I sometimes hear the question “Do you like cats?” I gather from this question that cats are an animal that people either love or hate. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I don’t really have a strong opinion about cats. I’ve not had a chance to get closely acquainted with them.
Wife had cats while she was growing up. I never did, at least not intentionally. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a cat try to adopt us.
My first experience with cats was when my family was living in Tucson, Arizona. I was around age 6. My dad had been transferred to Tucson because of his job. We rented a small house in a lower middle class neighborhood. This was in 1959 and people did not rely on air conditioning as heavily as they do today. We slept with the windows open on most nights.
The cat that wanted so badly to become a part of our family seemed to be especially fond of me. She was a black cat with white markings. The cat would lay on my window sill at night to sleep. Sometimes, she would sit there, meowing at me. My bed was up against the wall, next to her window.
Unfortunately, with the cat on the window sill, I could not sleep. Her presence triggered my asthma. She would purr and I would wheeze. She would meow, and I would cough. She would purr and meow, and I would wheeze and cough, gasping for air. Then, my mom would come into the room and add to this cacophony of wheezing, purring, coughing and meowing by yelling at the cat. The cat would ignore her.
These episodes were usually followed by rushing me into the bathroom and turning on the shower full-blast. Mom and dad would stay up late, trying to help me breathe. There was no such thing as a rescue inhaler back then. My parents had been told that steam would help my breathing. So we all sat in the bathroom with the shower running hot water and steam filling the room.
I would get better after a couple of hours and we would all be able to go back to bed. I don’t think the steam really helped me. I think I got better because I was removed from the source of the allergens and it took that long to recover. By the time I went back to bed, the cat had given up on my returning, and left her window sill. Usually, I was better, but would still have trouble breathing. I was also taught to sleep on my side, so that I could breathe easier, as my body returned to normal.
Later in life, I would learn that my reaction to cats involves more than just asthma. I’ve learned that if I touch a cat, I need to wash my hands before rubbing my eyes. Otherwise, my eyes will start to itch, get watery, and swell. I’ve learned that a cat that rubs against my skin will cause an itchy rash. I’ve also learned that along with the asthma, my nose begins to run and I begin to sneeze. All in all, living with cats is not good for my health. So I avoid them, as much as I can.
Cats will sometimes try to force themselves on me, however. And sometimes, this is not good for the health of the cats. I’ll talk more about bad cat karma next time.