Archive for October 13th, 2008

Cats: Part 2

But when we got Jackson home, some of my father’s thinking about cats began to make sense.
Cats brings coughing and sneezing into a house and it would have been natural for countryfolk of a couple of generations ago to connect that in their minds with tuberculosis.  Indeed, they probably saw tuberculosis symptoms exacerbated by cat allergies.
I give Jackson the secret nickname Toxin.
We have had three other cats over the years in the house and had never noticed that they weren’t quite as allergenic as this one, but that, ironically, was probably because the others were surly withdrawn and traumatised cats.  Smudge had been put out of Twinbrook by the Provos, at least his family had.  Skitter had been found on a skip in a shoebox with her siblings when she was only a few hours old.  The kittens were distributed among teachers at the school where my wife works, and Maureen hand raised hers.  It was virtually feral.  But cats had been with us for all our time together so we hadn’t noticed how toxic they were.  Maureen’s asthma just seem inevitable and routine.
It had cleared up after Skitter died so we should have seen the cat connection plainly then.
But I wanted to surprise her and knew how much she loved cats and thought that on balance the happiness that she would get from having another one in the house would weigh against the occasional asthmatic coughing and spluttering.  And sure wasn’t the new inhaler working wonders anyway?
And it also seems that after years of the surly Skitter, the arrival of an affectionate cat would be a particular treat.
Toxin was lethal.  I, who had not been aware of any allergic reaction to previous cats, suffered puffy eyes and hard flaky snot.  Maureen hugged and kissed him and doted on him.  What was the point in having an affectionate cat if you couldn’t do that?
So I trawled the net for advice on how to survive little Toxin.
Some said that it might be possible to teach a little kitten to enjoy being washed.  The allergenic chemicals are in the saliva which the cat licks all over its body.
Toxin’s affectionate disposition gave way to raw savagery when he was introduced to water and shampoo.
We seemed to make some small progress with spray-on shampoo that could be brushed off, but Toxin sat blithely licking it off when I’d finished.
And the heaving and the coughing and spluttering went on.
Except for a couple of days when we were away in Scotland, only to resume ferociously when Toxin lept into her lap to welcome her home.
I took on the fathering role, which is to say that I did the nasty jobs, like taking toxin to the vet, first for a checkup and then to have his balls off.  I had fed him antibiotic tablets twice a day, clenching his jaw shut to force him to swallow them.  And I gave him eyedrops.  At first he accepted this interference in his privacy but progressively his resistance increased until I had to wrap him in a thick towel and clench him firmly while he straightened like a rod and shot out his claws. At one point he even barked at me.
Maureen’s worry was that if we sent him to a new home he would be traumatised, but he was acquiring the sense already that the world was against him, or at least that I was against him.
We found friends on Facebook who would take him.
He’ll have children to play with; he’ll be happy, I assured her.
I was now as fastidious as any official cat protector.
For Maureen, it was like watching a child go out into the world.  Her tears were for little Jackson and her hopes that he would be happy.
I admit, that my own sympathy had not risen that high.

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