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May 16, 2001: Pros and cons

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Our new house, unlike the old one, has no carpets. Everything - floors, stairs - is hard surfaced (either hardwood or vinyl).

While this is visually appealing, and quite lovely on hot days because you can walk around barefoot on the cool floor, it has a few downsides. I'm not counting the fact that I'm still nervous about slipping so when I'm in bare feet I tend to hobble slowly down the stairs like an old lady. That's not a downside, that's just funny. No, the downsides I'm talking about are directly related to the relationship between bare floors and cats.

First, let's discuss hairballs. I suppose I should have left this particular topic til last, but...well...

When one has carpet and cats, one learns a few things very quickly. The first is that if this is a carpet you actually care about, you should never feed a cat anything with red or orange dye in the food. The second is that hairballs on carpet should be left alone. The simple fact of the matter is that they are much easier to peel off the floor when they're dry, instead of scrubbing them further into the rug by trying to sponge them up when wet. And of course there's the added benefit of certain types of hairballs which, if left all by themselves, tend to You people with multiple cats know exactly what I'm talking about. Don't pretend you don't. Ahem.

This practice usually works out well, mainly because most hairballs aren't seen til much later (unless you step in them...and I'll just leave you with *that* little slimy mental image for a moment). Hairballs on bare floors, however, are a completely different story. As I am learning, if left alone for any length of time, they adhere themselves permanently to the floor, and require a chisel, sander, and a lot of elbow grease to remove.

And while we're on the topic of cat hair...

Carpet, you see, has this lovely quality of catching everything you drop on it and cleverly hiding it among its fibers. Eventually the floor gets dirty enough that you can no longer ignore it and so you have to vacuum. But the important thing here is that carpet is polite enough to give you a grace period.

Not so with bare floors. Even less so when there is an entire house full of bare floor and seven cats, some of whom can shed their entire weight in fur on a daily basis, given the opportunity. And unlike with carpet, on bare floors all that hair has nowhere to go, so instead of working its way into the carpet, it collects along the baseboards in long wisps of gray. The very act of gathering together into one clump creates a chemical reaction that turns any color cat hair to gray. It doesn't matter that my worst shedders are orange and white - those lurking dust bunnies composed of cat hair are one color. Grey.

I have pondered - purely in the interest of scientific advancement, of course, and not because I absolutely hate vacuuming - simply leaving the hair-bunnies alone, just to see how big they would get. After all, while Richard is off gadding about in Europe, I'm the only one who would ever see the mess. But then I ponder if it would be a wise experiment to undertake. Cat hair, I'm convinced, is by its very nature magnetic (how else do you describe the spontaneous appearance of cat hair dust bunnies in the corners), so if I let them grow big enough, it is quite possible that eventually they will reach a critical mass and swallow the cats themselves whole. And so I always end up dutifully dragging out the little floor sweeper and sucking the dust bunnies into oblivion, comforting myself with the fact that the world just isn't ready for this knowledge anyway.

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