Nuclear Feline Irritable Bowel Syndrome
We were prepping for our adoption trip to China, and I needed last-minute rabies shots for Betsy (golden retriever) and Pippin (the tabby cat). I was nervous about letting my kids hold the cat because you never know when a cat is going to freak out, so I pushed him into our Schnauzer’s kennel, which was pretty much the worst thing that could happen to this particular cat.
The cat hated that Schnauzer. He hated him so much that when the Schnauzer would show up in the same room, the cat’s back would arch, and he would instantly go up on tiptoe, trying not to touch the same earth that dog had walked on.
So as I shoved the cat into the kennel and locked the door, he looked between the bars with a glare of betrayal. Then he pulled his sides in, trying to minimize fur contact with Schnauzer walls. His breathing slowed. He let me know that he would rather pass out from lack of oxygen than corrupt his lungs with microdog air.
A surly hatred settled in the cat's face. His eyes started to glow like the eye of Sauron. He felt a need to say some of the curse words he’d learned on late night television, but alas, he could not.
I was about ten miles down the road when the cat willed himself into the only protest he could manage, situational feline IBS. This is when a cat chooses to blow out both his ends at once. If you need more explanation here, imagine someone bursting two water balloons full of everything that’s normally kept inside of a cat for good reason.
All things work for the good of those who love the Lord, and so this particular moment was beneficial for me as a Christian poet. As a young mom, I had already learned to charge forth into yellow arcs of projectile infant poop. I had survived the golf-ball-sized milk clot that forms in a blue sippie cup when it's kept under the couch for six months. I had learned to catch vomited smashed peas in my bare hands and wipe breast milk urp out of my hair (checking for curds) while walking through the grocery. Once I even pulled an uneaten half (half, mind you) of one of those four-inch Texas "water bugs" out of a child’s mouth while calling 911. (“You shouldn’t let your child eat cockroaches,” the operator said. “Oh really? I had no idea. We eat filth-habitating insects ALL THE TIME in this house. I’m just calling emergency services because I’m lonely.”)
But cat squirts took my mom cred to a whole new level. Beyond this, they gave me an unexplored realm as a writer. This was my "Dulce et decorum est" moment. Being a person of great insight and resignation, I thanked the Good Lord for this opportunity...
No, that was a lie. I just lied to you. I did not thank the Good Lord. I retched and rolled down the windows. Then I remembered why our windows weren't already down, even though the air conditioning in the van was busted that summer. The 110 lb golden retriever whose singular goal in life was fun thought open windows equaled, “JUMP OUT.”
Mass of lurching dog. Kids screaming. Cat squirt tsunami rolling to the front of the kennel. Some dude in a Ford F150 trying to pass me on an Appalachian 2-lane while flipping me the bird.
And I was going to barf.
I could not barf. Moms don't barf in crisis.
I tried to keep this in perspective; after all, we were about to travel to China. Maybe this was some sort of basic survival training for life in a country where people eat duck faces and snakes on wooden skewers. And besides, there was that surgeon in Antarctica who performed his own appendectomy. I got this. I got this.
Calmly, I pulled over on the side of the road to remove the poo-covered, insulted kitty (his mind filled with the blackest of thoughts) from the Schnauzer kennel. Poo kitty instantly bolted for his life, scratched his way up my neck, and tried to heave himself out the (now closed) driver's side window. Cat poo paw smear marks down the glass. I shoved him back in the kennel.
The cat looks at me like I looked at my husband that time I asked him if I was fat and he answered, “Bec, you look healthy.” (Healthy?!)
I want you to know this, too, because it's important. I'd JUST cleaned the van out for our trip, meaning that mega stash of 4000 extra Chick-Fil-A napkins every mom keeps in her van was gone. The wipes were gone, too. (Never take the wipes out of a van, people.) All I had was a blue plastic Solo cup and three used Kleenex.
It's getting hotter. The dog looks at me and says (like golden retrievers do with their big brown eyes) “I hate to tell you this, but I'm boiling in this fur, so if you don't mind, I think I might toss my Purina."
I pulled over into another parking lot, grabbed the blue plastic cup, and started bailing out the kennel as if it were a sinking life boat.
At this point, I was reminded of several things. First, cats don't like leashes. Secondly, even if a golden retriever is about to barf, she still wants to get out of the van and meet all the nice people who are parked nearby. She is barking. Jumping. Her ten-foot tail is wagging through the liquid poo I am scooping.
I have an epiphany. All of a sudden, I realize why a blue solo cup isn’t the instrument of choice for most bio hazard cleanups.
In one last, desperate attempt to find napkins, I reach under a seat and find a tiny bottle of raspberry hand sanitizer. Fighting panic, I squirt this all over everything I can reach. “Kids, put this on!” I panted, as if it were a gas mask in a chemical attack. They looked at me with large eyes. Silent. Confused.
I cranked the car and drove another three roads. Four. Five. And what is that? A car wash! (Were those angels singing?) A car wash across the street from the vet.
Was it a manual? Please be manual! YES! It was. I pulled in with fifty cents in quarters and ten minutes before the appointment.
And here is where I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. If you remember nothing else from this story, please remember this one thing.
If you must ever use a high-powered water stream to blast cat diarrhea out of a plastic kennel, close your mouth first.
Always close your mouth first.
Today as I was perusing Facebook, this old story came back to me.
I stumbled into a political discussion that just about made me sick, it was so messed up. Facts were bad. Assumptions were worse. It was a 40-napkin cleanup job, at least.
Eager to check a mess off my list, I charged right on up to that baby, holding my breath and cranking my social media water pressure up to "high." I was going to fix it. I dropped a couple of quarters in the machine and just about pushed the trigger on my sprayer.
Then I paused. The best-laid plans of mice and men, and all that. The summer of nuclear feline IBS.
I might be slow, but I'm not stupid.
So I decided to go wash some dishes instead. And you know, it's easier to get dried oatmeal off a bowl than the taste of certain conversations off your tongue.