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Monday, August 2, 2010

Today At The Pet Superstore ...

I had a close friend named Gail. We met when she was hired by my employer and, because we had similar backgrounds and shared a dry sense of humor, we became lunch buddies and fast friends. Then tragedy struck ... Gail gave me a cat.

It was a complete surprise ... I was not in the market for a pet and I'm pretty sure I hadn't mentioned a burning need for feline companionship to Gail during sandwiches at Applebee's or one of our too-frequent work breaks. But what do you do? "Thanks, but no thanks ... please return this living, breathing thing to whence you found it."

So after leaving work early to purchase food (dry and wet), cat litter, litter pan and scoop, special "deodorized" litter disposal bags, and two or three amusing (a.k.a. stupid) pet toys, Gail met me at my newly-acquired apartment and transferred custody of a five-month old female Calico she insisted be called "Fluff." I was thinking that since she didn't fork over a dime for the $50 plus in bring-a-baby-home supplies, she had little say in the name. In fact, within a few days, Fluff became "Sweet Pickle" because while she ignored the brightly-colored cat toys, she thoroughly enjoyed batting at and rolling around a small jar of gherkins I had sitting on an open shelf. Sometimes it's "SP" for short.

Our cohabitation started out okay. Sweet Pickle took to the litter box like a pro and we developed a quick understanding of her food preferences ... "paws up" for salmon- and tuna-flavored food and "paws down" to chicken, this point often made with a dash of kitty upchuck. She even developed a cute little romance with my laptop, purring at it lovingly while she scratched her chin on the edges of the screen and nuzzled the side vent that emitted warm air. Hey, maybe this pet thing would be okay. We'd develop a system of being buds. Maybe I'd even arrange a playdate for SP and the "Surprised Kitty." (See March 17 posting.)

Then the "bad things" happened. The first was a chewed up pair of Ipod earbuds. Then the bathroom blinds were attacked in what I think was a racially-motivated hate crime, but there were no witnesses. Then my new cushions for my dining room chairs developed mysterious "slits" in them, allowing the foam padding to playfully peek out at guests. The list of damages continues to grow.

And now I'm faced with another dilemma ... I may have to change Sweet Pickle's name to "Mr. Clean" because she's obviously going bald. Where is all this fur coming from?! Over the past four days, I have collected enough loose fur to build another cat. I kid you not ... I can barely touch her and the hairs literally fly from her body at supersonic speeds to adhere to my clothes, furniture, curtains, air molecules, everything.

I know that humans, especially us males, are cursed with hair loss trends that stem from a combination of heredity, nutrition, and environment. And science blames our "follicle abandonment" on a sex hormone called DHT which increases as we age. DHT causes the width of hair shafts to diminish, so that, over time, hair become fine and wispy or jumps ship altogether.

Like most animals, cats have developed thick coats of fur to protect them from the elements. Once or twice a year, major seasonal changes should cause a cat's coat to thin (or shed). Domesticated cats (like indoor pets), however, are somewhat confused ... their natural link to the seasons and light/dark cycles is out of whack. It's like their brains are saying "time to shed" and "time to grow" all the time.

Because of SP's lack of natural balance, I met Kim, an extremely perky sales associate at my local "pet supermarket." "You need to groom her more consistently and thoroughly," Kim suggests. That's cool, I think, because I love to pet Sweet Pickle ... she purrs like an old vacuum whose bag should have been changed like two weeks prior. So smiling Kim takes me to the grooming aisle where there are more choices than I would have guessed. There are combs and brushes that look like, well, combs and brushes. And then there are combs and brushes that look kind of like ice scrapers with bent wire bristles that "gently" pull and collect loose fur. All they really look is painful, and can imagine my cat turning one of them on me in the dead of night as payback ... no sale. I spot some devices that look like lint rollers with bad complexions. Kim assures me they would be an effective option, but I don't see how it would be aggressive enough.

Then, spotlighted in a dusty sunbeam that SP would love to play in, I spy the "Grooming Glove," a red silicone-like mitt with nubs that massage your pet while pulling away loose fur. Kim grabs one from the hanging rack and walks me over to a bin of yelping kittens for sale. She opens the box, dons the glove, and drops to a crouch to apply the tool to a small gray feline. It seems to like the thing and there is a good amount of fur that Kim easily grabs and discards. I'm sold.

Sweet Pickle, however, is not. SP hates the glove, or "Mitten of Doom" as I'm sure she thinks of it. She hisses when I put it on and runs to hide. The few times I've trapped her and actually used it, she growls in a strange lower register and her claws and I become "intimate." Lately, when I even think of getting the glove from the kitchen cupboard where it's stored, there is an audible displacement air ... POOF!! ... and the cat is gone to ground.

So I've given up my campaign against fur for a bit. And while Sweet Pickle flourishes, the friendship between Gail and I continues to dwindle. She clearly feels guilty about her pushy gift giving. At first, she would almost hound me for "pet updates," but my stories often contained the details of what the cat had damaged, ruined, or outright destroyed. Now Gail and I are reduced to basic pleasantries and an occasional wave in the parking lot ... lunch dates have not occurred in some time. Oh well ... life goes on.

POINT OF RANT: At my house, fur is always in fashion!

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