My wife and I subcontract for several local banks, performing property assessments of foreclosed properties. We recently came to a property that included an abandoned cat. We needed another (third) cat like a hole in the head, and while we could have dropped her off at the shelter, she ingratiated herself so quickly that it didn’t even come up as a possible option.
We pieced together Mrs. Kitter’s history based on an obituary picture we found of a sweet old lady that owned her until she died three years ago. Since then, the cat has lived outdoors under an upside-down shopping cart. Her fur was matted and came out in clumps. Her nails had grown to the point where many had curled around halfway back to the paw.
We read a lot about reintroducing abused animals and braced ourselves for a long, frustrating process. Everything we read said not to expect much and to be prepared for a standoffishness that could last a lifetime. To all those who said to expect a permanently wounded soul, however, I want to add Mrs. Kitters’ voice. Even though she had a life of affection (followed by living on the street), she has adapted to life in our home very easily. Whether it’s her sex or age, our other two male cats seem to have some sort of innate respect for her, because they always let her eat first. She’s a lap cuddler, to the point where it’s difficult to eat or pay bills without making space for her.
My question is, given her easy adjustment, how “respectful” do I need to be regarding clipping her nails? I don’t want to traumatize an old lady who’s been through a lot. But her nails are the last remaining vestige of her abuse, and we need to take care of them. She lets me “trigger” them, and I honestly don’t think she’ll mind, but am I at risk for ruining the trust we’ve built over the past six weeks?
– Alan and Megan, Chimayo, New Mexico
Dear Alan and Megan,
Thank you for rescuing Mrs. Kitter off the street. It sounds like she might have slipped out of the house when her owner died. I am glad she has a new home with the two of you now.
As for her nails, if they have curled under, the “quick” (living tissue in the nail) has grown with it. While she might let you cut her nails, you might accidentally cut the quick, which is painful for dogs and cats. So, my advice is to have the veterinarian do it the first time to see how she handles it and to see how far back he can take those nails without hitting the quick.
If you want to do it yourself, then just cut just one nail at a time and pair it with a treat to reward her calm behavior. If she flinches or races away upset, however, stop and let the vet’s office do her nails the first time. This way her complaint is with the vet and not you. If she lets you do it though, go for it. She sounds like an easy-going cat, so I bet you won’t have any problems in the future cutting her nails.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal