Is He or Isn’t She?

That is the Question. Of course, like all my blogs, I can never just say yes or no. It’s a story. Why? Because I like telling stories. So here's the story...

Swiffur is due for his/her shots. How do I know this? Good question. Since Santa didn’t leave any instructions or paperwork, it is more of an educated guess. Certainly Santa would have given him the first round of shots, right? Right. (Just go with it.)

So I call the nearest veterinary hospital to make an appointment. They in turn tell me they are not taking any more patients. Now what do I do? I happen to mention to the woman that answered the phone that I’m just looking for shots. She tells me that Petco offers that service. I call Petco, they tell me that they don’t offer the shot service but an outside vendor comes there and offers the shots. For the love of God, I don’t care who does it, just tell me when. Humans suck. I finally get the schedule by looking it up online. (

Now for some reason, Rachel has been looking forward to this for weeks since she got Swiffur for Christmas. I don’t know why. My take on this is that she wants to be a good pet owner and wants to be responsible. Taking the cat to the vet (or Petco, in this case) is her first experience of taking care of some other living creature, and she wants to be like me when I take her to the doctor. Her take is probably so she can find out what his/her sex is, if he is a he or if she is a she. A looming question for the last month since Santa dropped him off and didn’t make mention of that information anywhere. Now we can find out for sure. But either way, she’s all excited. Because of this, I let her do most of the work. I let her get Swiffur into the cat carrier and off we go to Petco. This is Swiffur's first ride in the car and Rachel takes extra care to make sure he is comfortable. (Sleighs don't count.)

Upon entering Petco, I take note of all the german shepherds, bull dogs, and other large dogs wandering around the store. I notice how they are staring at the cat carrier and licking their chops. The only thing separating them from eating us all is a thin leather strap being held by a human hand. I start to think that it would be an ugly scene if one of these dogs decides to go after Swiffur. So I let Rachel carry him. What? It’s her cat, right? Besides, I think Swiffur can hold his/her own with those sharp claws he/she has.

We go to the back of the store to find all the pet owners standing in line waiting with their animals, all on leashes, standing along side their owners not knowing what to expect. We take our place in line behind a little terrier. I point out to Rachel all the land mines, little puddles of yellow everywhere that she needs to avoid stepping in or setting the cat carrier down in. Yuck. But I can’t say I blame these animals. If I look at it from the little terrier’s perspective, there are so many things to be excited about. Pet toys hanging on shelves, 50 lb bags of food to consume, a whole aisle of rawhide, and a kitten contained in a bag-like thing. The little terrier had to be excited over the one thing he could presumably take. Let’s face it. Petco is like doggy heaven! I feel the same way when I walk into BJ's Wholesale. If all that excitement wasn't enough to make the dogs piddle, then there’s the fear factor – the likes of a giant, solid muscle, bull dog, salivating all over the floor, that could eat the smaller animals for a snack. Thank God the bulldog was eyeing the terrier and couldn’t see Swiffur. This made ME piddle a little. (No, not really.)

There was another dog in a carriage because he just couldn’t handle all the excitement so he had to be contained. It was like a parent in a grocery store putting his child in the carriage so they don’t run all over the store touching stuff. We were the last in line until IT walked in. THE mangiest dog I have ever seen in my life. His fur was matted, he had dandruff, you could tell that he was probably covered in fleas, and to boot, he had only three legs. Poor thing. He was the beast of burden for sure. But my compassion only went so far. Being in the middle of this situation, I was overcome with the fear that at any moment chaos could erupt. One wrong move by Rachel who was carrying Swiffur, the chew toy, and I could see me kicking the three-legged dog off of Rachel. (I cared less about Swiffur. Every man/animal for themselves at that point!)

What was shocking to me about this experience was the oblivious nature of the owners while their dogs would pee, as if we were in a park and this was normal. I realize that some pet owners treat their pets like they are their children. But I have to tell you. If Rachel dropped her pants and peed on the floor, I would at least wipe it up. I've even taught Rachel that if she is going to pee in public, it is her responsibility to wipe up the mess after herself. I don't care how she does it. She can use Swiffur to sop up the mess if she wants. But she can't just leave it there for other people to step in. (What? Swiffurs are good for cleaning up wet messes too.) As we moved up the line, we avoided the puddles of yellow acid that would burn through leather soles if touched. That’s what I told Rachel, just to make doubly sure she wouldn’t step in it. (No, I didn’t.)

Anyway, I filled out the paperwork that was handed to me by a vet tech. I asked my questions in secret code, as to not give anything away, so Rachel didn’t know that I knew more about Swiffur than she did. The 20 year old vet tech just thought I was a weird lady that couldn’t communicate. “If the kitten had a shot before this, I’m not saying he did, but if he did, would it hurt him, cause I’m not sure he did have the 1st shot or not. [under my breath…he DID have his first shot…] Those vet techs don’t make enough money, I’ll tell ya’.

With each encounter with a human being, they would ask what the kitten’s name was. Each time we said Swiffur, the person would laugh. His name does conjure up an image, doesn’t it? It’s a complete compliment to be considered original when a vet finds it amusing. They hear so many names during the course of their day that you would think that they would have heard that before. But they hadn’t. It made us feel good when they laughed at the concept and name we had chosen.

