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When someone you love is seconds away from barfing, would you scare and chase that person around the house? It seems way too cruel to even contemplate. But I did it once. Not with a person. With a cat, named Violet, a gray-and-white shorthair who I lived with in the 1990s.
I can explain.
See, Violet was about to blow fish-flavored chunks on brand new light-colored carpeting in a house I’d just bought with my then-spouse. Several feet away, staring at me with a big “What are you waiting for?” expression, was a whole room of hardwood flooring. A contractor had swabbed it just days before with shellack or varnish or poly-whatever-it’s-called to give it that hard, clear, bullet-proof sheen. It embodied the perfect landing strip for cat barf. A little swipe with a paper towel, and that glob of vile junk would be gone. And Violet — she was so close to the safe area! (“What are you waiting for?” the floor beckoned again.) The cat’s placement seemed like a matter of chance, easily corrected.
Violet commenced the usual feline rock-and-heave, quickly followed by the CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! sound effects that precede a technicolor yawn. The idea of forcing her to move seemed downright sinister. (“What are you waiting for?” the floor asked a third time, growing noticeably impatient.) But I had to try.
When I did, Violet ran the wrong way. No matter. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! The barf hadn’t shown itself yet. I had another chance, but it would take quick timing and precise maneuvering. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! I rushed her. She ran. Then stopped. Still on the carpet. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! I rushed again. Finally she ran and settled onto the wood floor and into the Barf-Safe Zone.
CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! Any second now. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! I heard the first bits emerging. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! My inner voice somberly, almost regretfully, claimed victory. CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! “Poor kitty.” CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH!
Then in an instant, Violet lurched back onto the carpet and — CKGLAARRGH! — let it fly.
“Let this be a lesson to you,” the Great Big Universal Order said to me. “Cats always want to barf where it’s messiest. You can try this rookie move again if you want, but you’ll get the same result.”
As it walked away, it added, “Foolish mortal.”
That day I learned one of the many rules of engagement for cat barf. (Another is, “No matter what route you take to the coffee maker on a cold, dark morning when you’re hung over, you’ll step in the barf.”)
Late last week, though, a chance presented itself for me to disrupt one of these Universal Cat Constants, and Martha Stewart was my guide.
Okay, okay, strictly speaking, Martha Stewart was not in my house. But a copy of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, was. More on that in a minute — first I’ll describe the scene. I was working from home, Thomas nearby, when suddenly the little brown tabby moved toward the kitchen with great urgency. He emitted a low howl. I knew something was wrong, but it didn’t seem to be anything THAT wrong, so I followed him, calling his name. I found him crouched on the carpet in the pre-barf stance, about a foot and a half short of another ideal landing strip — the kitchen floor. Here’s my diagram of the scene:
Then I heard it.
CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH!
“I lose,” my inside voice said. “Best to just stay here and watch, give Thomas sympathy, then get the cleanup spray and a kilo or two of paper towels.”
Fate, however, intervened.
I looked to Thomas’ left and saw the basket that holds magazines and cat toys. There it was, shining like a lighthouse of hope on a sea of stinky fish-flavored mush: a copy of Martha Stewart Living.
“Well then. What have I got to lose?” said I.
I picked up the complicit periodical and slid it right in front of Thomas, who was in no mood to move. The pre-barf rock-and-heave continued. I spectated through several rounds of CKGUH! CKGUH! CKGUH! and there it was: perfectly placed cat barf, a big glob of grass in its center.
A brief aside: These photographs demonstrate one of the many things I love about cats. You can have this kind of fun at their expense, and even take pictures of them, and they’ll never know the difference. The cat will barf either way, and there’s no cruelty in taking a picture while you wait for its release. Everybody wins.
Okay, back to the story: I picked up the barf-laden magazine, walked it carefully to the sink, tilted it so the barf slid away, rinsed it lightly, dried it off, and put it back in the rack. The cover was unscarred. Only a few seconds had passed, and the thick, glossy paper resisted the vomit’s best attempts at saturation. The cover is still shiny where the barf was — to look at it now, you can’t even tell anything was there. Thus the experiment yielded another perfect landing strip for cat barf, and this one portable.
Cat Dandy: 1
Universal Rules of Cat-Barf Engagement: 0
For this single day, I sat atop cats in the hierarchy of world domination. I disrupted the cosmic order of how and where cat barf and its cleanup are administered. I suspect, however, my tenure will be short-lived. I bet Thomas is already planning his next move.
Have you bested a barfing cat? Where’s the yuckiest place you’ve encountered kitty’s unpleasant surprise? Does it still gross you out, or have you become accustomed to the practice and its necessary aftermath? Tell me in the comments.
Cat Dandy finds many unintended uses for common household items:
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About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.