How Do You Vacuum a Cat?

I really hate what aging is doing to my body. Particularly my sinuses. Probably not the part you were expecting, but I don’t know you well enough to be any more intimate.

When I was in high school, my best friend had allergies. It seemed like she was miserable all the time. Mainly it was the usual suspects: ragweed, pollen, goldenrod. She was also allergic to dogs and cats. One of her concerns was that she really wanted an Old English Sheepdog, but she couldn’t breathe around them. I think the breathing finally won out. Just as well. I read that those dogs have to be brushed daily, preferably at least twice a day. If they’re talking about using a utensil, that’s as much as I brush mine.

I tried to be sympathetic, but it was useless. I had no idea what it was like to be that miserable just because the weather changed. So I did the typical teenage thing. I congratulated myself on not needing to carry what seemed like a whole box of tissues in my purse. And finding somewhere to dispose of them.

A few years after college, I got severe headaches, and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. If I were a doctor, I’d want to be a dermatologist – no emergencies and the problem is right there, sitting on the skin.

I finally went to an allergist. She did that obnoxious test were they turn your back into a chess board and use a tiny needle to inject certain allergens. Turns out there were no major problems, but I did react to some trees, grasses, mold – and cats.

That day, when I got home, my husband had a surprise for me. The cutest little (4 weeks old) kitten. She lived with us for twenty-two years with no problems. Hah! Shows what that test was worth.

As the years went by, I had more and more trouble breathing around mold. We have an old house and the basement has leaked around the foundation off and on. Seems to be some grumpy gremlin around the base of the house. At first, I only noticed the problem when I used the treadmill. Now I can feel it just going down there. Is that a great excuse for not using the treadmill or what?

Then it was cut grass. Then other things growing around me. I am still no where near my friend’s level of discomfort. Lucky for you – otherwise, you would have heard me whining about it a long time ago.

But it was still pretty obnoxious a couple of years ago when they started putting cut flowers in the cheese cooler before big flower holidays (Easter, Mother’s Day). When I opened the cooler this week and saw them (they had slunk in the night before), I groaned. Sure enough, my eyes watered and got swollen and my nose ran for hours. They’d been storing up their nasty little histamines all night to get me.

But the absolute worst happened a few weeks ago. I was wearing a fleece jacket and it was getting more and more uncomfortable to breathe. I looked down and it was covered with cat hair. That can’t be it – I’m not allergic to cats. I took off the jacket and could breathe again. Oh no, I thought, not the kitties.

It was shedding season. Kommando Kitty (who has adopted me as her main human) is a cross between a Siamese and something Siberian, I’m sure. She has medium short hair that molds against her body. And more of it than I have seen on any cat except my parents’ Norwegian Forest cat. She even has fur between her toes. And it’s really fine fur – sticks to everything.

I would brush her whenever we sat together. Did wonders for her coat; not so much for my sinuses. As you might imagine, I was distraught. It was the first time I had a problem around any animal and it was mine! She cuddles in my arms every night before she goes to the foot of the bed. She watches TV on my lap.

My family laughed at me because it was “my” cat who was giving me problems. The calico seemed to be hypo-allergenic. Until I brushed her and got the fur all over me.

All you cat people probably know that cats are at their friendliest during shedding season. The loose fur itches and they want to get rid of it, preferably all over you. You skirtch them and get handfuls of fur. You brush them and empty the brush multiple times before it comes back fur-free.

We had a cat that I would brush downstairs before going to bed. We’d go upstairs and when I scratched her back, I still got handfuls of fur. This would go on for days. Then magically stop. The biggest problem was the amount of fur in the trash. It looked like we were trying to grow a new cat.

I was still totally traumatized by my new affliction when I realized it had stopped. Kommando continues to rub her face against me, but my sinuses are clear. That’s weird – everyone knows that allergies to cats are caused by their dander, not the furs themselves.

But as you know, I’m a little unique. Apparently the allergy is not very severe. It only activates when I look like a yeti in cat fur. I’ll wait until fall to test my theory. The cats shed the summer fur in the fall to get in their winter furs, so it’s not as severe. If I’m OK between now and then but start to react, I’ll know I’m right.

