Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Journal of the Plague Year, 5

We all survived another round of lime-sulfur dips yesterday. Returning to the cat hospital in Brookline after a quick burrito lunch and some errands, we were hit by the stench of rotten eggs, only partially masked by the nauseatingly sweet, pie-scented candles they always burn at the reception desk, which are marketed to mask "pet odors." Why you'd want to mask pet odors with blueberry pie is beyond me; I think cleaning and airing the place out would do a better job. But even wet, stinky dog and bogus apple cobbler smell better together than lime-sulfur all by itself.

The cats were very happy to be home, and took long, restorative naps, stinking up the washable cover I put over the washable cover on our bed.

This Friday, we are going to take the cats for their first cultures before their trip to the dip. (We won't be seeing our regular vet, but this way, the cats have only one stressful car trip and our favorite vet doesn't risk getting felled by ringworm.)

Then we'll need to wait at least three weeks to see who's negative and who isn't. We'll do more cultures a week and two weeks after the first one. We should start getting the first results right after Christmas.

Which means we will still be in cleaning-and-treatment mode through the holidays. Which means the holiday decorating is going to be unusually sparse this year. I can't vacuum a Christmas tree. Plus, despite the fact that I've had both Christmas trees and cats for almost 30 years (yeah, ancient), I've been reading about the hazards of trees for cats and now I'm nervous about ever having one again.

Every year, in the second week of December, we bring in a huge, fresh tree, set it up in the Mother of All Tree Stands, and tie it to the window-frame with fishing line in case anyone decides to climb it. Then we wait for Snalbert and Snicky to eat needles and throw up. That always happens within the first hour we have the tree. It must be the feline traditional equivalent of kissing under the mistletoe. You don't necessarily want to do it, but you sort of have to.

Then it's just a matter of waiting to see how soon they get tired of eating needles and throwing up. Three or four days is typical. But recently I read that tree needles are very poisonous, as is the water in the tree stand. I knew that; we take precautions with the water. But dry or tough needles can puncture a cat's digestive organs. And then there are the light strings: they can strangle themselves, or swallow them, or electrocute themselves by chewing on them. If they break a glass ornament: lacerations, internal injuries, blah, blah, blah. Don't even think about tinsel. Some people can also get worked up about the hazards of ribbons and other decorations on wrapped presents. And, of course, we have two kittens who would certainly want to climb it and wrestle in its branches.

All in all, a Christmas tree is a deadly weapon. I should have just returned that tree last year and gotten a refund. All these years we've had magical trees and were unknowingly dancing with disaster.

But even this doesn't make me feel any better about not having a tree. No: I don't feel good about having a tree or not having a tree. I'm under stress, so I think I'm entitled to be ambivalent and childish about this. And even if I'm not entitled, that's just how it's going to be.

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