Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fletcher Falls in Love with a Litterbox

One day, Fashionable Couple invited Manfriend and I to Richmond to go shopping under their brilliant tutelage and then enjoy First Fridays—a day where every art gallery opens their doors and musicians play in the streets and there’s adventure everywhere.

The Fashionable Couple looked as fashionable as ever, striking a fab pose as they said hello. One short shopping montage later, and they had us looking as spiffy as Abe and Mary at the governer’s ball. We sauntered onto the streets and pirouetted through art galleries. I felt all kinds of chic and fab and artsy.

After a while, we bumped into the Fashionable Couple’s friends, the Chic Roommates. Art students living in Richmond, they had a flat where we could relax and take a breather from our pure sexiness.

And in that flat, was a hedgehog.

At this point, I was exhausted from the effort of being fashionable and cool all night, hungry, tired, and ready to go home. But I perked up, because this wasn’t just any hedgehog—this was a female.

Bachelor Fletcher, sitting at home, was messy, unclean, and often quite rude with his treatment of his home. But, I had heard a rumor that a few pellets of female hedgehog scat in their litter box will encourage them to use proper bathroom etiquette. So maybe he’d stop pooping in the food bowl and then wondering where his food went.

While my Fashionable and Chic friends talked about fashionable and chic things amongst one another, Manfriend and I inspected the ladyhog. Her cage was smaller than Fletcher’s (whose cage was initially meant for a panther), but looked cozy enough. It was filled with toys, food bowls, hidey spots, and a giant wheel. The ladyhog pranced over to her wheel and started running on it.

Manfriend and I gaped. Not only was she agile, but she was running on the wheel in broad daylight, in front of people. She hopped over the obstacles and ran around her cage like she’d downed a Red Bull. And she had a litter box—and it had been used!

She was fit. And ripped. And I have no idea where those long legs came from, but she arched her back and hopped around the cluttered cage like a gymnast. When Fletcher ran on his wheel, he lasted five minutes of hard grunting and panting. The rest of the time he flopped himself on top of it in worship.

I had little choice—where else would I find a female hedgehog? And if it would make cleaning the cage that much less exciting, it would be well worth losing the sexy status my fashionable clothes had bought me.

So I asked the Chic Roommates, who I had never met, if I could have a sample of their ladyhog’s poop. 

I did my best to explain about litter training, but the social faux-pas was complete. I’d asked them for their pet’s poo before I asked their names. The Fashionable Couple shook their heads in dismay. Manfriend gave a profound sigh.

“Sure,” Chic Roommates said.

So I left First Fridays with a Tupperware full of poop.

Two days later, when I remembered I had the poo, I made up a litter box for Fletcher and sprinkled it onto the toilet of his bachelor pad.

He scooched out of his Scooby Doo mailbox-once-was-a-Valentines-from-my-Mom-now-bedroom and waggled his nose. Scooby Doo style he sniffed straight to the litter box and hopped inside.

Where he went insane.

To be fair, Fletcher hadn’t had a chance to sniff ladies since he hit puberty. He probably didn’t know what this thing was he was attracted to, but he liked it. A lot. He started anointing, which is a really weird things hedgehogs do when they experience a new smell, or a scent they like. They arch their body so they can lick their back, and a long tongue licks foam on their quills. I’ve included pictures I found on the internet because it’s too weird to include without proof.

Fletcher anointed about ten times before he took a breather. He kept trying to sniff the poop directly, but went into convulsions before he got too close. Each time he got closer to figuring out the mystery of the magical scent, he would froth at the mouth and start licking himself. After a few minutes he staggered out, probably cramping, exhausted, and dehydrated. He jogged to cool off, sipped some water, and went in for the kill.

This time he was ready. He waited outside the box and started nuzzling it. I think he may have been unsure what a ladyhog looked like, and suspected this was probably it.

Then he started to eat the box. Maybe he was pissed it didn’t love him back, or perhaps he thought he was flirting, but he gnawed the heck out of the corner of his litter box. It wasn’t the response I’d been expecting from him. I put my hand in the cage and inched the litter box away. Fletcher gave a snort of frustration and hid behind his wheel, where he grunted and squeaked obscenely outside of our view. After a few moments, he reemerged, did another loop around the cage, rehydrated, and beelined back to his girlfriend/poop box.

At this point, Manfriend and I had been watching this hedgehog flirt with a box for twenty minutes, and figured we could still salvage our dignity if we stopped before anyone else found out. Intermittent squeaks and grunts pervaded the remainder of the afternoon.

The litter training worked. To this day he still is ferociously territorial about his box. And though I’ve found a ladyhog living in the same apartment complex as I live, I think Fletcher’s reaction to the poop is an indicator that he’s probably not cut out for women.