The laundry is my job. My husband has not touched it since the "red sock incident of 1996." Whenever I do the laundry, I have an audience. The cats find it necessary to actively observe my work, no matter how exhausted they are from doing nothing for 4-6 hour stretches all day.
Yawning and seeming mightily put-out, they appear on top of the dryer, gazing down at me as if to ask what my business is in their domain - it is, after all, where their food bowls reside and are magically filled twice a day. Perhaps they are hoping I forget the time and refill the bowls early. To this, I say: dream on, boys.
I don't really mind doing the laundry, but lately I have been neglecting it, due to illness, lack of time and pure laziness. It has reached epic proportions. I am recently further delayed because I have been waiting for the FAA to install blinking lights to the top of the tallest stack of dirty clothes, so that low-flying planes can negotiate safely around it. Unfortunately, the FAA claims my laundry pile is out of their jurisdiction and now is NASA's problem. NASA has informed me that since the pile is reaching the stratosphere, it would be more economically sound to arrange for the space shuttle to jettison the clothes pile into outer space and simply start over. It certainly negates the issue of looking for all those unmatched socks.
During my recent attempts to catch up with the laundry, I have realized that my cats have found yet another way to kill themselves. Not that they are suicidal, you understand. They simply are thrill-seekers, much like people who jump from bridges with a large rubber band tied to both ankles.
For example, I caught Wyatt recently balancing precariously on the tippy-top of the tallest heap of dirty laundry, and I had to rescue him from tumbling off at a dizzying height onto the floor. Ok, I was really plucking him off to save myself the trouble of re-forming the humongous pile of clothes, but it was annoying. Why was he up there, in the first place? Dare I ask - what was he thinking? Yeah, right. Thinking.
What next? Here's where we get to the death-wish. When they were inquisitive and impulsive kittens, I caught Virgil and Wyatt on several occasions trying to time a leap just right, attempting to land silently inside the dryer as I loaded in the wet clothes. This may sound amusing, but it is not. I am describing a real syndrome in veterinary medicine called, "Dryer Kitty."
The scenario goes like this: busy person, perhaps distracted by children or simply in a hurry, loads the heavy, wet clothes right on top of the curious kitty that has just jumped into the dryer to investigate. Nobody can hear the cat's cries, since it is buried under a pile of wet clothes, and the dryer is closed and started.
If the cat is discovered missing right away and removed from the dryer, he may turn out a little dizzy and overheated, but will recover. But you can imagine the trauma he will suffer if nobody finds him until the cycle is finished.
I had the displeasure of seeing a "dryer kitty" in my last year of veterinary school while I worked my stint in the emergency room. This poor cat had not only been whirled around in a hot dryer for a few minutes and suffered heat stroke and trauma from all the spinning and struggling in heavy, wet clothes, but he was poisoned afterward. Yes, he was unlucky enough to be given a dose of Tylenol by the well-meaning, yet ill-informed owners before they decided to rush him into the ER.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is extremely toxic to cats. It causes methemoglobinemia - the hemoglobin in the red blood cells gets all messed up and can't carry oxygen anymore. These cats turn purple (and not a pretty shade) and their heads swell to about twice the normal size while they struggle to breathe and eventually die. There is an antidote to Tylenol, but it must be administered quickly in order to save the animal, and it is not often something that is sitting on the shelf, even in veterinary offices.
Please, when your pet is injured and you want to help, don't open the medicine cabinet - call your veterinarian.
Now, we do have a front-loading washer in our home, but as yet, the cats have not attempted to jump into it. Not that I would put it past them, even at 9 years of age. Being trapped in the washer would be a really awful way to die, too, so I try to make it a habit to count both cats before I push the start buttons on either laundry device - just in case. Due to their extra-large adult sizes, they're thankfully hard to miss.
Although it may seem like a nice idea in our modern world, don't machine wash and dry your cat. Cat washing instructions should go something like this: Use warm water, hand wash gently with mild soap, rinse. Repeat only if you do not value your limbs and digits. Towel dry and stand back, or lay flat to dry in a sunny window. Never wring. For best results, dry clean only.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column prints every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.