A Guide to Safe Pteri Grooming
First, let it be known that most neopets, perhaps with the exception of baby neopets, are perfectly capable of keeping themselves healthy and well groomed without any gadgetry. Skeiths, Tonus, and Elephantes instinctively seek out the exfoliating properties of a good mud bath. A Draik or Scorchio will fly through a hot area or blow fire over itself to burn off any grime and parasites that may have lodged between its scales. More fastidious neopets such as Kougras, Wockies, and Xweetoks may spend hours each day carefully grooming their fur. However, most civilized neopets still want that extra little sparkle that distinguishes 'healthy' from stunningly gorgeous.
Pteri are no different. Any Pteri already knows how to preen and oil its feathers into perfect order with nothing more than its own beak and oil from the gland at the base of its tail. But, in preparation for the upcoming Beauty Contest, my Pteri, Therael, and I decided to pay a little visit to the Grooming Parlor in the Neopian Bazaar. After perusing the shelves for a while, and talking to the shopkeeper, we were astonished to find that there were no grooming items made specifically for Pteris.
Well, that wasn't specifically a problem. Aside from Therael, I'd raised budgies, pigeons, and numerous other feathered things. Between the two of us, we had more than enough experience to improvise. Therael and I picked up a few items and were about to leave when I overheard another owner purchasing a meowclops comb for her Pteri. Tentatively, I asked if the comb was going to be used on their petpet. She replied (rather pretentiously), "Of course not! It's for Sweetie, here. If I'd wanted something for a meowclops, I would have gone to Petpet Supplies." Sweetie, however, did not look very happy about it. In fact, she looked rather resigned. A closer look revealed that many of her feathers were torn or broken, and she kept glancing at her owner as if she wanted to say something but didn't.
Therael and I quickly talked her out of it. Feathers are not the same as fur at all, and should not ever be combed, which can be downright painful. I'm sure the lady meant the best for her pet, and Sweetie later confided that she just didn't have the heart to tell her owner why her feathers were being ruined because she tried so hard. So, to spare all the other good natured Pteri, Eyries, or other feathered neopets out there, I present a Guide to Feather Care.
Rule 1. No Soap or Shampoo
Pteris depend on natural oils to lock their feathers together for both warmth and waterproofing. Soap will remove that natural oil, leaving the feathers dry and brittle. In addition, there is no way to moisturize the skin without harming the feathers, so care must be taken not to dry it out. Do not use any kind of basic cleanser unless your Pteri has fallen into an oil pit and is covered in thick black gunk. In this case, you should use Rainwater Shampoo, the gentlest one available.
Rule 2. No Gunk
Essentially, you should avoid getting anything gooey or sticky on the feathers, which includes most cosmetics. Don't bother with lipstick, as Pteris have no lips. Any kind of hair styling gel will potentially ruin the feathers by sticking them together, which will pull painfully when your Pteri tries to move. Eyeshadow can be used as long as you are very careful not to get any powder on the feathers, as if it falls under them to rest against your Pteri's skin, you may never be able to get it out. To add an extra shine to feathers, apply a fine coat of light oil to the feathers with a soft toothbrush. It's advisable to just provide your pet with the oil and let him or her do it themself, as a beak will always do a much better job than a brush.
Rule 3. Avoid Spraying Things
While you may not like the warm dusty smell emitted by Pteri (Although, I don't see why you shouldn't. In any case, it's better than the stink of a wet Gelert), covering it up with perfumes is an absolute no-no. Pteri and Eyries have special flight sacks attached to their lungs to facilitate breathing during flight. Plus, they have a much larger lung capacity to body mass ratio than other neopets. That means, that not only do they absorb more toxins from every lungful of air (Yes, believe it or not, most perfumes are toxic), they have less resistance to it because Pteri are smaller. Plus, the air passes into the air sacks, then back through the lungs, so they "breathe" every breath twice. Thus, an airborne compound that might make a Lupe slightly nauseated and that a Grarrl wouldn't even notice, could cause a Pteri to keel over unconscious. So... no perfume, and while we're at it, be careful with that air freshener.
Now you know what not to do to your Pteri, but that Beauty Contest is just a few days away and you want you pet to look his or her best! Here are a few tips that Therael and I use for optimal Pteri health.
While some Pteri prefer to take baths, this drenches their feathers and prevents them from flying until dry. DO NOT towel-dry a Pteri, as you may accidentally break the delicate shafts of his or her feathers. Most Pteris like to get clean by flying through a thick fog or light rain and letting the water droplets accumulate on their feathers. This can be duplicated using a squirt bottle (or squirty bath toy or by filling an empty perfume bottle with water, as Neopia seems to lack squirt bottles).
If your Pteri is very active and likes to perch in trees (or if you have a rough concrete floor), claw growth shouldn't be a problem as they will wear down naturally. If your Pteri lazes about at home on carpet or in a soft comfy nest, you may need a pair of Kougra Nail Clippers. These were made to shear off the ends of a Kougra's claws to prevent damage to furniture (Subsequently, Kougras who frequent the Battledome will not ever use this item), but if used properly, they will also work for a Pteri. When clipping your Pteri's claws, only take off the very tips. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT OFF THE ENTIRE CLAW! Do not cut past within 1 cm of the blood vessel growing in the middle or the claws will become extremely sensitive at the tips. Should you accidentally cut the blood vessel, staunch the bleeding with a bit of talcum powder and apologize profusely. If you are lucky, your Pteri will forgive you. If you aren't, consider buying a supply of Volcanic Rocks from the Tiki Tack on Mystery Island and letting your Pteri file down his claws the tedious but safer way.
Once your Pteri's claws have been trimmed. It may be a good idea to apply a protective layer and give it an extra shine. Any kind of nail varnish will do, but Therael and I prefer Krawk Claw Polish. It is colorless, but provides a nice lacquered finish and can also be used on a Pteri's beak. Krawk Claw Polish is also extremely durable and resists chipping and scratching as well as holding up well to water. Note that colored varnishes should not be applied to the beak, as they may contain harmful compounds that shouldn't be right under your Pteri's nose all day. Varnish should never be applied to the sensitive tips of the beak.
No, this isn't for brushing your Pteri's teeth. Pteris have no teeth, nor should the beak be brushed with dental products as it's made of keratin, the same substance as your Pteri's claws, rather than calcium, like teeth. The toothbrush is for combing through the fine strands of your Pteri's feathers. A wider brush such as the Ixi Toothbrush or Tooth Fairy Toothbrush should be used for the flight feathers and the large feathers on the end of a Pteri's tail, while a smaller one is needed for the more delicate feathers on the head. DO NOT attempt to use a comb or hairbrush on a Pteri. The feathers are attached to the skin in cupped sockets and are very painful to pull out. They will not bend out of the way of a brush like fur or hair. If a feather is bent or broken, the sharp ends may scratch and poke your Pteri, which is very uncomfortable. Lastly, if the delicate fronds on each feather are ripped, the feather will lose its smoothness until molted out and replaced. Again, it is generally advised to let your Pteri figure out this part on his or her own.
Last but not least, a healthy Pteri needs exercise. The beauty of a Pteri is judged most often, not by the color of its feathers, but by the shape of a fit body with large wing muscles and a sleek tail. If your Pteri is in good physical condition, all he or she needs to do is clean up a bit and he or she is guaranteed to be a hit. So get out there and do some flying! For all their lack of ornamentation, there is no neopet more naturally beautiful than the Pteri.
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