Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Friday, September 23, 2005

Adventures of the Genetically Absurd Cat

Charlie, the guy who cuts my hair, told me a funny story this morning. An area vet was paying a call on a farmer and discovered a male calico cat in the barn. Seized by excitement, he paid the farmer a hundred bucks and took the cat back to his clinic and left it in a cage before continuing with his appointments. He planned to take the cat to Cornell Veterinary School and have him studied as a prodigy and lusus naturae.

But life is full of merry little tricks and stratagems, and so when the vet's assistant came in and saw the cat waiting in the cage, he promptly neutered it!

And so ended, with much cussing, one Yankee vet's dream of being famous and maybe even rich from a dynasty of boy calico cats...

My husband, who is not a vet but has an aggravating ability to remember a little bit about everything (except faces and names), didn't let me get a sentence out of my mouth before announcing, Klinefelter's!

Explain yourself, I said--or something to that effect.

At which point I heard more than I really needed to know, the upshot being that the vet did not actually have a rare beast at all, but a mosaic with Klinefelter's syndrome--a male cat with abnormal XXY genetic makeup.

Like so many cat tales, there's something a bit fishy about it. I checked out the list of urban legends on cats. The calico barn cat was neither the bonsai kitten nor the chicken-cannon cat beloved of catapoultry lore, nor was it the chimaera of cat and rabbit (called cabbit), nor the star of the legend that declares that John Ashcroft ordered The Hague checked for calico cats--those wee rat-catching minions of the devil.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.