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I have a 30 pound cat, Jerry Lee, that the following story could be about...he is exactly like the cat in the story....

So Your Cat Has Ass Breath
Admitting that you have a problem is the first step.
A month or two ago, I lugged the Hobe to the vet for his annual check-up. While we waited - well, I waited; the Hobe alternated between pointedly ignoring me and staring daggers at the Brittany spaniel that hangs out in the waiting room - I admired the brand-new pamphlet display by the window. So many helpful titles to choose from -- "Ringworm & Your Pet"! "Good Health & Grooming"! "What 'Accidents' Mean"! ("Accidents" mean, I learned, that your pet is either 1) ill, 2) unhappy with you, or 3) inexplicably evil.) As I riffled through each and every leaflet, Joan, the receptionist, peered over the counter at me: "Looking for something in particular?"

“Well,” I said, “here’s the thing. The cathas a little hygiene problem.”


“No, the other one. His breathgah. It’s reallyit’s”


“Well, yes. Well, no, not exactly. See, ‘bad’ doesn’t really begin to cover it.”

“Well, you can ask Dr. Grossman about it when he looks at Hobey.”

So Dr. Grossman came out and greeted the Hobe, and the Hobe released his customary baleful puff of shedded fur in response, and then he had his shots and submitted with a great deal of offended sighing to a rectal temperature-taking, and then a mere ten minutes later I handed over my credit card for another feline-health-related drubbing. Dr. Grossman and I chatted while I waited for it to go through.

“Can I ask you a question aboutbad breath?”

“The cats have bad breath?”

“Well, the Hobe has normal catty cat breath. Little JoehasI don’t think we even have words in English for what kind of breath Little Joe has.”

“What kind of bad breath is it?”

“Whatwhat kind? The bad kind. Of bad breath. The really bad kind.”

“Okay, but what kind of ‘bad‘? Sicky-sweet bad? Fishy bad? How would you characterize the bad?”

“How would Iokay. You know that Ray Bradbury story ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ where the bomb hits, and the mechanized house keeps going about its tasks but then it starts to break down, and the entire family is reduced to ash and all that remains is their outlines in paint on the side of the house from when the flash vaporizedthem?”


“It’s that kind of bad.”


“All right, let’s try this—you know the Dennis Miller bit where he’s describing the cabbie as having bathed in Limberger cheese before getting a perm and eating an entire head of pickled cabbage or whatever?”

“WellI was thinking of aless literary description. More sensory.”


“Right. Not that that wasn’t, you know, evocative in its own—”

“No, no, okay, I know what you mean. But the thing is that the breath doesn’t really smell like anything I’ve ever actually encountered myself. I mean, I can imagine what a severed human head would smell like if someone stuffed it with moldy olive loaf and left it in the trunk of a car for a week while a skunk mated with it, but I’ve never actually smelled that precise thing.”

“So it smells likea head.”

“Yes. A severed one. Stuffed with moldy olive loaf, and exposed to various elements both natural and, um, skunky. Oh, wait, no, here’s what it smells like. I used to work in this stable—”

“Sensory, here.”

"Right, I'm getting to that. So I used to take care of this horse who had his own private paddock, and for days - this was in August, in New Jersey, that's important - there was this unbelievable stench but we couldn't find where it was coming from, and then finally we found a mud-soaked gopher carcass waaaay back in the back of the paddock. I guess the horse had kicked it in the head at some point or something. So that's how it smells, but to a power of a hundred -- like if a buzzard had kind of pecked at it and then thrown up. Is how it would smell, I'm guessing."

“Like the breath.”

“Right. Well, the breath would smell like the buzzard barf.”

“I don’t believe buzzardsbarf, actually.”

“Buzzards would make an exception in this case, I assure you.”

“I see.”

“Do you? Do you see?”

“I think I’m beginning to. So you first noticed thethe buzzard vomit breathwhen?”

“Well, probably at the end of last summer. He was sitting on my lap and he yawned, andoh god. I don’t think I can talk about it.”


“Well, it’s hard to explain, butI could feel my internal organs shriveling.”


“That’s right. And then the next time I looked in the mirror I didn’t have any eyebrows.”

“So what you‘re telling me, without a hint of irony, is that the cat’s breath completely depilated your face.”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

“The follicles just”

“Let go, that’s right.”

“Okay. Then what happened?”

“Well, nothing really happened. He just had bad breath. And then the rest of him started to smell, because he’s bathing himself using this Andromeda Strain saliva, so he smells”

“Like buzzard vomit.”

“Well, that’s the breath. His fur actually smells more likehave you ever had an elderly relative die of liver disease?”

“Yes! Yes, I know the odor you mean. Ketones, butnot.”


“Sweet, and yet—”

“Sour, at the same time! So you know what I’m talking about!”

“Well, in a human.”


“So what does the cat eat?”

“What does he eat, or what do I feed him?”

“What does he eat besides what you feed him?”

“How long have you got?”

“You know, you really shouldn’t let him—”

“Eat non-cat-food food, I know, I know. Let me ask you something. When a furry fire hydrant with claws rockets across a studio apartment in pursuit of a McDonald’s French fry, do you stop the furry fire hydrant, or do you get out of the way and pray for the Lord God to spare your life?”

“He eats French fries, then.”

“I don’t think you‘re hearing me.”

“What else does he eat?”

“Well, Science Diet kibble.”


“Science Diet canned stuff, the Less Active Formula.”



“Well, I can’t vouch for how he smells, but I’ve seen how he looks.”

“How does he look?”

“Well. Fat. Your cat is fat.”

“Oh, he’s not fat.”

