There really wasn't anything magical at all about Mr. Mistoffelees. In fact, the other Broadway Cats thought he was a bit of a goofball. But it was amusing to watch Mistoffelees spin in circles and then dizzily wander off -- bumping into walls and furniture along the way. While some cats enjoyed "the show," others were hard at work preparing for their annual Halloween dance. The orchestra was warming up, lights and decorations were being strung, and of course, others were hanging up the disco ball. (No dance is complete without a disco ball.)
The dance's director, a 25 pound cat called Bustopher Jones, did his best to ignore Mr. Mistoffelees, who had now meandered onto the center of the stage. "Turn on the black lights," said Bustopher.
For an instant, the theater was plunged into total darkness, and then it erupted into vibrant fluorescent colors -- illuminated by the ultraviolet lights. The lighting had the desired effect, with all of the cats in attendance exclaiming "Wow" in unison.
Then the whispering and giggles started. Mr. Mistoffelees didn't realize it, but he was strangely magical after all, because his black fur was lit up like a jack o'lantern.
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Enjoying the attention, the young tomcat took a bow and proceeded to spin around faster and faster, showing everyone his signature move ... and ensuring that they all got a good luck at the glowing green patches of fur on his ears, face and feet.
Glowing green patches meant Mistoffelees had ringworm! "Look, he's got lights on him," said the kitten Sillabub. The other cats all burst into outrageous laughter. Only then did Mr. Mistoffelees stop spinning and look at himself in the mirror. The green splotches fluoresced brightly under the ultraviolet light. "Aaagh," he cried and ran out of the theater.
Old Deuteronomy brought the Broadway cats back to order. "Now, now. We've got a little extra work to do before the party, is all." Ringworm was an occasional but unwelcome visitor amongst the cats, and most of them knew what to do.
"Am I going to get ringed worms?" asked the kitten.
"It's not a worm, silly. It's a fungal infection on the skin," said Grizabella. "Though it's most common in kittens, any cat can get it." The kitty's eyes bulged with concern.
"Don't worry, little one. We'll bleach the areas that Mistoffelees touched and vacuum regularly, that should help a lot," said Bustopher. The bleach was already mixed (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and the floor was being mopped. "Be sure to get the chairs, counters, and any props that he rubbed against," reminded the older cat. "It can live on surfaces for quite awhile."
"Get that glowing tomcat to the vet," said Old Deuteronomy. The leader of the Broadway Cats knew that the black light test only works about half of the time to diagnose ringworm. "The doctor may need to do a skin culture or other test before deciding on a treatment. And someone needs to warn his humans that this can be contagious to them or their dogs." At the very word "dogs," he shuddered. "Though it serves dogs right," he said under his grouchy old breath.
Two weeks after the dance, Mr. Mistoffelees reappeared in the theater. The bald, flaky spots on his skin were beginning to heal as he responded to an aggressive regimen of baths, ointments and oral medications. Even when his black fur was back to normal, the other cats loved to remind him of the Halloween when his fur glowed brighter than a disco ball.
Jon Klingborg is a veterinarian associated with Valley Animal Hospital of Merced. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org