If that’s the problem, I have a choice between shaving them and vacuuming them during shedding season. Obviously, cleaning my clothes after brushing is not an option. That is a lot of work. Bathing isn’t an option. I’d have to do it daily for two weeks. I need my blood.

Same issue with shaving. Both the cat and I would need a transfusion at the end. Me from her teeth and claws. Her from me trying to shave her. Besides, it took Kommando several months to grow back her fur after she was fixed. Guess it’s hard to get all those furs through the skin at the same time. She’d just get furry in time to get shaved again. And she’d look funny.

So vacuuming it is. It may be a little tricky. They both hate the vacuum cleaner. Maybe I can use the little ones they have  for computers. Probably not, I think those blow air not suck it in.

Hmmmm. Think I’ll stick with the theory that they just spent too much time in the basement with the mold this spring.


Just a Cold

Why do we say, “I just have a cold,” when someone asks why they can’t understand a word coming out of our mouths? Are we trying to separate it from the Dengue Fever going around the neighborhood? Are we ashamed that we don’t have something more impressive?

I have never met someone with a cold who was not totally miserable. (Some of them were that way before the virus, so they don’t really count.) But we have made it some type of badge of honor to go on as if nothing were wrong. As in, “I came to work today; it’s only a cold.” Well you look like something the dog dragged in from the dumpster, thanks for wanting to share it with me. They sit next to you, coughing and blowing their noses, not noticing that you’re about to gag. Honestly, nothing you do here is so important that you can’t miss a day or two.

Then you have places like my store. Without sick time (and with low wages), the average employee really can’t afford to stay home. It works out well for the company – turnover is so high that there really isn’t anyone else to do the job. Besides, the odds are that you are making the customers sick, not the other employees. So it’s kind of a win-win for the company. The odds of the customer figuring out it was an employee making them sick, rather than the toddler coughing all over everything, are pretty low. Usually people write it off to “something going around”.  I always picture little viruses dressed like spies in the cartoons.

So you can probably tell that I have been sick, and am pretty grouchy about the whole thing. It started with a sore throat. You need to understand that I live in Michigan. There is ‘something in the air’ here, and that something makes it impossible to breathe clearly for approximately half the year (the other half is extremely cold so you more worried about your nose falling off than working correctly). I’m not sure what sinuses are supposed to do, but it must have something to do with carrying around extra gunk your body doesn’t need. I know people who have gotten off the plane saying they felt fine when they left home, but are now sick. Generally, they have a miraculous recovery once they get home.

I remember reading somewhere that the government sent out scouts after the Civil War to find places for the expanding population to inhabit. The report came back from Michigan that it was dismal and swampy; basically unfit for human habitation. I’m guessing they came in early spring when the weather changes constantly and everyone looks and feels groggy. I would have liked to remind them that Washington, DC is built on a swamp. And they are the same people who had granted us statehood thirty-some years earlier.

I’m telling you all of this not to slam Michigan. It’s beautiful, I love it, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. But to explain why I could have a sore throat for a week and not really think anything of it. So I go to church and see a friend. He laughs and says something about my sinuses. I tell him that for once it’s not in my head, it’s in my throat (is that technically part of the head?). It’s been getting worse, and I think it may be infected. I make it through the service. (I bet God knows I didn’t actually understand anything that was going on). My friend tells me to go home and see a doctor if it really is an infection. I am happy to report that my friends are generally people with some common sense, not the sort who hear sore throat and immediately think diphtheria.

Of course, I don’t see a doctor. I always feel like I should be sicker before I go. By Tuesday, I feel a lot better. I knew it! I wasn’t sick enough to see a doctor! Unfortunately, on Wednesday I didn’t feel quite so well. By Friday, I could barely talk and felt like someone was shoving an ice pick in my ear. I broke down and called the doctor. Turns out whatever was in my throat had decided to move into my ears. They were both infected. I had no idea adults even got ear infections (kinda stupid when I realized that I still get skinned knees and other things that adults should be ‘beyond’).

One of the things that causes problems with ear infections is drastic change in temperature (something about a change in pressure – I think I should have paid more attention in Physics). Working in and out of a cheese cooler is not optimal. So I took a day off. But it wasn’t because I had a cold.