It’s a special treat when I ease into morning awareness and discover Trader sleeping in my bed. He’s not very much of a “bed cat,” preferring to loll on car hoods, the open expanse of floors, or the lawn. On one particular morning, I felt his weight on my hair. He loves to share pillows and the more human hair he yanks out, the louder her purrs, the more insistently he kneads. Sleepily reaching my hand up to give him a good scratch, buried in his fur I detected…something…disgusting. Something nightmarish. Something of garbled gags and guttural cries. Something that made me pitch forward–only I was trapped because Trader was lying on my hair. Singlehandedly removing my hair from beneath his bulk, I rolled over with mild, apprehensive nausea and investigated what sticky, grisly gobbet was mired in what I call his “puffy shirt”–that being the fluffy ruff of chest fur that all long-haired cats have.
It was, to my tummy-turning alarm, a giant LIVING slug. One of those sidewalk slugs that chugs down the sidewalk at 0.001 miles per hour, sliding along in mucilage of its own manufacture. This creature, trapped like a moth in a spider web, was embedded in Trader’s ample chest fur. Briefly I wondered if he’d tried to groom the creature out and failed or simply given up. Given the slug wasn’t macerated (eew!); I assumed Trader paid the freeloader no mind.
This irksome event instigated the “Kitty Cat Pat Down” for any cats going outside and coming back in again…potentially with “friends.”
The Kitty Cat Pat Down should be attempted at least two or three times a week. The KCPD involves directly investigating the fur for fleas, “flea dirt” (ie flea feces), greasy or sticky materials such as motor oil and tree pitch, “micromats” (ie tiny regions of matted fur that seemingly grow into full-sized dreadlocks overnight), cuts/scratches, soiled bottoms, new lumps or bumps, and “cling-ons.” Cling-ons can be anything from slugs to ticks to grass awns to hard pieces of stool dangling around the rear. Having a dedicated set of electric fur clippers at home with a size 40 blade can help you remove cling-ons. Avoid the temptation to use scissors to cut mats and other tightly adhered objects from the fur! We’ve seen many a cat inadvertently cut. Your vet or skilled technician can ALWAYS help you remove something from the fur.
A thorough KCPD should also include an examination of the nails once a week if possible. In clinical practice I occasionally find mild nail bed infections people didn’t know were there, and often appear to be due to the mild trauma of climbing trees or fences. Look for excessively split nails and excessively long nails, which should be trimmed. Look for moist, red, and smelly nail beds that indicate skin infection or trauma. It’s normal for cats to accumulate a dark brown, waxy material around the nail. This substance is a mixture of waxy skin oils, trapped dirt, bacteria, and yeast. In the healthy cat, it is self-limiting, but can in some cases cause inflammation. Remember that even outdoor cats may need to have their nails trimmed periodically–as cats age, their nails becomes thicker, shed less frequently, and are prone to painful ingrowth. In practice I call this kind of nail “grandpa toenail.”
During your KCPD, take a brief look at the face as well. Your cat may not tolerate a long and involved “love stare” any more than he tolerates having his teeth brushed, but a quick head-on look will tell you whether he’s squinting, has a facial scratches (usually a sign of fighting when around the nose, muzzle, and eyelids; usually a sign of itchiness when around the temples and ears), or whether any facial or dental symmetry looks “off.”
Trader gets a KCPD about three times a week. He doesn’t always allow me to look at everything in one session, so we rotate regions and I go with what he allows me to do on any given day. In this way, it is my fervent hope never to awaken with more vermin in my bed!