Ok, onto the real part of the story. The vet tech takes Swiffur out of the cat carrier, ooh’ing and ah’ing over how cute he/she is. The first and most impending question: what is Swiffur? The vet tech manhandles him/her to try to look. Swiffur will not have any of it. The vet tech tries to feel around to see if she can tell. Swiffur takes great offense to this violation of his/her private area and lets the vet tech know with a letter “s” contortion of his/her body and a jackhammer kick of his/her back paws. The vet tech, bless her heart, is persistent in the search to determine the sex of this kitten that is slashing her. Another vet tech comes to assist. “You hold his front paws while I look”, she says to the assistant. Swiffur goes absolutely berserk. Rapid fire slashing of his front and back paws in an effort to break away from these perverted humans trying to feel his/her genitalia. He/she asserts that he/she is not into bestiality and wants this all to stop. Rachel and I stand by and watch, both of us thinking, is it really that necessary to know? Is this all worth it?

Anyway, FINALLY, the result is in. The moment of truth. Drum roll please: The vet tech says she can’t tell. WHAT? After you’ve scarred my kitten for life, not to mention I’m not sure he/she is okay to walk after the desperate measures he/she used to get away from you, you can’t tell me what Swiffur is? She said she was 90% sure he is a he. 90 percent. His testicles had not descended yet but she thought she could feel a penis. Are you telling me it takes 12 years of college to become a vet and all they do is feel for a penis? I could have done that! She said she might know better when we bring Swiffur back for his next round of shots. I made a decision right then and there. Since she used the word “his”, and 90% is close to 100%, Swiffur is a male. I don’t care that in 10 months from now he may give birth to a litter of kittens. I will call The Enquirer and be famous for having a male cat giving birth. I don’t care. He is a he and that’s final. (Although that 10% does have me a little concerned.)

Swiffur in drag

As if that wasn’t traumatic enough for all of us, next was the shot. He hadn’t calmed down at all. Both vet techs had him in a grip, while one poked the shot quickly into what looked to me like his belly. He let out a sound that made everyone in the store stop and look. It wasn’t a meow or a cry. It was more like the noise a train makes when slamming on the brake to come to a sudden stop. A guttural W..T..Ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff? I have never heard a more anguished, torturous, painstaking scream in all my life. When it was over, they threw him back into the cat carrier and we zipped it up quickly to contain the wild beast. I peaked through the mesh window to make sure he was alright. He looked up at me as if to say, “I thought we were bonding? Wtf?” (What can I say. The cat has a mouth on it. I’ll address it some other day but that was not the time to bring it up to Swiffur.) He let everyone in the store know that he had a temper tantrum over his distemper shot. Hopefully that shot will take care of that nasty temper problem. What? That isn’t what a distemper shot does? I want my money back.

The lab tech’s hands and arm were bleeding. You would think that they would wear protective armor in that job. But they don’t, or at least they didn’t for the “sweet little kitten”.

Directly after, we decided to go to the grooming center to have his claws cut. In hindsight, maybe we should have done that first. We will the next time. Anyway, I told the girl in the grooming center about the experience the vet tech had and that he LOOKS all mild–mannered, but when removed from the cat carrier he becomes Captain Crazycat. She insisted she could handle it and removed him from the cat carrier. She put a mask over his face so he couldn’t see and began to clip away. He was frantic at this point. He couldn’t see; his weapons of defense were swiping everywhere; little shards of claw are flying everywhere; and we were standing there wondering if he was ever going to be the same again. He was still swiping as she put him back in the carrier. But the impact was no longer there, like being swatted by a feather duster.

We left Petco. I’m not sure who was more scarred from the event: Swiffur or Rachel. That'll teach her a lesson or two about being responsible for another living creature!

For three days after, poor Swiffur was lethargic. He couldn’t walk. He had to be carried to his food and water. When picking him up, he was limp. Before this, I couldn’t comb him without him biting and scratching me. But after this, he didn’t have the energy or the claws to do anything about it. I almost wanted to say, “Haaa Haaa, your paws don’t hurt anymore”. But I didn’t. He had already gone through enough. He didn’t need me rubbing it in. He couldn’t jump on the furniture he was climbing on and swinging on before. He couldn’t do his trapeze artist tricks of jumping on the chair to the bed as he had done so many times prior to this. Instead, now he tries, but because he doesn’t have claws, he just slides off the side of the bed, like a fried egg off of Teflon, and goes splat on the floor. Funny, but pathetic.

My Kaneclusion: I’m going with the odds that Swiffur is a boy.

I’ve looked and I can’t tell. Can you?

(Ha! Caught you looking at kitty porn!)
Swiffur says, “And now that you’ve looked at me that way,
I feel dirty. I need a shower…”

“These people are crazy! Somebody please help me!”

In our defense, we were sure that the mangy, 3-legged, beast of burden behind us in the Petco line gave Swiffur fleas. So once he was over the trauma of the shot and claw-clipping, we gave him a flea bath. No worries. After he dried off, he was back to his normal “I think I’ll run over here very wait, I think I’ll run over here very quickly instead…no wait, it was better over there…” self. He’s fine.

In 3 weeks, he gets more shots and we get to do it all over again.

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