This is the story of how I temporarily thought myself to be the worst pet parent ever. At the time we got James, I was working nights at my grandmother-in-law’s house, doing some basic care-taking like making dinner and cleaning up after every night. As a result, I was sometimes not home until 10 or 11pm, once I’d gotten everything cleaned up and put away.
I came home late one night after we’d had James a little over a month, and my wife and I were combing/brushing him. He’s very fluffy as you can see from his pictures. We take him to the groomer every month, but he still needs to be brushed and combed every day to stop him from developing knots.
Well, he had a knot on the inside of his thigh – one that was very bad. It was almost all the way down to his skin, and we couldn’t get it out with the comb or brush. So, out came the scissors.
It was now about 11:30pm.
James is a very, very calm cat. You can pull knots out of his fur and he’ll meow in protest but he won’t claw you, or even try to wriggle or get away. That’s true even now, over a year later. But that night, something happened that made me worry that I’d lose his trust forever.
We live directly in between a fire station and a highway patrol office. This means that sometimes a very loud fire truck will go by. Well, James hadn’t been with us long enough to be used to that. I was holding the knot in his fur with one hand, the scissors in the other, and my wife was holding the cat while he looked around at the room absently – his usual place when being combed.
I poised the scissors under the knot, directly over his raised skin, and snipped. At that exact moment, a siren wailed on the street in front of the house…and James jerked his leg, startled.
The scissored snipped, and he cried out – but didn’t try to get down or run. There was no blood, and I whispered softly to him, thinking he’d cried out because of the siren. Then I spotted his inner thigh.
A flap of skin was literally hanging open. I could see muscle underneath. It looked exactly like the “skinned animal” pictures you find on taxidermy websites from time to time, which I have looked at for art reference. I stared, horrified. I had just clipped our cat’s skin open. And he was still just lying there in my wife’s arms, calmly…probably waiting for us to do something to make it stop hurting.
Well…I panicked. My wife was very calm, but I panicked. We got him into his carrier carefully (still no blood…I’m still not sure how I managed that), and headed for the Central Orange County Emergency Animal Hospital. The whole situation was made worse by the fact that all the money we had was what I’d been paid for work that week…and it came to $500 less than the bill was. As a result, we applied for CareCredit, and we’re still paying that off over a year later – but we were approved.
James got four stitches, and had to wear an e-collar for the next two weeks before we took him back to get the stitches out. Under his fur, even a year later, there is a little scar in that spot. It was no one’s fault – not mine, not my wife’s, and not James – it wasn’t even the fault of the fire truck driver. How could they have known? It was just an accident. But I’ll tell you, the guilt I carried until after he finally didn’t have to wear the e-collar anymore was almost crippling. I’d never hurt an animal before – not a real one. I once caught my pet parakeet’s beak in a hair clip accidentally but he was fine after that.
I’m still incredibly careful to this day about how we groom James, even though NOTHING makes him jump anymore. We haven’t had any further accidents. Still, that memory will always haunt me – the story of Prince James Tumblefluff and the Midnight Snip.