Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cat Calls, Sniffles and Snuffles

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cat Calls, Sniffles and Snuffles

Article excerpt

Cats make me sick.

Before I send cat lovers over the edge (and I'm pretty sure many of them are already pretty darn close already), I should clarify. I don't mean I hate cats; I mean that they make me physically ill. If I am in a cat person's house, within a few minutes, I start to choke up, my eyes start to water and my skin feels like it's crawling. Cats are my Kryptonite.

I grew up in a family with a lot of allergies. My brothers and I were allergic to pollen, ragweed, wool and tree dust. We walked around with paper masks on in the spring, like we were expecting to ride a Japanese subway. My mother cleaned incessantly in hopes of keeping dust down. It didn't work. We went through a box of Kleenex a day.

Luckily, one of our neighbors was a drug rep for the company that made Benadryl, which was at the time a prescription medication. Knowing that my mother had given birth to a horde of wheezing little brats, he took pity and regularly dropped off plain cardboard boxes loaded with little unmarked bottles, all filled with little red-and- white pills. My mother kept the boxes by the kitchen sink, and every time one of us sneezed, we were encouraged to pop a pill, no matter how drowsy it made us. As a result, we stumbled around the house, bleary-eyed and slack-jawed. It looked like an opium den that catered exclusively to children.

The cat problem is especially important to me because my college- age son moved back home this fall and wanted to bring his cat, Swiper, with him. I balked. It would be like asking a kid with a peanut allergy to share his room with Mr. Peanut. I offered my son a choice: He could move into the house if we found a new home for the cat, or, if he couldn't bear to send the cat away, he could live in the garage. He chose the garage.

While a 20-year-old might be content to live in a structure meant for storage, a cat isn't. All fall, I would have to deal with the sight of Swiper at our kitchen door, peering in, trying to make eye contact and meowing pitifully. Or at least I assumed he was meowing pitifully. It's hard to hear him through the glass. I mouthed back, "Go away!" and kept walking. Because I'm pretty sure cats can't read lips, I accompanied this with making an exaggerated "Shoo, shoo! …

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