Saturday, December 26, 2009

Adjustment Issues (A Dolby story)

Bringing a kitten into your home is no small task. When Dolby came to live with us he was maybe five weeks old and there was a great deal we had to do as new, responsible pet owners. As I have previously described, the second night we had him, we discovered a small gap between the mop guard and the bottom of the kitchen cabinets so we had to shove towels into the gap along the entire length of the cabinets until he was too big to squeeze through again.

We had neatly solved that problem but the fact remained that, while adorable, Dolby was flea-ridden, full of parasites and had no clue how to use a litter box. This last issue we didn’t realize right away, which resulted in a few presents found under various pieces of furniture. In fact, when we moved out of the apartment the following spring, we found a fossilized poop in one of Dan’s shoes at the back of the closet. Guess Dan didn’t wear those shoes much. He certainly didn’t after the fact.

But first things first—the fleas. ICK. My skin crawls just thinking about it. We did the most logical thing: we gave him a bath. Poor, poor kitten. He spent the entire ordeal with his arms clenched around my hand, claws fully extended, eyes wide and yowling that surprisingly loud, deep yowl of his. It didn’t help his dignity much that we took pictures, of course. And when all was said and done, he still had fleas. Maybe a few less. Maybe not.

It was a trip to the veterinarian for his first check-up and vaccinations that led to a solution to the fleas and the parasites. For the former, a kind of mousse for his fur that would kill the fleas and their offspring but, when licked off during self-grooming, would be rendered completely inert and harmless. Technology. Cool. And it made his fur all fashionably spiky.

For the worms, it was a liquid medicine which, they assured us, would result in the regurgitation of any intestinal parasites he might be harboring. I secretly hoped he didn’t have any, for everyone’s sake. Poor, poor kitten. Not long after administering the drops, I found the pathetic fluffball heaving into the litter box. So miserable was he that, after evicting the unwelcome residents of his gut, he gave me a pathetic mew and face-planted into the litter.

As for the potty-training issues, it didn’t take us long to figure out he wasn’t using the box. But it took us longer to figure out where he was going. In fact, I think I remember Dan and I not being sure if he was going at all. We never saw him go. We never saw any evidence of his having gone. But the litter box was obviously untouched. It may have been a day or so later when we caught him in the act under the corner shelf. An all-out search revealed he had a couple spots where he’d been doing his business when we weren’t looking.

After that, we watched him like a hawk and it wasn’t long before we noticed him slinking under the corner shelf and starting to squat. Instantly, I snatched him up and dropped him into the litter box.

He hopped out.

I put him back in.

He hopped back out.

This went on for a few minutes during which time I was utterly bewildered as to how to communicate with this animal that he was supposed to poop in the sand! I thought cats just knew that! But it appeared this kitten lacked whatever instinct told other cats to dig, then poop, then bury it.

I put him back in. Then quickly, I took my finger and dug a little hole in the sand.

Dolby paused. Then he hopped back out.

I put him back in. I dug another hole.

I swear to you it was almost like that infant animal had human intelligence. After only the second demonstration he dug a little hole, did his business, and buried it. There was much rejoicing and cuddling and cooing and giving of treats. To my knowledge, he always used the litter box after that. Then again, there was that gift in Dan’s shoe…

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