Thursday, February 24, 2011

I have a cat

The sentence "I have a cat" (or another frequently repeated cat phrase; there are three of four of them) serves three purposes for me:

1. It's a filler, much like your "um" or "uh."

2. It's comforting when I'm anxious.

3. It's almost like a verbal tic.

I can't remember now what brought it to my attention, but I realized in the last week or so how much I talk about cats. I mean... by any standard, it's a lot. "I have a cat" pops in mid conversation (as does, "My cat is pretty, right?" or frequently in my head or to the cat herself, "Don't worry, Elsie. You're a better cat than any of them," which is from a Disney thing.) Sometimes it's just chatter about cats, my cat, your cat... any cat.

Mom and Leigh both report, er, frustration and fatigue regarding the cats, and I'm guessing that other people feel the same way and haven't told me. When the therapist asked the group "if she really does it that much," they all responded with an emphatic yes. They are right.

My therapist suggested that I use a technique that is used for people who are extremely shy. She said I can write a list of other things I like and refer to it frequently in order to find other topics to discuss. I'm working on this. It's hard.

I want to talk about cats. It's fun and enjoyable and it makes me happy. Yes, it's compulsive... but I like it.

I must admit some annoyance at those who do not want me to talk about the cats. I don't particularly care about some things others talk about, but I do my best to listen, you know?

But, the world can't cater to autism, so autism must cater to the world. And so I shall try.


  1. I had to respond to this, Lydia, because I know it may be hard for you to understand why some people don't want to talk about cats. I am severely allergic to cats. This would not be a problem if it meant I just have to avoid touching any cat. But it is actually a protein in their saliva that I'm allergic to. They groom themselves and then their saliva is on their fur, and it goes on everything they rub (and it's invisible). It accumulates so that in some places I will have a reaction after sitting in a chair that a person with a cat has sat in (this is only true of upholstered chairs, so I always choose un-upholstered chairs in restaurants or coffee shops or libraries whenever possible. But I had to stop taking books out of the library. It turns out that my favorite kind of book, mysteries called tea cozies, are also favoured by ladies with cats. If I have two exposures close together, my reaction is much worse. In my family, five of the seven of us are allergic to cats even though we have never owned one. Having an allergic reaction to a cat feels like drowning kind of, your sinuses get flooded with histamine and it constricts your lungs too. So if I met you and you began talking fondly about cats I would very likely consider it a warning that your things might have dander on them. It sounds very dire I suppose, but it can actually be kind of humorous. Once when I was due to read at church, in the vestibule a minute or so before the service was due to start, a friend was showing me a scarf she had just made and she urged me to feel how soft it was, and I did (and she has a cat who apparently sidles up to her while she's knitting). I know this last because just as the procession was due to begin it became apparent to me that I was having a reaction to cat (unlike other allergies, it always starts with the feeling that you have sand in your eyes--at which point you better wash your hands fast). The procession was about to start and the only water close was in the holy water font. I knew I would not be able to perform the readings if I didn't get the dander off my hands. (I would need a half a box of kleenex to blow my nose, and that would be before the reaction got really advanced.) So, alone in the vestibule, I immersed both my hands in the holy water font and rubbed them together. I had not touched my face (the reaction becomes unstoppable if the dander makes contact with any mucus membranes--eyes, nose or mouth), so that was enough to make the reaction recede, but I wouldn't want anyone to have seen me using the font for that. This allergy is very common, although I'm not sure what percentage of the population is allergic to cats. But if you talk to a respirologist, he will tell you that cats are like public health enemy number one to people with asthma. I just realized I have spent this whole post talking about cats, but if we were to meet and talk about cats, I have to warn you it would be all pretty much horror stories.

  2. I mentioned to someone else earlier that I try, when I can remember, to ask people questions about what they are talking about or about themselves. Sometimes that will trigger something I can contribute to the conversation, or else they will just be appreciative that I am listening to them.

    I thought of a funny thing my husband and I started doing with our first cat and continue with the two we have now. When one of us complains about something the other person has done or not done that we are annoyed about, usually something fairly minor, we will blame the cat.

    For example, say I forget to refill the humidifier and my husband walks in the door and shocks himself when he touches something. I might say, "That darn cat. I keep telling him he has to check the humidifier every day, but he just keeps forgetting!"

    It is a nice way to ease tension over something that isn't really a big deal. :)

  3. eaucoin: Unfortunately, the only thing I can come up with is that I would be really, really sad if I had that allergy, and it must be a horrible allergy to have. I can't get my mind around the idea that maybe you don't like cats. I'm trying, but I can't.

    aspergirl, I am putting forth great effort to ask people about themselves. Last night I went through what I wanted to talk to my friend about, and then asked, "What do you want to tell me about now?" She kind of laughed and said that that's not the usual way to ask someone about themselves. At least she got my point. All that matters.

  4. Don't worry, Lydia, Jesus finds other ways to comfort me. I like that He manages to show His love in so many different ways. In your love of cats you are showing your admiration for His creation. Maybe what you need to think about when you are meeting new people is "I wonder what they love as much as I love my cat?" Because talking about who or what we love makes us happy, as you so well know.

  5. We are two dogs and a cat who have our own blog. Our Mama has Asperger Syndrome and she talks about us a lot too! She is very shy but if she meets someone who talks about their own pets, or asks about hers, she'll talk forever! Pets are awesome, and that is why your cat is probably your favorite subject. You'll probably be able to find certain people who would love to hear about your cat all the time! :D

  6. Have you seen the new show on Animal Planet called "Must Love Cats?" There's a show coming up prtraying a place called Caboodle Ranch. If you google Caboodle Ranch you can find it easily and there are videoes on there webpage. It's like a kitty town outside and there's cats EVERYWHERE!!!! I thought you might like it when I saw that show.

  7. The world wont cater to your love of cat discussion, but I am absolutley 100% sure that the internet will. =^..^=