A Cautionary Tale of Claws

March 12th, 2010
Posted by Evan Rowe in Life + Times

As you may have surmised from the title, this story involves Maeby, who is only recently coming down from the highest possible ranking attainable on my $4!t list.

A few weekends ago, I was working on some video editing. It was a sunday, and I’d put in several hours on the project over the course of the weekend, and I decided to take a break for a few minutes. I stood up from my desk, noticed Maeby resting peacefully (and presumably happily) on top of the back cushion of my oversized chair nearby, and sat down to visit with her. She was curled up and looking very cute, and normally her demeanor is fairly amicable in these situations. As such, I figured I’d show her some love by petting her and scratching the top of her head for a few minutes, which she seemed to enjoy. Suddenly, without warning or even the slightest sign of irritation on her part, she lashed out at my face with her front paw, brandishing fully extended and freshly sharpened claws. It was in this precise moment I remembered one of the fundamental rules of cat ownership and interaction: keep one’s face out of range of your feline friend’s reach at all times.

I had cats growing up, and I’ve been scratched in the face a few times as a child. (Never mind how, but I stand resolute in my opinion that each incident was fully unwarranted on the part of the various felines in question) In every previous instance, the damage was minor and fairly quick to heal. Unfortunately, this attack was not typical of those I had been subjected to in the past. Maeby has a tendency (especially in the past three months or so) to get her claws stuck on things. It’s an affliction most cats who still have their claws experience regularly, so this probably isn’t a huge surprise. What is odd in her case though, is that she has not figured out that the easiest and fastest way to get unstuck is to simply retract her claws and move on with her life. I’m not sure if this option hasn’t yet occurred to her, or if instead it she long ago ruled it out as a desirable course of action. At any rate, her solution to getting unstuck is to continue pulling on whatever she’s stuck until her claw breaks free.

The instant after I was reminded of the rule about faces and claws, I realized that one of her claws was lodged firmly into the side of my nostril, and in the instant after that I began to feel her panic and begin her instinctive tugging. This was immediately followed by a great deal of concentrated pain, and also one of the most awkward physical sensations I’ve ever experienced. The only way I can think of to describe it is to say that I think I have some idea now how fish must feel when they get hooked and then feel themselves being reeled in. I should point out, however, that the claw had not fully punctured from the outside of the nostril to the inside, only that it was embedded in the outer layer of skin, though it felt as though it might be close to halfway through.

Thankfully, rather than panicking in kind with the cat, I was fortunate enough to have adrenaline kick in, which numbed most of the pain, and also allowed me to quickly derive a course of action to prevent having my nose ripped open and taking an impromptu visit to the ER. With one hand, I reached over and held Maeby down so she’d be unable to begin running away and pulling with her entire body, and with the other I grabbed her arm and began to slowly pull it back towards my face so I could get the claw loose. Of course, being an animal, and one in a frantic state, she naturally resisted and tried to pull her arm back away from me, further tugging at my nose and heightening both my sense of urgency and stress level. It was an awkward position to be in (aside from the whole having a cat stuck to my face part), since I needed to use enough force to overpower her (easy), but not enough to hurt her (not as easy). We more or less had a tug of war over it for a good 7-8 seconds (which felt more like two minutes, an experience just shy of agonizing and terrifying), until I finally managed to pull her arm far enough back to dislodge her freakishly large cat talon, at which point I released her and was finally able to concentrate on my new wound.

She darted off into goodness knows where and I stumbled through my apartment to the bathroom to assess the damage and set about to treating it. Given how deep I could tell the cut was, I was surprised to find that it was fairly small in size, and thankfully not at all jagged. Still, it bled quite a lot for a good amount of time, and when it finally started clotting I applied a generous amount of Neosporin and then came back out to my desk to resume working.

So, going forward, I will be keeping my face extremely far away from Maeby’s reach whenever possible. The cut has thankfully healed since then, and won’t leave any permanent scarring. If anything, I’m extremely glad that I wear my glasses as much as I do, because if that claw had been lodged in, oh I don’t know, my eye, things that day would have been a lot uglier. My apartment would also likely have one less cat living in it (bringing the grand total to zero, for those of you keeping track).

So, the bottom line folks, is that if you own a cat, no matter how nice it might normally be, it is undoubtedly plotting to kill you, and it’s only a matter of time before it strikes.

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