“He’s fat.”

“He’s not that fat, though.”

“He’s fat.”

“But you’ve seen fatter cats, though, right? Fatter than him?”

“Miss Bunting. The cat is fat.”

“I know. I know he’s fat but he really really loves French fries and I—”

“Miss Bunting.”

“All right, all right, he’s FAT! What do you want me to do, put him on a treadmill?”

“If you can find one strong enough to hold—”

“Okay, all RIGHT, my cat is a FAT STANK-ASS, fine, I ADMIT IT, now are you GOING to help me with the BREATH or NOT?”

“I will help you with the breath, but first you have to promise me—”

“No more French fries, yeah yeah. It wasn’t even that many fries, though. Just little ones, the McDonald’s kind! And he’s naturally stocky! He’s a stocky cat!”

“Miss Bunting. What is the cat?”

“Oh, stop.”

“What is the cat, Miss Bunting?”

“The fries weren’t even whole!”

“What is the cat, Miss Bunting?”

“You don’t even know how many he ATE!”

“WHAT is the CAT, Miss Bunting?”



“Fat. FAT, he’s FAT, all right?”

“Thaaaat’s right. The cat. Is fat. And the cat needs towhat.”

“Be less fat?”

“Yes. And how will the cat be less fat?”

“Not eating people food?”

“That’s riiiiiight. And that includeswhat.”

“French fries.”


“Even little ones, okay, fine, I promise! The breath, THE BREATH! Can we focus here?”

“All right, what else does he eat?”



“Okay, okay. People food. Like soup, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, mac and cheese—”

“Hold on, hold on. Joan, could you hand me a pen? Thanks. So he just eats these things and you don’t care?”

“Well, I turn away for like a second and a half, and he steals up to me, and when I turn back, he’s eating off my plate.”

“He ‘steals’ up to you?”

“Yeah, you know. Creeping.”

“How stealthily could he creep? He’s fat.”

“How do I know? He must have some sort of adaptation mechanism. Anyway, so he eats people food, and bits of plastic. Andlint. And, let’s seewiring.”

“The cat chews on wiring? Live wiring?”

“Well, only until he gets through the protective coating.”

“Mary, Mother of Jesus.”

“Look, I try to stop him, but I have to sleep sometime, you know?”

“All right. Is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Oh, wait, he also eats lotion. Well, he doesn’t really eat it so much as lick it off my legs.”

“Lickslotionoff legs, got it. Is that it, then?”

“Yep, that’s it. Oh wait, he also eats cardboard.”

“How much cardboard?”

“The little bits he gnaws off of the toilet-paper roll thingie. He also eats toilet paper too. And he drinks out of the toilet also—could that be causing the bad breath?”

“He drinks out of the toilet?”

“I don’t always remember to put the lid down.”

“How often does he do that?”

“Oh, once or twice, that’s it.”

“Once or twice, that’s it.”

“Um. Once or twice a week.”

“Once or twice a weekcat drinksfromtoilet. Okay. Anything else, or have we got everything?”

“Can I ask you a hypothetical question?”

“Well. Okay.”

“Let’s say that you know what elements go into the average Post-It note.”


“You know, a Post-It note.”

“I know what a Post-It note is.”

“And let’s say, theoretically, that, like, the glue in a Post-It note? Has elements that react with, say, stomach acid? And let’s say that—”

“Your cat eats Post-It notes.”

“Yes. Yes, he does.”

“Does he actually digest them?”

“Apparently, yeah.”

“Good God. Where did you find this animal, anyway?”

“I’d rather not say.”

“I understand. So, let me see here—Science Diet, dairy products, office supplies, the ingredients that go into a diorama, this is your cat’s current diet?”

“More or less.”

“Is it more or is it less?”

“Did I mention the shower-curtain mildew?”

“He licks this also, I assume.”


“Ohhhkay. Now, have you tried any over-the-counter remedies? Tartar-control kibble?”

“Tried it, didn’t work.”

“Tartar-control treats?”

“Tried them, he wouldn’t eat them.”

“Breath drops?”

“Didn’t help.”

“Brushing his teeth yourself?”

“HA HA HA HA HAAAA! Ho ho hooh, man, that’s funny. No, of course I never tried that—what do I look like, a rodeo clown?”

“So you tried a bunch of things and nothing worked.”

“Hee. Correct. ‘Brushing his teeth myself,’ hee hee heeeee!”

“Did you try anything else?”

“Hee hee. Yeah, I gave him an Altoid once; it worked for awhile, but then the breath came back.”

“You gave him an Altoid.”


“Of course you did.”

“What? I was desperate!”

“Oh, clearly.”

“Look, you don’t understand. This breath can bend STEEL BARS! It can reverse the polarity of MAGNETS! Planes fall from the SKY! He nearly KILLED a HOUSEGUEST of mine last week! I know I shouldn’t give him French fries, I know I shouldn’t let him lick my yogurt cup, I know those things are bad and wrong, but I had to give him the Altoid, I HAD to, I HAD NOWHERE ELSE TO TURN!”

“Miss Bunting, please let go of my leg.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I think it’s plaque.”


“That’s causing the bad breath.”

“That’s it?”

“Wellbarring your theory about Post-It-note glue and feline stomach acid, yes, that’s probably it.”

“So you can clean his teeth.”


“And that’ll take care of the breath. Please, tell me there’s hope.”

"That'll take care of the breath - provided we have enough anesthetic to sedate a cat of his -"



“Good save.”

“Make an appointment with Joan, and we’ll deodorize your cat for you.”

“God bless you, Dr. Grossman.”

“Do we have an agreement about the French fries?”



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