This column is dedicated to my family’s loved and late cat, Mittens. Born with deformed front feet that resembled mittens, this cat was calm, cool and knew exactly who she was in relationship to our family and universe.
The English author, Oliver Herford (1863-1935), wrote, “A cat is a pigmy lion who loves mice, hates dogs and patronizes human beings.” (And though Benjamin Franklin defined a cat as an animal in gloves that catches no mice, Mittens successfully kept our house mouse free.) Bidpai, a 4th century author of Indian folk fables, wrote, “It has been the providence of nature to give this creature nine lives instead of one.”
In a musical that I wrote, “Paper Bird,” a cat sings a song which states, “Even a cat became somebody. She has been a friend to everybody, because she has nine lives. She can deal with all the races, because she doesn’t take anybodies jive.”
I love cats. I loved the musical “Cats.” I used to feed and give water to stray cats. I also prescribed cats as pets to lengthen the lives of patients of mine who lived alone. Cats are comforting and a great tranquilizer to troubled souls. Although they like to be petted, cats also reserve the luxury of petting you. Still, living with them can present some medical problems. I can recall one of my patients who lived with cats complaining of skin rashes and severe itching from fleabites. I would strongly suggest not letting cats lay on one’s bed or sit on padded furniture.
If you suspect fleas, give the animal a good bath and dusting with an anti-flea chemical outside of the home, or let it wear a flea collar. Make sure you vacuum rugs frequently. It has been reported that fleas hate the smell of vitamin B1 (thiamine). Taking an ample amount of this vitamin can ward off fleas and prevent bites. It has also been reported that putting a couple of brewer’s yeast tablets in cat food can help in preventing fleas on your pet.
If you have a playful cat or maybe a cat that doesn’t like to be bothered, you may become the victim of a cat bite. A cat’s mouth is full of bacteria, and a bite can lead to a serious infection resulting in an abscess and cellulites (skin infection). A course of oral penicillin is usually the answer for this type of infection, but remember, don’t take penicillin unless your doctor prescribes it.
I can recall a patient who came to my office complaining of a group of large nodes under her left armpit. Further patient history revealed that she had been scratched by her playful cat. She also related that soon after the scratch and swelling, she experienced chills, fever and muscular pains. A skin test for cat-scratch fever was positive. This condition is limited in nature and usually does not require an antibiotic.
Pregnant women should be warned to wash their hands thoroughly after handling the cat’s litter box. A parasite found in cat feces can cause the disease toxoplasmosis, which can cause a miscarriage or birth defects. Beware also of walking barefooted in areas where cat feces is abundant. Hookworm infestation may be the result.
So, my advice to all of you cat lovers: Be good to your cats but realize they must be cared for with caution.