Social media is currently being called to account for spreading misinformation, violating privacy, manipulating markets, and generally attempting to control the universe. However, the real crisis is social media’s purveying an infestation of excruciatingly cloying images of kittens and puppies. While canines can be easily dismissed as slobbering, noisy befoulers of beaches, sidewalks and lawns, it is the cat depictions that are truly most threatening. I am talking about photos of cats talking, of cats in odd costumes, of cats playing with fish, ducks, and elephants, and of cats in a variety of un-cat-like poses
About three months ago, the cat infestation crossed the digital barrier into my reality when we acquired two kittens from a local shelter. The kittens were free . . . until we paid a few hundred dollars to cover their neutering and vaccinations. Then, to ensure further expenditures, we were advised by the shelter to take the animals to a vet for a check-up.
The vet determined that one of the cats had a fever that, after analysis, turned out to be a symptom of the feline equivalent of AIDS. The other kitten had some ugly infection on its nose. The visit resulted in shelling out additional hundreds of dollars for the exam, tests, and medications.
Smearing ointment on the infections and forcing antibiotics down the feline throats was quite risky and tended to result in the drug administrator (me) suffering bites, scratches and the possibility of picking up some horrible disease like cat-scratch fever. That risk was also incurred whenever it was time to clip the feline claws.
Expenses continued to mount. We were advised to buy incredibly expensive cat food because the ordinary stuff was insufficiently nutritious. The constant need for kitty litter was another regular expense. The fifty-pound back-breaking bags, the most cost-effective quantity for buying the stuff, required a winch to load into and out of the car. This exertion will undoubtedly lead to my being placed in traction at some costly rehabilitation facility.
Then there was the cost in terms of property damage. Upon arrival at our house, the cats began scratching couches, gnawing shoes and clawing clothing. They also made off with the second hand of a clock, broke off the louvers of a door and ate a venetian blind.
Mealtimes became a constant struggle as the felines made forays onto the dining table stealing food on its way to our mouths. On their first day of breakfast at our house, the predators snatched a stick of butter along with our grand-daughter’s toast just after having overturned her cup of milk.
Houseplants also came under assault including a giant jade tree grown from a tiny cutting that my grandmother gave me in the 1950s. The cats began to systematically dismember the plant, tearing off branches and leaves and curling up around the trunk. Sadly, this plant was flowering—a rare event. Incomprehensibly, everyone in our household got upset when I talked about cooking the cats.
The vet suggested that to discourage feline destruction, we should fill a metal coffee can with pennies and jangle it vigorously. The jarring jangling seemed to have no effect on the cats’ behavior, but it jangled my delicate nerves along with my saintly tolerance and equanimity.
Ultimately, we sequestered the cats whenever food was served and moved the plants into a padlocked room.
While cats might fulfill the neurotic need to hold something warm and purring in one’s lap, after just a few months, those purrs have probably cost us about a hundred dollars per purr. Yes, there’s no such thing as a free cat.
These are not the first cats with which I’ve been forced to co-exist. Decades ago, my sister came home with an abandoned street kitten, a creature that periodically displayed signs of some never-diagnosed disease causing it to hiss, scratch and drool. It couldn’t have been rabies because we all survived, even the cat.
Many decades later, our most recent pair of cats lived for more than eighteen years. At least with age, cats tend to be less destructive. But inevitably they die. One cat expired during the dead of winter. I had to use a pickaxe to dig a three-foot deep hole in the frozen ground, a cavity deep enough to keep jackals and hyenas from digging up the carcass.
So, to accurately reflect the burden of owning cats, I propose that all online depictions of cats be fair and balanced. I am hereby announcing the roll-out of a brand-new, cutting-edge app whereby all displays of huggable, adorable cats will be paired with displays of reeking litter boxes that, thanks to this new technology, will deliver authentic stench through every smart phone or computer directly to the nostrils of the viewer.
All hail technology.
Robin Schore lives in Hopewell Borough.