Saturday, July 4, 2015

How to size a cat 
and other pet care advice

February 1995

People frequently ask me, "Are you out of you mind?"  Other times they ask me about pet care. Not really, but that is what I'm writing about. Since there is so much misinformation in the media concerning pet care, I figured a little more couldn't hurt. Some common questions:

Q: How small a hole in a garage door can you push a cat through?
A: A perceptive question. I myself have spent some time working on this one with our cat-like organism, Scamper. To allow the cat someplace outside safe from our dogs, Spike and Psycho, we have decided to cut a "cat hole" in the garage that Scamper alone could fit through. My engineering training led me to evaluate on an empirical basis exactly how large this orifice should be.   I settled on a methodology of cutting a small hole, trying the cat for size, and enlarging as necessary. Scamper did not seem to fully enjoy the first few attempts. In fact, it is amazingly difficult to push a sulky cat through a small hole. 

It was then that I remembered the Lorentz contraction. No, it has nothing to do with Lamaze training. This physical phenomenon was explained, at the top of his lungs, to my Physics II class in college by Dr. Rhee, a quaintly abusive, but largely unintelligible professor from Korea.   He introduced me to the charming Oriental custom of handing out exam papers by calling the student forward in front of the class and loudly ridiculing his mistakes and commenting on possible genetic shortcomings and emotional problems to be overcome. 

I went to college in Indiana, a Midwestern state the size of Hungary populated by people with an aversion (or inability) to setting their clocks, so that the state does not believe in daylight savings time. The result is that much of my higher education, especially physics, occurred in pitch black winter mornings. In fairness, I must admit the state is much prettier in dim light. Such were the conditions for Physics II, quantum mechanics; the sole fact from which I remember is the Lorentz contraction. It stated that things get shorter the faster they are going. Wild, huh?

Reasoning that Scamper would experience this same transformation at higher velocities when running for the door, I initiated a series of experiments to test this theory. Holding the now outraged feline around the body, I would run toward the hole in the door and thrust her rapidly at the opening. The results could set modern science on its ear. Cats do not shrink at high speeds! In fact, they are capable up puffing up to nearly twice their normal size, counting the claws. (Note: always wear welding gloves when experimenting with cats).  In this rigorously scientific manner I have determined that a cat hole should be 8.1 cm. in diameter, or for non-metric readers, .00000023 furlongs.

Q: How often should I wash my dog?
A: Never.  Dogs work very hard on their personal grooming. I have personally witnessed our mutts pass twenty different roadkill carcasses before finding just the right one to roll in. Humans have been woefully shortchanged in the nose department (excluding Prince Charles, of course), and cannot begin to understand the importance of scent to our fellow mammals. The olfactory nerve in dogs for instance, is wired directly to the small, but underpowered, reasoning center of their peanut-sized brains. To them, a powerful aroma is a bold statement of personal power, not unlike the French. When we eat breakfast on the porch during the summer, the arrival of our dogs from a night of canine carousing causes the milk to curdle and Sugar Pops to sink.  And from their behavior, you know they could not be prouder of themselves. Besides, for outdoor dogs, the effects of a bath will last, at most, 35 minutes.

Q: Should I get my daughter a pony?
A: The operative word here is not whether, but when. I have seen strong, otherwise rational farm professionals reduced to mere puppets by the devices of an eight year old daughter. The daughter's infatuation with horses will last for several months (until she discovers boys), but the pony will be around forever, sort of like a pasture ornament.

Q: Do you support the theory of global worming?
A: I have been hearing a lot about this scientific problem lately. While I'm not so sure how it really will help the climate, perhaps it wouldn't be asking too much for all of us to be internal-parasite-free. However, it is going to be even harder to push the pill down Jan's throat than it is with Scamper.

There are many other pet questions you may have, such as "How many gerbils can fit in a Pringles can?"  Thank goodness I'm here to help.

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