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Saturday, July 2, 2011

JAPAN LITE

Long and short of pet grooming


Special to The Japan Times

"Wow, what's that?" I asked Mrs. Amano. In her arms she was holding a furry thing with whiskers. I couldn't quite recognize the animal as it had tufts of hair sticking out all over it — like a hexagram with a cat face in the middle.

"It's so far to take her to a cat groomer, so I just cut her hair myself," said Amano-san.

"What did you use, hedge trimmers?" I asked. "Just regular scissors from the ¥100 store," she said.

Like Mrs. Amano, DIY cat and dog groomers are the norm here on our island, where if you don't do it yourself you're in for a 40-minute ride on the ferry to a pet groomer on the mainland. Being that the fare for a pet can be more than for a person on our ferry, it's a bit over the top. Being islanders, we take things into our own hands.

Mrs. Amano isn't the best cat groomer but at least she gets the job done. Her long-haired feline may only look vaguely cat-like, but I bet he feels a lot cooler in the summertime and he doesn't shed all over her house.

I have been taking notes because my long-haired cat, Frank, is currently shedding giant white flakes of hair all over my house. I'm dying to give her a haircut. I'm thinking a military style would be good: short back and sides. The beauty of cutting your own cat's hair is that no one is going to say, "That haircut just doesn't fit your cat. I think a mullet style would be better."

My cat is the nicest, sweetest cat in the world. When she wants to be. All other times she's a blood-thirsty hyena. Every time I come back from vacation, my cat-sitting neighbor Kazu-chan has red scratches all over her arms. Kazu-chan is too polite to refuse to look after the beast. But the truth is, I have a killer cat. I try not to look at missing persons reports.

For all you people who have named your cats things like "Princess" or "Felix," you have no idea what it is like to have a cat like mine. I named her Frank after Frank Sinatra, because of the strength of her vocal cords. She can play them like a steel guitar, with all the tricks of compression, fade-in and echo.

Frank also has sensitive skin and doesn't like to be brushed. As a matter of fact, you are risking your life trying to brush this cat. I used to top up my life insurance policy before donning thick rubber gloves, recruiting some hapless island visitor to hold her down, and then going after her with a cat brush. But Frank's screams were so loud that the neighbors would drop what they were doing and rush over to see what was happening.

"No problem!" I'd say smiling while holding the cat in a half-nelson lest the salient beast escape. "Such a beautiful cat," they'd exclaim under their breaths. They were convinced I was somehow torturing her.

Another island friend, in an outreach of genuine sympathy, gave me a device called a "Furminator" which does a marvelous job taking off hair, in large clumps, from his cats. No luck with mine. Frank screams bloody murder when I try to use it on her. Again, the neighbors all rushed over.

Not one to give up, I recently came up with another idea. Feed the cat her favorite treat, katsuo (bonito), and while she's eating go after her with the scissors. As soon as she tucked into the katsuo, I started nipping and clipping the hair on her back. Only occasionally did she take a break from eating, look back and bear her teeth. Success! But the next time she growled the entire time.

My cat is like those big zoo cats: You can never really trust them. Even as her owner, I never know when she'll turn on me. I even took an online course in lion taming. But the kitty is untamable. Next, I contacted Siegfried and Roy to see if they might give a go at grooming the beast. They wouldn't touch her.

Whenever I put out katsuo now, the half-trimmed cat quietly walks away, having lost all interest in my shenanigans.

Then my husband came up with another idea — find something to put her out for a half hour so we could brush her and get the job done. A shot of tequila perhaps?

A quick search on the Internet opened up a whole new world to me: that of hundreds of owners with vicious cats! Alas, there was no online support group. But they did tell you how to tranquilize your cat.

Turns out you cannot give it sleeping pills, as they are too strong. They will definitely put your cat to sleep, but in a different kind of way. Apparently, however, you can use Benedryl, a common cold medicine for people. Now, I am not recommending you use this on your cat. Personally, I would never do it to my cat, mainly because I can't get a hold of Benedryl in Japan.

No, seriously, there are many natural things you can give your pet to calm them down for the sake of grooming or travel. Some are over the counter remedies sold at pet stores while others are readily available natural herbs.

Still, I think some things are best left to vets and professional groomers. But as I believe a ferry ride would stress out my cat even more, I think I'll just put up with a half-groomed cat and a house full of white fur flakes. Especially while nursing this hemorrhaging arm.



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