A Bad Hair Day

The head of a forlorned cat

I used to think there was nothing more pathetic than a wet cat.

I was wrong.

A shaved cat is far more distressing.

I have seen wet dogs and short-haired dogs and coiffed dogs before. And except for absurdly groomed poodles, they still look like happy, healthy canines. And a wet dog will vigorously shake its entire body casting off droplets like a rain shower and still stand healthy and proud.

But cats without full fur just look silly. When their elegant rough limply drapes their body and their fluffy tails become articulated coat hangers they instantly become demoted in the animal kingdom. Rodents look more regal. Even absurdly groomed poodles show more character.

We have two cats. Our own dog vs. cat decision was based on our lifestyle, which, when my wife and I were considering the whole kid raising thing, seemed like a good way to ease into the responsibility of caring for warm-blooded additions to the family.

This was a big step for me because I have killed lots of pet goldfish in my life.

And since we were not around much with our busy careers, we started with the relatively low maintenance version of four legged dependents.

In the end, raising cats did little to prepare us for the responsibility of raising children. But we came to enjoy our furry friends immensely. And as we started a family the kids enjoyed them too. This is the way it should be when you care for a pet. They become a beloved part of the family.

Except pet amphibians. I can’t envision, for example, relaxing on a couch with a sleeping turtle on my lap or going to bed with a snake coiled contentedly at the foot of the bed.

As our kids grew older we lost one of our cats. Then the other. But once the sense of loss gave way to fond memories they were joyously replaced by two more. As more years went by we lost one of those too. Then a year later a new kitten.

And so we continue to have two felines that ignore us when we call them and love us only on their own terms.

I take it back, raising cats actually did prepare us for raising teenagers.

Our cats are large, long-haired, and mellow. When I trip over them they don’t get upset. And they feel soft on my shins when they run figure eights around my ankles. That is how they ask for food.

But the problem with having long-haired cats is that from time to time they have to be professionally groomed. Their fine hair gets hopelessly knotted beyond any ability to comb it free. And have you ever tried to comb a cat? I put that experience right up there with brushing a dog’s teeth.

So to the pet groomer they go. In small enclosed cages. Against their will. But they always come back happy and proud and beautiful. Like fluffy peacocks.

The other day I took our cats to be groomed. They were both in need of some serious hair detanglement. They were already in their carry cages when I arrived to pick them up. Their big furry heads stared forlornly through the small cage doors and they mewed more plaintively that usual as I took them home in the car.

It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that the groomer, a russian woman named Olga who did not speak English entirely well, had completely shaved the bodies of our two cats just beyond their heads. Their big fluffy neck roughage gave way to scrawny bodies devoid of both hair and dignity all the way to the first quarter length of their tails, which now looked like tufted dust mops.

They both scurried from their cages and hid under the bed, too embarrassed to come out.

I couldn’t blame them.

Someone had some explaining to do. Which is not entirely satisfying when it comes from a russian woman who does not speak English well.

In general, I don’t like getting mad at service people. But there are times when expressing anger is the only way to convey the seriousness of their mistake, particularly if you have just paid a small fortune for two bobble head chihuahuas that will not grow into fluffy, adorable cats for months.

“I am too very sorry you are not so happy.” said Olga with some difficulty when I confronted her. But vhat you vant I should do?”

“I want you to put their hair back on!” I told her firmly.

Instead I got a refund and left unsatisfied.

But I did learn something very important from this unfortunate experience.

It is possible to love cats even when they look like poodles.