A Matter of Some Irritation


It wasn’t the cat’s fault.

Well, it was … and it wasn’t.

Like everyone else, I’d been itching for the warmer weather to arrive, but now it had, I was still itching.  I peered ruefully at the rash of angry, red bumps on my arms and told myself it was just a heat-rash.  It would soon fade.

But it didn’t. The awful truth didn’t dawn on me until six-year-old James remarked offhandedly, “Tabby’s scratching a lot, isn’t she, Mummy?”

black, white, cat, scratching, his, ears

A hurried inspection revealed the worst. The cat was hastily treated and flea-freed, but I itched on.

“Don’t worry,” consoled my husband, leafing determinedly through a book called All You Ever Wanted to Know About Cats … But Were Afraid to Ask. “It says here that cat fleas don’t bite humans.”  I glared at him mutinously.

“Has it occurred to you,” I retorted (perfectly logically, I thought) “that fleas can’t read?”

Point taken.

A subsequent hands-and-knees reconnaissance of the floor proved beyond doubt that the invaders had bypassed poor Tabitha and – horror of horrors – started multiplying in the Axminster.  It happens.  So down to the Pet Shop I went, where I spent a small fortune on products with names like Karpet Kommando and Shake-n-Kill which had to be liberally sprinkled around the house.

How ironic, I mused, that I avoid buying produce with pesticides on it – yet here I am, flinging as much of the stuff as I can into my lounge.

Yet more ironic when it became rapidly obvious that the said stuff wasn’t working. It was very, very irritating for the whole family.  Worse, it was embarrassing.  A plague of fleas sounds so … so mediæval.

I made excuses not to invite friends over.  How could I admit the truth?  I couldn’t.  Until I bumped into Edie.

“You’re looking a bit blotchy!” she pronounced. “What’s up?”  And because I’ve known Edie forever and trust her wisdom and good judgment implicitly, out it all came.  Which was a Good Thing, because Edie Knew What to Do.

“Ring the Council straight away!” she advised. “We had a rat last year, and Environmental Health got rid of it immediately. Mind you,” she added darkly, lowering her voice a fraction, “the man arrived in a van marked ‘Ratmobile’ wearing a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and chanting Exterminate! Exterminate!

By this point I didn’t care as long as it repelled the invaders. And I’m pleased to say, it did.  Shortly afterwards, my hero pulled up outside the house in a plain white van, from which he emerged, like an undercover ghostbuster, carrying something resembling a fire extinguisher.  But it was a highly effective one.  It only took ten minutes of squirting the skirtings for the fleas to flee.  For good.

“You know,” he confided, spraying underneath the radiator, “I love this job. But it’s odd – I’ve kept dogs for 40 years, and none of them have ever had fleas.”

I can quite believe it, I thought; you’re probably so impregnated with insecticide by now that you knock ‘em dead at fifty paces.

“And please don’t feel ashamed about having them in your carpets,” he added kindly. “It’s the weather. When that’s right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it), the blighters start breeding in the grass.  Or they come indoors.  The larvae may even have been here since before you moved in.”

Phew; off the hook!  That’s all right, then.

And as he drove away (and I’m sure no neighbours twigged what was going on), I felt newly magnanimous towards our slandered feline. So it wasn’t poor little Tabby’s fault after all.

No; I’m blaming it on the Greenhouse Effect.

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