I recently shelled out £200 on cat accessories
Not too long ago I found myself in the market for a bag of kitty litter. Finding the cat-lit shelves of my supermarket surprisingly empty, and with a brand new kitten in a box in the back seat of my car, I crossed the road and visited my local pet store.
I don’t particularly like pet stores. That vague tinge of fear and feces in the air, combined with the sight of dry-looking old snakes curled up behind glass and bewildered hamsters spinning on plastic wheels like dismayed commuters rushing to the last train towards oblivion, stirs a sense of despair in my slow ticker.
When I was a kid there was a pet shop that I really loved called Uncle George’s on Marlborough Street in Dublin. A tantalizing emporium of critering delights, the store – musty, noisy, fascinating – was right next to where our bus to town stopped.
Above all, I loved the boxes of meowing kittens, squirming against their bloody, indifferent mothers
I used to coax my mother into coming in, tugging on her leather-gloved paw to push open the heavy door and watch the animals. I liked to stand by the cage and wait for the tortoise’s bald, wrinkled head to poke out from under its shell, like an old priest’s pate coming out of the confessional to make sure you did your Hail Mary.
I loved watching the dyspeptic parakeet in his yellow feather vest. The bird reminded me of my Irish teacher, hopping up and down on his perch, frustrated by my stupid inability to understand his cries.
Above all, I loved the boxes of meowing kittens, squirming against their bloody, indifferent mothers; mothers who probably longed for 10 minutes of peace to make a quick phone call, put on their lipstick and draw their eyebrows in a skeptical arc to face the freezing day.
Uncle George’s pet shop isn’t there anymore, of course. You’d have to sell more than three blind mice to find rents in Dublin these days. It is now a city of cranes and craters, a city like ravaged gum, where great voids have opened up in the earth, to be filled with luxury hotels and the inhabitants of these luxury hotels who can all make tourism to look at other luxury hotels.
Anyway, back in the modern suburban pet store, which had no dusty snakes or aching hamsters in sight, and smelled strangely though reassuringly of wet hay, I found myself in front of an exotic fan of cats. alight.
Each bag of moisture-optimal, low-dust, and paw-friendly cat hygiene products was more enticing than the last. I had just come all the way from Donegal, having picked up the little black kitten from a friend of a friend’s box, and my eyes were cloudy. (I swear to the big unicorn in the sky there were no kittens to be had in Dublin back then. There were waiting lists as long as alligator tails for every rescue cat in town – I think it would have been easier to tag a Bengali tiger in a tutu last summer than a domestic short-haired moggie.)
In the awfully friendly pet store, some of the products available were infused with aloe vera, others with pine scent. Still others must have been made of materials torn from the bark of Malagasy baobabs by the pearly teeth of rapacious elves, such was the surprisingly inflated price of sanitized shavings.
I had already recently shelled out 200 pounds of cat paraphernalia (if that’s the right term), after being prompted (not by the vet, it must be said) to have the ashes of my deceased grimalkin (his ashes and hers alone, apparently) was mailed to me in a quaint cylindrical box with a picture of a rainforest on it. (I decanted these ashes into a terracotta pot and planted a wisteria on it, which quickly collapsed and died. A disappointing horticultural result given that I had previously put a good shot of ashes from my mother in a pot of yellow roses, which had bloomed until November.)
I stood, vaguely paralyzed in front of the lit cat, thinking of my dead moggie and my dead mother, until the assistant, a boy with a sweet smile and a spacer, came to my aid.
“I have a new kitten,” I said. ” I start again. I need an enlightened cat.
“Clumping or non-caking?” he asked sharply.
To clump or not to clump, I thought. Is there ever a right answer?