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In Our Own Backyard...Now is the time for 'shock and awe'

The air was filled with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. I found myself tiptoeing around on our hardwood floors, afraid that the sound of a good, solid footstep might ignite passions far beyond anything we were prepared to cope wit...

The air was filled with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. I found myself tiptoeing around on our hardwood floors, afraid that the sound of a good, solid footstep might ignite passions far beyond anything we were prepared to cope with. The two of us - Ken and I - were communicating at a near-whisper so we didn't give away our strategical plan of attack prematurely.

This was war.

For weeks, we'd been avoiding the task at hand. It had been a long, hot, humid summer, and the fur on both of our long-haired cats had begun to form mats - those little tangles of fur that turn into big tangles of fur and eventually go all the way down to the cat's skin. We were aware that one of the responsibilities that comes with owning long-haired cats is brushing them frequently enough so they don't develop those pesky mats in their fur. But it was hard to convince ourselves to do it when our mild-mannered, sweet-tempered cats turn into near-zombies every time we get out the brush!

The time had come to do something about ridding them of the mats. At first I made a few tentative forays with a set of blunt-nosed manicure scissors, thinking I would try snipping the mats out, but I had a hard time getting the cats to stay still and I was afraid I might accidentally cut their skin along with the fur.

We decided the only solution was to shave out the mats with electric clippers. I first did some research on the Internet to make sure we knew just what we were doing before we introduced the cats to the clippers.

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The first article I came across was a YouTube video titled, "How to clip your cat without getting clawed to death." Oh...my...goodness.

Everything I read suggested you have two people to help with the clipping session - one to "gently hold the cat and comfort it," one article recommended, and the other to do the actual clipping. Sounded reasonable enough.

We decided I would be the holder and Ken would be the clipper. The only problem was that as soon as we turned on the clippers, both of the cats cleared out of the room so fast we didn't have time to grab them, and they vanished into those deep, dark hiding spots that cats seem to know about but we don't.

"Clipping cats takes a lot of patience," said the article. "Allow plenty of time, and if they get excitable, plan to wait a little while before you continue."

We waited - and we strategized. The article said to grab the cat by the fur on the back of the neck, much the way the mother cat does to control her kittens, making certain the "holder" has on a stout pair of gloves and a long-sleeved shirt so as not to get scratched or bitten.

I was just beginning to re-evaluate my offer to be the holder when I came up with the idea of wrapping Sunshine, our first "recruit," in a bath towel. It would help hold her still and protect me from her paws and jaws at the same time. I sauntered nonchalantly up to her, carefully picked her up and calmly (I thought) wrapped the towel around all of her except the rear flank where the mat was. She was already beginning a low rumbling in the back of her throat when Ken turned on the clippers. With a blood-curdling yowl, she bolted out of my grasp and flew down the hallway into the oblivion of some unknown hiding place once again.

Well, that wasn't working, so it was back to the drawing board. We discussed how we could manage to disable her long enough to actually do the clipping, and we decided that simply pinning her to the floor under a towel just wasn't going to work. It was then that I remembered the stainless steel exam tables in the veterinarian's office and how even the most agitated of cats seems to lose sight of their angst at the feel of the slippery, unfamiliar surface beneath them.

I dashed to the hallway closet and pulled out the ironing board, took off the pad and cover, and set it up. Ken plugged in the clippers and stood poised for the next round. I managed to pacify Sunshine with a snack before donning my gloves and the beach towel once again and carrying her to the metal ironing board. As I gently set her down she began to growl suspiciously, but she lay prone on her side for a full 10 seconds or so before emitting the death yowl once again. I was onto her this time, though, and yelled to Ken, "Just keep on clipping!"

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It was about then that Mufasa, the other cat, appeared out of his hiding place and crept up with his tail switching, as if preparing to attack whatever was making his little sister screech that way. Ken had a thin trickle of blood dripping down his forearm where Sunshine had managed to hook him with one of her claws. But one of the mats in her fur was, at long last, gone.

The battle was won, but the war was far from over.

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