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I’m With Stupid – September 20, 2013

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallSeven years ago, when my wife was pregnant with our son, she came home one day and declared that her obstetrician had instructed her to stop scooping up the cat litter. She claimed there was a medical reason for this, but I always assumed it was just some deal women had worked out with their doctors to get out of doing an objectionable chore.

I base this on the fact that our son is now 6, which presumably should be long enough post-pregnancy for my wife to start cleaning the litter again. She hasn’t.

I know a lot of you probably think this is no big deal. How hard is it to scoop poops and clumps of pee, right? But that’s missing the bigger picture. You see, the cat came with my wife as part of her dowry (my share was two Pyrex bowls, a fork, a spoon and a can opener), and I, personally, can’t stand the thing and don’t understand why I should ever have to clean up after it.

Now, before you go thinking I’m some sort of animal hater, I suppose I should give you a little of the back story regarding cats and me because it might help explain how I’ve come to feel the way I do about them.

I’ve been around cats all my life, but I haven’t exactly had the best of luck with them. When I was really young, we had a cat named Digits (so named because she had six or seven claws on each paw), and she was terrifying. If she climbed on your bed in the middle of the night, you had to freeze in position until she left; otherwise you’d end up with all 24 to 28 claws sunk deep in your anatomy.

The next cat I owned, Winkles, was mentally retarded. And I’m not saying that out of some callous disregard for the feelings of people with Down syndrome. I’m serious: Winkles was retarded.

In college, my roommates and I had a cat named Slapshot who, for whatever reason, liked to poop and pee on my bed. I don’t think that requires too much more explanation.

But back to my wife’s cat, Blue: I grudgingly have to admit that he’s a very personable, friendly cat, but that doesn’t come close to making up for all the negative things he does.

In addition to clawing the couch to death, he’s managed to break off a chunk of our granite countertops and permanently stain our dining-room table with his urine. Oh, and he vomits and pees on basically everything in the house.

In fact, our carpets were so gross that when we ripped them out to replace them with floors, the floor guy told us they were about as bad as any carpets he’d ever seen.

The worst thing about Blue, though, is that despite being 17 years old, he’s in great health, meaning he’ll probably stick around another dozen years or so just to torment me. So what can I do about this unfortunate situation? I’m glad you asked.

It turns out that the reason pregnant women aren’t supposed to scoop cat litter is because of a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that can cause encephalitis in people with weakened immune systems. In most other people, T. gondii doesn’t do anything, but it has a very interesting effect on rats and mice. A new report theorizes that when the parasite gets into the rodents’ brains, it causes permanent changes in brain function that — get this — make mice and rats attracted to cats and cat urine.

You see what I’m driving at, don’t you?

I have no desire to be attracted to cat urine (although it would make living in my house a little easier), but I certainly could stand to be a little more attracted to the cat I’m forced to share living space with. Short of finally convincing my wife to drop him off at the animal shelter, that’s clearly the best option I’ve got.

So I’ll be spending the next few months trying to figure out a way to synthesize T. gondii into a potion that makes me not despise my wife’s cat quite so much. I have no idea if such a potion is even possible, but I don’t really have any other choices, do I?

In theory it should work, though. I mean, if a parasite can make mice overcome their innate fear of felines, surely it can allow me to put up with one for the next decade.

Todd Hartley likes your cat just fine since he’s not the one who has to deal with it.

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09 2013

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