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Don’t Kiss the Cat

Zoë and Sunshine, 1991
Zoë and Sunshine, 1991

There are two kinds of people: those who will kiss their cat on the cheek or their dog on the lips and those who won’t. I once had a vet who kissed her dogs on the lips. She’s lived to tell the tale.

Don’t kiss the cat

As most of you know, I recently made the decision to go off my ADHD medication. I’ve been hypervigilant in monitoring what changes occur in my decision-making, relationships, and ability to find my keys.

I’ve noticed some differences but I’m happy to say not enough to go back on medication. It hadn’t been working very well anyway.

Still, there was this one incident…

Let me provide some background. When I was a little girl, I walked through three fields on my way home from school, scooping up the field mice (I didn’t smack them on the head). I brought them home to mom.

My mom screamed about rabies when she saw the tiny piercings in my bloodied fingertips, but somehow I managed to escape rabies shots. I guess she wasn’t that worried.

In my early twenties (and still undiagnosed) I got home from work and kissed my cat, who ritually greeted me every day. My new neighbor and her seven-year-old daughter were sitting on the stoop of their next-door apartment. That’s when I overheard mom whispering to her child, “Don’t kiss the cat.”

Back to the present

Recently my friend Elaine was visiting. I pointed out the pile of fur, or feathers, I wasn’t sure what, on the white snow covering my backyard.

I have no idea what that is, I said. A groundhog?  Baby hawk?

Elaine approached it.

“It’s an owl. A little screech owl.” She nudged it gently with her winter-booted foot. I knelt down to see if I could find its eyes.

What should I do? I asked.

“Nature will take care of it.”

Before I knew it, I was touching its curved beak, its sharp talons. No, I did not kiss the screech owl.

“You shouldn’t touch that.”

There was no blood, no sign of injury. It seemed to be in perfect condition. I’d never been that close to an owl before.

It’s been out here for days and nobody’s touched it, I mused aloud. In the back of my mind, a thought was forming…

“If they don’t wanna touch it maybe it’s diseased. You shouldn’t be touching that.”

Oh my God, I thought. She’s right. Thus the murky thought was spoken, fully-formed, and frightening.

“Better go wash your hands.”

Unmedicated judgment?

All God’s creatures had shied away from that owl. All but the impulsive, curious, animal-loving ADHD human. I went into the house, opening the door with my clean hand.

Elaine! I called from the bathroom. Does hydrogen peroxide kill germs?


I grabbed the bottle, doused my hands in hydrogen peroxide, scrubbed vigorously, and prayed.

I spent that night imagining death-by-rabies or some rare, lethal interspecies disease that had caused that poor screech owl to meet its untimely demise. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d been unafraid of touching animals, dead or alive. I like to think my adult judgment would have been less impaired, and my impulsivity more in check, had I been medicated.

A week has passed.

So far, so good. Or maybe it’s the field mice that caused the ADHD in the first place. I guess I’ll never be sure.


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Don’t Kiss the Cat

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). Don’t Kiss the Cat. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Apr 2014
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