Cheap Thrills (or Tampon Kitty)
by Marc Auerbach

I am a single male living alone, and yet my house is littered with tampons. There are tampons under the couch, furniture; under the bed, behind doors, and pressed into corners. I find tampons in the closets, and jammed into crannies behind boxes and as-yet-unhung picture frames.

All this is the fault of my dry cleaner. That's right, my dry cleaner. You know that crinkly tissue paper that comes between your newly pressed garment and the polyethylene bag that protects it? It turns out my cat, Fang, loves that stuff. Other cat toys are not intriguing to him. Bells, balls, catnip filled, feathery, they all sit idly by. Not even a swat. Just a distracted look or perhaps one curious sniff.

This is not unusual. I know of other cats that shun expensive, store-bought toys and instead love balled up aluminum or one that retrieves Q-tips, and another that will do the same but only with twist-ties. In Fang's case, he prefers little wadded up balls of paper. Specifically that special, dry-cleaning tissue paper. Truth be told, Fang prefers the real thing, and on several occasions has appeared in the back yard with a mouse in tow.

That's where I got the idea to twist the dry cleaning tissue paper into the rough shape of a mouse. This is easily accomplished by removing the tissue paper and tearing it in half. Fold one edge so that 3/4 of the paper remains unfolded. Repeat leaving half the paper unfolded and half folded twice over. Gently roll the paper up in the opposite direction of the fold. This will form a kind of paper cylinder that is thick at the folded half (the body) and thin at other (the tail).

Starting at the body, tightly twist the tail portion until you reach the tip of the tail. You should have something resembling a very crude origami lab rat. If your cat has seen this trick before, conjuring a reasonable facsimile of a mouse out of thin air, his eyes will grow wide and he might even meow.

Depending on your cat's preference, toss the mouse down a hall (preferably a slick surface) and enjoy minutes of entertainment.

All this was well and good, and a cheap thrill for Fang, until I happened to mention this to a female friend of mine who is likewise a cat patron. In my description I characterized the finished product as looking something like a tampon. A few days later one arrived in the mail.

No sooner had I ejected it from its cardboard sheath than Fang set upon it as if it were the real thing. He batted it down the hall and went tearing after it. He cornered it, but leapt backward about a foot in the air, twenty claws a gleaming, at an imagined counter attack. He grabbed it by the tail and flipped it in the air. He moved off a short distance and stalked it. He dribbled it along the floor like a soccer ball, rabbit-hopping on his rear legs as the pseudo mouse shuffled between paws. He chased it between the numerous legs of the kitchen table and chairs. He grabbed it down from the walls as it attempted to escape. In the end he flopped upon it and like some imperious Serengeti lion, and lorded over the lifeless prey with not unjustifiable pride.

And this is how I came to purchase tampons by the box full, and how they then disappear under all the furniture. At 15 cents a piece they are worth it, and thanks to the Internet, I can save myself any embarrassment by ordering them online.