D. E. Larsen, DVM
It was the end of a busy afternoon when I leaned into the reception desk to check on what remained of the day.
“I’m beat, how close to being done are we?” I asked.
“You poor man,” Sandy replied. She seldom gave me any sympathy. “Your last appointment is in the exam room. It is just a nail trim on a cat, you should be able to handle it okay.”
I stepped into the exam room and met Al and Vivian. They were new clients, but I had met Al when I was on a farm call out on Upper Berlin Road some weeks before. Al was a short guy, stocky, and with white hair and mustache. Vivian was taller than Al by several inches.
Vivian was in immediate command of the conversation, Al would add a quip every now and then. They were parents of a long time client and had just moved to the area from San Francisco. Al had retired from a machine shop some years earlier but continued with his passion as a western cartoonist and illustrator.
“Ping-Li is in the carrier,” Vivian said. “We just need his toenails clipped. I am on this blood thinner, and he doesn’t seem to understand that I can’t be his scratching post anymore.”
“And, Doc, he doesn’t really like to have his feet messed with,” Al said. “That is why we are here. We didn’t get one nail clipped last night.”
“Well, let’s get him up on the table and see what he thinks of us,” I said as I started to pick up the rather large carrier setting on the floor.
I was surprised at the weight of the carrier. I leaned over and looked into the carrier as I set it on the exam table.
Ping-Li was a large cat, well over 20 pounds and not fat at all. Ping-Li made his feelings known from the start, with a loud hiss at my face.
“I am not sure he wants to be friends,” Al said as Ping-Li hissed and jumped at the cage door.
“I think we will get some reinforcements before we get him out of the kennel,” I said. “You guys might want to wait out front.”
“He is pretty much a baby at home, but it is just the two of us most of the time,” Vivian said. “If anybody comes over, he generally hides. I am hoping this won’t be too traumatic for him.”
“Once we get a hand on him, we should be able to handle him okay,” I said. “I have a couple of gals here to help who are real cat ladies.”
“I don’t think I want to have him sedated for this,” Vivian said. “If it comes to that, we will rethink things.”
“He is one of the larger cats that we deal with around here,” I said. “But I think we can get him under control without sedating him.”
With that, Marilyn, Joleen, and I closed ourselves into the exam room with Ping-Li. The first task was to get him out of the kennel. He made it very clear that nobody was going to reach in and grab him.
We opened the kennel door, and Joleen and I tipped it up to dump him onto the exam table. Good idea, but Ping-Li had himself braced against the sides of the kennel with all four feet. We shook it kennel several times before finally getting Ping-Li onto the exam table.
I attempted some soft talk and petting to calm him down. He hissed and swatted at the air close to my chest. Joleen made a quick grab for the back of his neck, and that got him a little under control. Using the extra-large cat sack, it took all three of us to get him stuffed inside and zipped up. He was almost too large.
Once secured, I did a quick once over. Everything looked okay, every time I came close to his head, I was greeted with a hiss. Using the scale on the tabletop, Ping-Li weighed in at just under 25 pounds. I looked at a couple of cats that weighed a couple of pounds more than that, but they were very obese. There was no fat on Ping-Li.
Once we had him in the sack, clipping his nails was no problem. We would just unzip a bottom opening by each foot, fight with Ping-Li to get the foot out of the sack, clip the nails and move to the next foot. By the time we were done, the hiss had become a loud growl. I think Ping-Li was indeed mad.
Marilyn checked with Al and Vivian to make sure there was nothing else. They came back to see Ping-Li in his sack before we returned him to the kennel. Vivian wanted to pet him to calm him down a little, but her efforts were met with hisses and growls.
We pointed Ping-Li into his kennel and started unzipping the cat sack. He was squirming out of it before it was half undone. He hit the back of the kennel, turned and hissed.
“Oh, I think he is mad,” Vivian said
“It will probably be more difficult next time,” Al said. “He is a pretty smart cat, and he will remember you, Doctor.”
Ping-Li became a regular visitor to the clinic. On most of the visits, he was much more manageable than he was on this first visit. But he continued to hate having his nails clipped, and it almost always required a cat sack to get the job done.
I liked to think most cats became our friends, or they came to tolerate our invasion of their space. Ping-Li probably came to tolerate that invasion to a degree, but he never became our friend.
Some months after that battle with Ping-Li, Al came by with the cartoon at the top of this story. It still hangs in my study.