We have four cats. It’s a long story, but the short version is that after grieving for our beloved Stanley, an apparently healthy Main Coon cat, we went back to the same breeder to get one, maybe two others. We came away with three. Two of them were from the last litter of the impressive Surfer Dude, a champion and sire of more than 15 CFA Grand Champions. We named the colorful brown tabby Louis Armstrong Orwig, and his all-white brother we named Lawrence Welk Orwig. (Speech pathologists I worked with later laughed when they heard we had named them Louis and Larry. Harrison, who was three at the time, still has to work hard to pronounce their names correctly.)
Larry, we were told by the breeder, would be a particularly good match for a house with a child. All-white Main Coons tended to be calm, they said, and deaf. The sounds of kids would not disturb him.
As it turned out, Larry is not deaf. And he most decidedly is not calm.
The root problem is that Larry has major anxiety issues. You know that cat who is afraid to go to the vet? Yeah, the one who runs in terror when he hears the vacuum cleaner and hisses at kids? Right. NOTHING like Larry. Larry is, to coin a feline version of a human psychological term, a few kibbles short of a full bowl. Larry is convinced that humans, under most circumstances, are trying to kill him. Try to pick him up? Murder attempt. Walk in his direction? Felinicide. And attempting to pull a tangle out of him, no matter how gently, is the same to Larry as if you were pulling off a limb. I don’t know if it’s neurological or psychological, but this one messed up kitty.
This is particularly tough because Larry is, of all the longhaired cats we have had (six so far) the one who most needs grooming. White cats are susceptible to staining around the eyes and mouth but we’ve given up on that. The biggest challenge is his fur. It is long and very fine. Think cotton candy with claws and teeth. Regularly washed and brushed, Larry would be gorgeous. Since that isn’t possible, though, he ends up a mass of tangles, which are cemented together by Larry spit into a dense, carpet-like layer over parts of him. At that point the only solution is to cut them off with grooming clippers.
Larry can be quite sweet in his own insane way. If a person is sitting on the couch and not making sudden moves (for instance, when feeding a baby) then they are not regarded as murderous. Larry will approach warily, gradually working up to nuzzling us with his powerful nose and jaws. He’ll flop over so we can rub his chest and even massage his paws. But make a sudden move, recross your legs, look like you might stand up, or touch one of his tangles, and there is the sound of claws on carpet and he’s gone.
Trapping Larry is an operation like you might have seen on the Crocodile Hunter (or maybe Cops), only more dangerous. The night before, while Larry is upstairs having dinner, we shut the doors to the back rooms of the basement. This eliminates his most effective hiding places but also tips him off that something is about to go down. The next day, we station one person at the top of the basement stairs. Then a second person goes downstairs in search of Larry. It’s impossible to actually catch him, but the attempt sends him dashing up the stairwell, where he realizes he is trapped. At this point Larry is terrified and out come the claws. Yesterday he added teeth to the mix, which is why I’m typing this with a painful, swollen hand.
Last year one of Larry’s back claws got away from me and he made a long, deep gash on the inside of my forearm near the wrist. I walked around for weeks looking like I had made some sort of sloppy suicide attempt. I still have a scar. Yesterday, Larry freaked out even more and twice sank his sharp teeth into my hand near my thumb. Although not as disfiguring as last year’s injury, it was more serious. As the day went on it became more painful and inflamed, and I ended up spending a few hours at the doctor’s office getting antibiotics.
As for Larry, in a couple of weeks he’s going to get a fresh start on his coat. We’re dropping him off at the vet where he will be washed and given a “lion cut,” which means he’ll be clean and tangle-free. He’ll probably also be more comfortable in the summer heat, which is what the lion cut is really for. And maybe it will be a chance for us to re-establish a relationship of trust with him, getting into a routine of daily brushing that he will enjoy.
That would probably require some serious psychoactive drugs though. That kitty is nuts.