Our Himalayan Cats - Long Hair

[Cats]

1995

Let me tell you about long hair on cats. It's really objectionable. There are three main causes for complaint: it gets everywhere, the cats need to be crutched, and they leave fur logs around.

The fur is everywhere. It's in our food, it's on our clothes, it's on the floor, and you can see it floating gently in the air in shafts of sunlight. We've given up worrying about fur on our clothes. After washing, the fur is still there only it's wormed its way into the woof and warp of the cloth. When we go out, we spend the first fifteen minutes picking the long hairs out of our clothes. We don't wear dark clothes very much - the white fur stands out. Every meal we cook contains fur somewhere. We don't worry about it - it's just roughage. Whenever I vacuum, I pick up great balls of fur. If I get lazy and forget to vacuum for a week, great furballs accumulate on the floor and roll around. I look down at the jacket I'm wearing as I write this, and I can count at least 5 long fine white strands of fur per square inch, and I haven't picked the cats up today. This is why I was adamant in the beginning about not getting long-haired cats. I've done this before and I didn't want to do it again. But oh no, my darling wife steam-rollered me, and we have two fur-producing machines.

I brush them occasionally and produce great balls of loose fur each time. It's amazing how much fur can come off them. And they get knotted and tangled. When they were kittens, we would spend ages untangling the knots and freeing the tangles and making them look great. Nowadays, I grab the scissors and hack off the knots and tangles and while I'm at it, I hack off any bits that look too long. Anne gets annoyed when I do this. She claims that me with a pair of scissors around the cats is like a farmer with a chainsaw.

One of the jobs I do when I start to hack fur off them, is crutching them. Farmers crutch sheep to stop dags accumulating. I do the same thing. If I don't, the fur on the back legs gets longer and longer and thicker and thicker and eventually it catches shit. It isn't too bad when it's a healthy little dag, but still they will bring it inside swinging from side to side and then they'll leap on the couch and sit down on it, making sure that the dag is pressed firmly into the couch. That's not too bad. But when they have a seriously disappointing bowel movement, like after eating some half-rotten left-out cat food when they happened to be mooching around the neighbours, then they have great squelchy, mucky, smelly, foul masses of shit stuck in their fur. They come back into the house with a foul miasma trailing after them, and we sniff and groan and reach for the scissors before they attempt to sit down. It's usually green, in case you wanted to know. I try and circumvent this by crutching them regularly. I trim back all the fur on the back of their hind legs, and trim the fur around the anal and genital regions. If they were sexually active animals it would probably help them lots in their nocturnal habits, but as they aren't, it simply stops the shit from sticking in the fur.

Which reminds me of a joke. A bear was in woods squatting and shitting. He looked down beside him and there was a rabbit doing the same. "Does the shit stick to your fur?" asked the bear. "No" said the rabbit. "Good" said the bear and picked the rabbit up and wiped his arse with him.

After cleaning up the shit in the fur of long-haired cats for several years now, I have a close affinity with that joke. I also have a close relationship with shit. Did you know that cats lick their arses often, then lick their fur? All the bacteria that you do not want to pick up, is attached to their fur. If you pet or stroke a cat, you are acquiring bacteria that may make you very sick. It's pretty bad for pregnant women. The two worst things you can do are pet a cat and then continue cooking, or touch your face. In our household we have a container of bacterial wash in the kitchen. We get through one of these quite quickly. Pet the cat, wash the hands, stroke the cat, wash the hands, feed the cat, wash the hands, clean up some shit, wash the hands, and so on ad nauseam. I love cats. I tolerate shit.

The third problem with these furry beasts is furballs. Normal cats have furballs, Himalayans have fur logs. A cat grooms itself by licking its fur with a really rough tongue. This process involves swallowing a lot of fur. Your normal short-hair will build up balls of fur in the stomach and then when there gets to be too much, they will hunch up and make disgusting noises and go something like "Heeuuurgghhh, heeuuurgghhh, heeuuurgghhh, splunk" and there's a little glistening ball of fur, lovingly coated with stomach juices. Just what you wanted. And they manage to do it on a freshly washed kitchen floor, or the newspaper you hadn't finished reading, or somewhere that is designed to cause maximum inconvenience and disgust. Well that's short-hair cats. Long-hairs do something similar but on a much grander scale. The fur builds up in their stomach at a much faster rate, so they chuck up these furballs far more often. And they can't really be called furballs. They look like little fur logs. About five inches long, and half an inch in diameter. I've just gone out and measured one to be sure. I'll see about organising a photo of one. Everything's done on a grand scale: the hunching and the contortions, the great cries of agony as this great wad of fur comes up from the stomach onto your fresh washing or where you are about to step. I don't know how they manage to survive with these wads of muck filling their stomachs.

Two months ago, Ruffian spoilt a holiday. Anne and I were going to go to Canberra with friends of ours who were down from Cairns. The day before the trip, Ruffian got very listless, her fur got harsh and dry, she lay on her side and panted lots and got very weak. We took her to the vet. She had a fever, she was weak and she needed attention. An x-ray was taken, antibiotics administered. She had a giant furball stuck in the bowel somwehere. It had to come out or she was going to die. So the equivalent of cod-liver oil was stuffed down her throat and she was allowed to come home (the vet didn't want the result of the cod-liver oil at his surgery). Nothing happened for a while, and then out came the fur log. Massive. Repulsive. Foul-smelling. Bloody cat. It cost $250 at the vet, plus we missed the trip to Canberra. It wouldn't have happened with a short-hair.

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