I have just spent several minutes cleaning the screen of my computer because it was covered in cat snot. Timmy is always sneezing and as he lies on my desk while I’m working, both the computer screen and I are the unwitting (and dare I say it, unwilling) beneficiaries of the fall out from his nasal emissions. 

Timmy yawning!Some years ago, despite the cats having their annual booster injections to protect them against cat ‘flu, they all went down with it, and Garfield, Timmy and Charlie were the most badly affected – or infected. Coincidently, I went down with ‘flu as well, despite having my annual booster injection and I wondered if I had caught off them.

For several days there was a chorus of sneezes varying in their intensity, from dainty little squeaky ones (Ellie), to full throttle ‘don’t mess with me’ ones (me). I have never heard so many sneezes at one time in all my life and if I hadn’t been feeling so rough myself, I would have thought it all very funny.

Cats are quite delicate when they sneeze – they sneeze and then apologise as if it were a bodily function that they’re embarrassed about doing. As they don’t sneeze very often (unless they have allergies) it is something of an event. To hear 7 cats sneezing simultaneously plus one miserable human I doubt even the best conductors could orchestrate such synchronicity.

The range of sound achieved during a sneezing session was quite melodic and despite all of us feeling so unwell, we all appreciated the harmonious efforts we all put in. Occasionally, Timmy would offer a little cough which caught us all off guard because it wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t too long before sneezing AND coughing were part of the symphonies regularly being played throughout the day. 

I asked Kevin our vet if I could have caught cat ‘flu off the cats – seeing as Timmy spent most of time sneezing in my dinner and basically all over me – it was hard to think that I could escape from the droplets that hung in the air waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

Kevin reassured me that humans can’t catch cat ‘flu from cats – or any other kind of ‘flu  - it was just rotten bad luck and an amazing coincidence. Cat ‘flu isn’t a ‘zoonosis’, any more than hacking up a fur ball might be – and sometimes when I cough, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if I brought up the ubiquitous sausage shaped furball.

Zoonoses are diseases that are transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans. Diseases like rabies, anthrax and ringworm all originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans. (Zoo =[prefix. animal, animal kingdom], + Greek ‘nosos’ = disease)

I think ‘zoonoses’ is a lovely word and to my child like mind, it conjured up an image of all the animals in a zoo rubbing noses with each other. You can tell I don’t get out much! As rubbing noses is a greeting between the feline species, and they often rub noses with me, I could well imagine cat ‘flu jumping into the human race via me.

The fact that Timmy spends so much time sprawled across my desk, and I am relegated to the right bottom corner of it, typing at an angle because his head and front paws are usually resting on my left arm, I thought we probably would share illnesses.

The only regret I have is that when I am feeling unwell, and the cats are on cuddle duty, I just wish one of them would cook my dinner or bring me a drink. I struggle out of bed, heroically, leaving behind a posse of pussies fast asleep on the quilt. Opening the door of the fridge, I stare inside it optimistically to see if that lettuce skulking in the bottom left hand corner could be salvaged and made into something witty and appetising. Suddenly, all the cats appear as one, having heard the fridge door open, and seeing that as their cue, descend on the kitchen to wait for their bowls to be filled.

It means nothing to them that their beloved Lap is standing at death’s door (disguised as the fridge, on this occasion). All they can think of at that moment, is their collective stomachs need refilling.

Timmy is balancing now on my desk with his leg behind his ear, giving his nether regions a thorough wash to within an inch of its life. Two seconds later – he sneezes – and I am back to where I started … trying to write and peering at the screen in between the blobs.  I have just finished cleaning the screen and bless him he sneezes again. 

This could take a while ……

© Pauline Dewberry 2005


In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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