The year is 1994. The psychic’s storefront is a garden apartment near Wrigley Field, her neon sign blinking, TAROT CARD readings. I go in, take a seat, watch her stroke a whisker on her chin as she reads my cards.
“I don’t see fame and fortune in your future, but I do see getting a cat neutered in China. That will be twenty dollars, please.”
Life never takes us the path we imagined, just like that board game with the plastic little cars and pegged kids that would never stay in their seats.
But this? Elective gender-altering surgery for a feline in Yunnan?
Without pondering too much if I would have to change the cat’s personal pronouns, I got my cat snipped, the pin yin for cat neutering being, yān gē, which, if pronounced incorrectly, could mean anything from death to singing.
I had no idea if the procedure would alter the octave range of my cat’s meow, but hoped it would eliminate spraying, it being as repulsive as seventh-grade boys overdoing it with AXE in my classroom, making it a weird version of the perfume section at MACY’s and stinky tofu.
The animal hospital in Kunming, China, was clean, unlike others, that could trigger the gag reflex just by reading the sign. I was greeted at the front desk by a row of auspicious waving kitties and one plush puppy. I brought the cat’s vaccination passport and a snuff jar of cat nip, plus my phone for payment and quick translation. There was a bulldog receiving some sort of blood transfusion and an operating room behind swinging metal doors, just like my favorite medical shows.
The veterinarian was a waif-like female named Elf.
Since Elf spoke as much English as I do cat or Kunminghua, we used our phones to communicate.
My cat had to take a series of tests before the procedure, including getting his blood drawn and temperature taken with a rectal thermometer. ELF was able to complete both tasks without a scratch.
Is this the same cat that won’t let me clip his nails?
So I started my day doing something I never would have imagined: searching the web for articles on cat behavior after neutering. Will its meow drop an octave? Will it allow me to sleep in until 3:35 am?
The animal hospital is about a twenty-minute walk from my house on Guang Fu Lu. The procedure cost 900 RMB, about $135. The donut has to stay on his head for a week.