Johnny is a special cat. (They all are, aren't they?!) One of this things that makes Johnny so special is that she's a bit obsessive-compulsive. She gets it in her head to start scratching and licking and just keeps going and going and going and going...until she has wounds that look both terribly painful and rather gross. She's had this tendency since she was a kitten. Johnny has been checked out by multiple vets. She is healthy and happy as far as anyone can tell. "Maybe she has allergies," was the best answer provided. So, she ate special allergen-friendly cat food for a while...with no noticeable results. It's a puzzler.
From my research and from observations with her, I think she is just a little developmentally different, special needs, or whathaveyou. She is quite clumsy and uncoordinated for a cat. She drools--a lot. She is slightly duck footed (you, know the opposite of pigeon toed). She has had litter box issues, off and on. The biggest symptom that everything isn't quite "normal" is her obsessive, self-injurious behavior. She licks and scratches (and licks and scratches and licks and scratches) at her head and neck until both are speckled with raw, angry-looking wounds.
But a lovable gal, for sure, no matter how we label her.
She has one of the loudest purrs I've encountered and she is quick to use it. She meows in greeting and extends her hand in a welcoming high-five. She regularly flops over on her back in the "cockroach" to elicit belly rubs. She adores having her armpits scratched. She is obsessed with beer bottle caps. If she spots one she immediately goes after it. She picks it up in her mouth and trots off to put in in her food dish. This is where bottle caps belong, I gather. Matt pulls them out and scatters them again and the game repeats itself. If Ginger and I are in love, Matt and Johnny are, too.
Still. Something had to be done, for the sake of all parties. She was consistently peeing on the carpet two feet from the litter box. She left gross scabs--complete with tufts of hair--lying about on the carpet/bed/couch. Plus, she had open wounds, leaving her exposed to infections--and she perpetually harassed them, not letting them heal. This was no good for her, in addition to grossing out the rest of the household. We tried a wound spray to promote healing, but it wasn't working fast enough to keep up with her compulsive scratching. We put her in The Cone Of Shame, but that was only a stop-gap and only increased the litter box issues.
We through about giving up on Johnny a lot. More than I'm keen to admit, even. We took her in without knowing what a special cat she would prove to be. It seemed like too much--like in a world full of unwanted pets we could easily find a perfectly normal cat who needed a home. One who wouldn't bring so many challenges along with her.
"Let's give it a month," we said. Then it became, "two months." Then, "Okay, three months." Then it was "Just through the winter."
In the end, we realized that there wasn't an expiration date on Johnny. She honestly needed up to figure something out. She didn't have loads of options. She couldn't go back to Michelle's. She'd already had the failed trial run before she landed with us. She needed a home. Period. Johnny turns thirteen this summer, which ain't no spring chicken in cat-years. Knowing that, we just kept trying, working towards a solutions which would make us all happy. What else could we do? It was just the right thing.
On a whim--and not too optimistic of one--we tried nail caps. And they changed everything. Nail caps and a bandanna.
Now we've settled into a pattern that works, more or less. It sure took time, but you know how it goes, the harder the struggle the sweeter the victory. If we'd just given up this happy ending wouldn't have happened. I’m so thankful we persisted until we found the work-arounds and solutions to Johnny's problematic behaviors.
So now Johnny wears little rubbery nail covers on her back feet. With her nails capped she cannot cause the terrible wounds. This is an all-around win. There aren’t scabs left behind on the carpet and furniture. (Go, us.) Johnny is healthier and at less risk of infection. (Go, Johnny.) Plus, it makes her more pleasant to pet which really only makes everyone happier. (Go, team.)
Marketed as a much more humane alternative to decalwing (which is like amputating the cat's fingers at the first knuckle) the caps are attached over the nail with a dab of glue. They eventually fall off as the nail grows out and we trim the nail and replace the cap. They're a non-chemical, non-invasive, quick, cost-effective solution.
They come in colors and clear. We initially picked clear and one could hardly notice that Johnny was wearing them. When we bought our second pack we picked pink because Michelle’s hair is pink. As an added bonus it makes it very easy to tell when they’ve grown out, fallen off, and need to be replaced.
Johnny honestly doesn’t seem to mind them, now that she is used to it. The first time we put them on she shook her feet and tugged at them with her teeth. She wasn't used to how they felt and was trying to rip them off. Now she doesn’t bat an eye when we apply a new one. They nail caps seem targeted at people who have cats ripping up the drapes, but they work superbly well for this off-label use.
Like everything there are detractors who say nail caps hurt cat's feet or can inhibit their ability to walk or retract and extend their nails, but from my experience, Johnny is able to do everything she wants EXCEPT scratch herself to the point of blood and pain. She walks, jumps, runs, climbs, scratches, plays, chases, eats, bathes, stalks, and all the other things cats enjoy.
In the small picture, we helped Johnny find a home. In the big picture, we had the opportunity to demonstrate the kindness and empathy which I hope all beings find in this world.