When Smudge first joined our family, her fur had been sadly neglected for a long time. Smudge is a dilute tortoiseshell, which means her coat contains a variety of colors when you look closely, including black, brown, pale apricot and white. In general she has an overall sooty gray appearance with spots of pink. Her fur is on the long side but she’s not much of a shedder. I can wear a black sweater, pick her up and cuddle her, and you’d never see any evidence of that. I consider that a bonus when it comes to cats.

As a new member of the household, she needed a medical checkup prior to being spayed. That visit was painful. The new adoptee reacted to her first appointment with a series of very loud complaints at every insulting poke and prod. The last straw was the nail clipping- her claws had never seen any attention, and I hadn’t ever done a kitty manicure. All my previous cats were in the distant past, and they had all been indoor-outdoor cats who managed their own claws very nicely. Smudge was to be an indoor cat only. And no declawing- just a trim.

The vet tech took her into a room behind the front desk to perform the manicure. From out of that room came a cacaphony of frenzied caterwauling. The girl at the desk looked up and asked, “What are we doing to that poor kitten back there?” while the other patients and their people recoiled at the noise. “Apparently”, I answered, “ someone is pulling out her claws one by one.” Nervous laughter came from a couple of the humans in the room.

The tech brought her out and handed her to me. If she were a child, Smudge would have clung to me sobbing incoherently , but because she is a cat, she leapt into my arms and then ignored me. No eye contact. No purring. Her attitude was clearly “Get me the fuck out of here, lady, and I mean now. I quickly made the appointment for the spay procedure and was asked if I would like to have the whole cat shaved since they were doing her belly and her fur was in pretty bad shape from living as a stray for most of her kittenhood. We had only had her as “ours” for a couple of weeks and while my brushing had improved things considerably, I could definitely see the point of starting fresh. So I said okay.

The day before the procedure, I wrenched my back to the point of not being able to get my own socks on. Standing and walking were ordeals. Driving was sheer torture, but I managed to get Smudge to the vet’s office. Luckily it was less than a mile away from our home. Once back home I popped some pain meds and waiedt for word on how the surgery had gone. I did get a call while they were in the midst of the surgery. It seemed she was full of kittens. My baby had gotten herself in some trouble- 7 months old and pregnant. Did I want them to close her up and allow the pregnancy to continue? What the what, now? The reason I was having her spayed was because I never wanted her to have kittens. Not ever. Not even this batch growing unbeknownst to me. Was this not clear? “Please continue,” I said, wondering if they thought I was an evil person for advocating cat abortions. Not caring, though. I went back to the couch and gingerly positioned myself so that I would be able to get up again sometime in the future.

The next day my back pain was no better but Smudge was ready to come home. It was a major accomplishment that I made it there at all. Getting in and out of the car was awful. Once in the office, I was afraid if I sat down I wouldn’t be able to get up again so I stood there in the waiting room as they went to fetch her. I didn’t recognize the animal that the tech brought out to me. She was cute, though- the shave, which I had forgotten all about, involved her body, neck, and upper legs, leaving her head, tail, and lower legs "au naturale". This style of cat shave actually has a name; it’s called a “lynx cut”, after the wild cat, but it was more like looking at a demented poodle. “Are you sure that’s Smudge?” I asked. The look I got assured me that yes, this was Smudge, and by the way, we all think you are one strange kitty-mama. Oh well. The yowl that came out of her when she recognized me was further proof that this was indeed my cat.

I got her home, somehow. We both had a lot of recovering to do. The two of us spent the next week cuddled up together under a nice warm quilt on the couch, sleeping and purring, resting and hurting, and looking into each others’ faces.

We both healed. It was comical seeing this little former furball transformed into what started to seem like a very elegant, sleekly stylish cat. Her fur felt wonderful, like velvet, and Tom and I both came to love the way she looked and felt. I brought her back for a new shave several months later when it started to grow out. I dropped her off in the morning and picked her up a couple of hours later, freshly shorn. I did that twice more over the next 6 months.

Then, the tech who handled cat grooming quit the vet’s office. I found a local groomer who was willing to take care of her, but wanted me to stay for the shave and “help hold her”.

That was the last shave poor Smudge ever had to endure. The groomer put a muzzle on her, like a kitty version of a bdsm toy, and I held her while she went to work. My baby was okay at first but became increasingly agitated over the next few minutes. Even though the job was only half done, I stopped her, because I could see how upset she was getting. I probably should have realized from that first claw trimming that this was not going to go well.

Her fur grew out to a nice fluffy cloud, kept brushed almost daily. Most mornings, she comes up on the bathroom counter when I am drying and brushing my own hair. She rubs on my brushes and begs for a brushing for herself. Yes, I gave her one of my favorite brushes, a “people” brush. Tom and I do her nails together- I hold her and he clips, and she relaxes and purrs happily. Say what you will, that’s one pussy that will never be shaved again.

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