I used to laugh at superstitious folks, particularly those of the ladder and black cat avoiding variety, until a friend of mine convinced me to become the proud caretaker of a stray black kitten. Oh he was so cute and cuddly! I named him Shploop after all the things he knocked into sitting water. For a time we were content, just me and Shploop laughing at the world together! He would attack my hair as I slept, and pounce on my feet when I came round a corner. Occasionally I would grumble out of bed at night to throw him out of the room. You know, the usual blissful kitten things...

When you have four stoned musicians for roommates, it can often times be hard to keep a hyperactive cat from slipping outside. Sometimes Shploop would come back with scratches from partaking in the underground feline street fighting scene. I figured it was all in good fun, because Shploop was a born fighter. Even at a young age he had no qualms about launching aerial attacks on strangers' thighs from stealthy positions under chairs or in exotic plants. I figured the local aviary population would be the next victim. Boy was I wrong.

One day I noticed that Shploop had a sensitive spot on his hind end. Over the course of about a week I tried to examine closer, but I could not see any outward problems. Shploop wasn't eating well, he started losing weight and developed a limp, so I knew I had to take him to the vet. After a cursory examination, the doctor determined that Shploop would have to be operated on immediately.

Apparently Shploop had developed an infected abscess under his fur. Because he was black, the bloody pus that was oozing out all around the area was near invisible. After the doctor shaved and cleaned it a 6" by 4" wound was revealed stretching across the back-left side of Shploop's body. In fact, the infection had spread to within one centimeter of his rectum, and I can only imagine the hurt that would have caused. The resulting surgery culminated in a total of 21 sutures and 7 drains. Shploop had to wear one of those infuriating neck funnels, and I had to resort to stealing my roommates' food in order to eat for the next two weeks. Had his fur been another color, I no doubt would have discovered this problem when it was in the $100-$200 treatment range rather than the crippling $900 I ultimately had to pay. That wasn't the end of Shploop's medical problems, but it was the end of my ownership of him. I finally learned the lesson every parent attempts to teach their children: "Owning a pet is a lot of responsibility." And I would speculate that bloody abscesses are probably just one of many things that black fur can hide. So kids, listen to your parents and superstitious people before getting a pet.

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