For a decade, I supplemented my income as a freelance writer through dog grooming. Not dog grooming per se, but as an assistant dog groomer.

What’s that mean? Basically I can’t do breed cuts, but I’m proficient in prepping dogs for their final haircuts. I can bathe dogs, but that’s a fraction of the story. I also know how to dry a coat according to its type (thereby achieving the ideal volume for the clippers / shears), clean ears, do simple trims, and cut a dog’s nails without turning the scene into the set for Blood Whorehounds 9: Gore-a-Palooza.

That last skill is a very valuable one, incidentally.

I don’t groom anymore in any capacity, except to help out a friend every once in a very rare while. Fibromyalgia crept into my life like a lead-coloured fog, and made all that rigorous work a near-impossibility.

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WARNING: I’m about to start gabbing about cats.

On one hand, I’ve managed to really ramp up my writing career with my new “free” time. On the other, I kind of miss the animal-centric side of my life. It was interesting.

For instance, I used to work with a woman who was studying to be a vet. When things were slow at the salon, she’d study her books. I remember one night wherein she unleashed a torrent of swears at the chapter dedicated to cat genes. Specifically, the genetics that give cats their colour and patterns.

Said genetics are, quote, “Nuts. Just [explicative] nuts.”

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“I AM THE GOD OF DESTRUCTION.”

I like studying the generalities of biology, though I usually run away if you try to talk to me about the nuanced stuff. Therefore, while I don’t understand a damn thing about the genetics behind kitty genes, I’ve long noticed how many cats in Japanese video games, shows, and culture are calicos. That is to say, white cats with a random smattering of black and brown patches.

My latest obsession, the Japanese cat-collecting mobile game Neko Atsume, has a lot of calico cats, unsurprisingly.

So what’s the deal with Japan and calicos? Calicos are regarded as very lucky cats in many cultures, but Japan particularly adores them for their supposed money-making prowess. Even the most gentrified of Asian fusion restaurants will have at least one Maneki Neko statue, also known as The Beckoning Cat.

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Come in! Come in!

Said cat is supposed to bring money and prosperity to shop keepers. As an added bonus, I imagine their little waving paw is a good way to pacify irritated customers waiting for their order of won-ton soup and rice (gosh I’m hungry).

Japan is also an island, and islands do weird and wonderful things to a species’ genetics. The isolation of the Galapagos let Darwin take a good long look at natural selection, for instance. And then there’s Australia and New Zealand, islands kept separate from any significant land mass for eons, resulting in the evolution of exclusive creatures that Should Not Be.

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Creatures like cats that are named after chickens that kill hapless security guards.

In other words, I imagine Japan encouraged their lucky calicos to breed, and demand probably gave the girls’ numbers a push (calicos are almost exclusively female). Being locked on an island likely made the cats’ calico colouration even more dominant.

Fast-forward to now, and I understand why I have a garden full of calico cats in Neko Atsume.

Please shine your special kitty luck down on me, my lovelies.

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  • https://twitter.com/hymanhoyo Hyman Ho

    In China mainland and Hong Kong, in many shops, we usually put a cat (not a real cat) in front of the cashier. Because we believe cats can bring good luck and money, because they can wave that little paws. :)