely satisfying about getting those matts off and exposing the skin beneath. I can entertain my inner perfectionist and spend long periods of time getting the shave perfectly even, leaving a poof tail and “Ugg” boots.

But on the other end of the co-worker spectrum is Darryl, who shares my history of cat fear. Every cat he sees, he eyes sideways, mumbling to himself, “I don’t trust him.” He uses a harsh scruff to restrain, and there are usually beads of sweat dripping down his brow by the end of the exam. My cat-loving co-workers tell me not to listen to him, less restraint is better. But somewhere deep inside of me, I don’t trust any of those cats either.

I’ve worked hard to suppress my inner-Darryl and have even recently gotten a pat on the back from my boss for handing what we call a “cat rodeo.” This is when a cat loses its shit at some point in the exam. As a technician, the only thing to do is hold on to that scruff and ride it out. Grab a towel with the other hand, grab a knock-down box with the other hand, but above all don’t let go of that scruff. Because once that cat is out of the staff’s hands and on the ground, it becomes nearly impossible to get them back into a safe restraint.

So last week, I’m holding a fat orange cat named Mama Rose for Dr. L. The cat was calm and didn’t seem bothered. I even was teasing her, calling her “a whole lotta woman.” Perhaps my fat joke went too far, because the cat spontaneously lost it. No warning, just decided to fling her body off the examination table. I lunge for her scruff, trying to stop her. But because she’s fat and had a jump start on me, my grip is weak. She flips herself in the air, contorts her body around, and slashes my hand and wrist. Dr. L in the meantime had grabbed a towel to wrangle the cat.

I yell a couple of expletives and feel searing pain in my hand. There’s blood dripping down my wrist from those cuts, but it is nothing compared to the pain I’m experiencing in my hand. I can’t feel my pinkie or ring finger, and the gash into the meat of my hand goes deep. I rinse it under cold water and try to calm myself down.

“That’s not enough, Chris,” Dr S says, pulling me toward the surgical, scrub sink. “Those wounds in the thick of your hand are the worst and will get infected.” He hands me the rough bristled brush that the doctors use to scrub in for surgery. “You need to scrub it with this for at least 10 minutes. And you need to make it bleed.”

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to roughly scrub an already painful, open wound. But I did, and I watched the blood ooze from my hand. I opened the wound wider, to expose the torn layers of flesh. Digging deeper in there to pull out any remnant of cat germs.

And now I’m back on the Darryl train of thought. Never trust a cat.


3 Responses to “Cats”

  1. Erin Sandbach April 25, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    I completely agree. Earlier in the week, I was given the responsibility of caring for the diablo feline in isolation. After hearing all weekend about how loco and absolutely mean this cat was (not to mention, he had to be boxed down to get ANY treatments done) I felt pure panic. I am not only THE WORST person to handle a fractious cat, but it involved being in iso and the thinking is the less people exposed the better. Oh and this cat preferred men. Why the ONLY male vet tech on the clock that night wasn’t assigned to iso I guess I’ll never know. Turns out the kitty was more snarl than bite by the time I got to him. He was feeling (and looking) pretty crappy. Imagine my surprise, upon walking in to work two days later and seeing diablo chilling in a cage in the treatment area with all the other patients. I didn’t know there was a cure for fractious.

  2. Yvorie Decena April 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Oh my goodness!! What an event!!! I’ve been reading you blog today, I’m so glad I found it! I’m thinking about going to school to become a Vet Trech, I love animals and it sounds like a good career, I’m going to keep reading on you have a great blog!!!

    • Chrissy April 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Thanks! Vet tech is a great career. Let me know if you have any questions!

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