Shell Shocked: Sanibel Cuteness School
Did you know that there’s a cuteness school for kittens on Sanibel? Our cat was about six months old when I realized that not one single person had exclaimed, “Oh, isn’t he cute,” since he came into our household.
My wife and I felt deprived because all kittens are supposed to be cute and ours hadn’t even learned how to purr. We made a lot of inquiries to see if there was anything we could do to bring out our cat’s natural cuteness qualities. During the course of these inquiries, we learned about the Feline Cuteness Academy on Periwinkle. We came across an ad for it in the ISLANDER.
In the ad was a picture of half a dozen kittens playing with balls of string on a thick rug.
The caption read: “Tired of raising a dull, uninspired, and unmotivated kitten? Bring out the inborn cuteness qualities you want your friends to see in your cat. Feline Cuteness Academy boasts thousands of graduates who rank in the upper percentile of national cuteness quotients. Enroll your kitten with us for three months and watch the world say, ‘Oh, isn’t he cute!’ We guarantee full satisfaction or your litter back.”
It sounded awfully convincing so my wife and I decided to enroll Chadwick, which we had named after a former restaurant in Captiva. We packed Chadwick into his carrying case and drove up to a stately building that looked more like a private school for privileged kids rather than cuteless kittens. My wife and I looked at each other and at Chadwick, who was meowing in fright, sighed, and made our way up the stone stairs into the small reception room.
On the wall were diplomas and certificates attesting to the training and professionalism of the staff. There were a few autographed photographs of Morris the Cat, one of the Academy’s more famous alumni, and a number of class photographs of graduating kittens. I thought dressing them in caps and gowns was a bit much, but I didn’t want to argue with success.
We were shown into the office of the Academy’s head cutemistress, Dr. Abigail Tummypaw, who was as effusive as a hairball.
“Welcome to the Feline Cuteness Academy, the only cuteness training facility for kittens in the world. Has your kitten completed his Rorschach tests?”
We handed Dr. Tummypaw Chadwick’s battery of psychological tests and we waited while she reviewed them.
“Hmm,” she said. “I see that Chadwick is recalcitrantly psychotraumatized with borderline suppressant syndrome manifestations.”
My wife and I looked at each other.
“What does that mean,” we asked in unison.
“That means Chadwick isn’t cute. He needs help otherwise you will never know the joys of feline cuteness.”
“We’re certainly willing to give the Academy a try, but can you tell us something about the training?”
Dr. Tummypaw was now on familiar ground.
“Of course. We have a curriculum that covers every facet of cuteness education. During the morning sessions Chadwick will first go to surprise class where he will be taught to open his eyes as widely as possible when he knocks over jars and bottles; or to sit on your face when you’re asleep; or to turn up in your suitcase at the airport, or deposit a mouse on your bed.
“Following that is purr class where our highly trained instructors will teach Chadwick to purr in harmony with your stomach growls. You’ll be muttering, ‘Isn’t he cute’ ten times a day.
“Acrobatics class is next. There, Chadwick will learn to do somersaults, roll around on his back and tummy and leap on to your topmost shelves without knocking over your most expensive china. His leaps from tables to shelves to sinks to windowsills will know no bounds.
“String class is next. There, Chadwick will learn how to do tricks with balls of string while standing, sitting, running and jumping. We’ve had great success with this class. Some of our kitten graduates have learned how to knit sweaters.”
She beamed with pride while my wife and I looked at each other uneasily.
“And the final class in the morning session is in licking. There we teach kittens how to lick their fur and their masters’ faces cutesywise.”
“Cutesywise,” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” Dr. Tummypaw said. “Cutesywise is a very important term to us here. It reflects the progress of our students. But to continue, other classes include the art of lap sitting, milk lapping, meowing, couch napping, retrieving, begging for food, paw control, and pouncing.”
It sounded promising. Although it broke our hearts to leave Chadwick there for three months, we hoped that we would have a cute cat when he came home.
Three months later we picked him up, received his diploma and brought him home. To our surprise, not only was Chadwick cute, but he was well mannered too. He now stands up whenever we enter a room, purrs grace before he eats, and wears a bib.