The Problems with a “Cat Snake”

Cat Snake

I have no idea whether or not it’s genuine, but there’s an ad that made the Best of Craig’s List with the headline, “Found! Cat Snake?” Accompanying the ad is a picture of a ferret and a plea that is as funny as it is desperate: “Found (assuming) pet. Some sort of cat snake? Long and nimble but with dryish fur and cat teeth. Seems to like cat food, but isn’t a cat. Please come take this off my hands it smells weird.”

Actual Craig's List ad.

Actual Craig’s List ad.

Again, the ad may not be real, but having owned a ferret during a brief period of my life, I can vouch for the description. Find the worst cat you know, cross it with an ornery snake and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what my experience was like.

My ferret story began after a bad day at work in 1988 when my boss, Jim Magill, and I decided to hit happy hour at Ruby Tuesday’s. Magill also happened to be my roommate, so after several cocktails, we decided to pick up some things for the apartment. (Being bachelors, we were short on things like plates, glasses, pots, pans and other items most humans own.)

A funny thing happened on the way to Sears, though: We passed a pet store and Magill decided we should look around. His first thought was that we should get a kitten, because he reasoned that women love cats and that would be a great way to attract more of them. (Women, not cats.) I vetoed the idea because I figured women might like cats, but I wasn’t sure how they felt about single guys who owned cats.

While we were having this conversation, a bin full of what looked like furry slinkies caught our eye. We walked over to the display and saw half a dozen young ferrets scurrying around, wrestling with one another and generally looking adorable. Instantly, we decided that having a ferret would make us cool and irresistible to the ladies.

In a matter of weeks, we learned how wrong we were on both counts.

This was long before the Internet, so all we knew about ferrets came from a trifold brochure and the advice of the teenager running the cash register. Thus our ferret was never housebroken and left surprise packages all over the place. Also, remember the “smells weird” line from the ad? He wasn’t kidding. Even after having the scent glands removed, the musky aroma was always there.

Oh, and forget walking around the house barefooted. Something about toes aroused the ferret’s primal predator instinct. She would spring out from under the chair or couch and sink her weasel teeth in as hard as she could.

Keep in mind, this was supposed to help us attract women. But picture having a date over for dinner in a house that smells vaguely skunk-like and hoping you’ve picked up all the piles of poop. Now imagine your date’s wearing opened-toed shoes and you have to warn her to watch out for a small furry animal that may attack without warning at any point.

Obviously the ferret wasn’t quite the babe magnet we expected. When I moved out, I happily gave Magill custody. I can’t remember what happened to her after that. For all I know, she might have found her way to the guy who ran the ad.

I’m a firm believer now that if the world has to have pet stores, they ought to at least make customers blow in a Breathalyzer before purchasing an animal. And the most exotic thing they should ever sell to single guys is a goldfish.

If Craig’s List had been around back then, I would have posted an ad of my own: “Cat Snake – Free to Good Home. (No Returns).”

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