Example: [Brunvand, 1999]
Some time later the doctor related this to a veterinarian associate, and the vet said, "You didn't really do that, did you? Why on a cat that drug has the opposite effect as on a human. That cat will be a clawing wreck!"
Later the doctor saw his patient again, and she told him, "I took your advice and gave my cat the pill, and on the plane he was out of control, about to jump out of his skin. It was all we could do to restrain him."
The doctor didn't know what to say — luckily — and the woman continued, "I can't thank you enough for that pill, doctor. I just can't imagine how the cat would have behaved without it."
Origins: The tale given above is a rather clever little story that expresses through humor the danger of medicating pets with medicines meant for people. It dates to at least the 1920s, as this anecdote from a 1926 issue of the
"Teddy is very lively anyhow, Doctor, and we wondered if you if you could not give us something to put him to sleep on the trip." The doctor obligingly guessed that he could and administered a small dose of morphine just before the train started. Then he forgot all about it. During the following winter, however, a neighbor sought the doctor with a stray cat she had found and the earnest request that the doctor put it out of its misery. The doctor administered morphine to this cat too, but to his surprise the cat had no sooner felt the morphine in its veins than it began shrieking and spitting at the doctor. It climbed up a window curtain and tore it, jumped upon the mantel, knocking over two vases, leaped out of the window and spent the next two hours scooting through the village.
Mystified and perturbed, the physician discussed the phenomenon with his associates, but there was no explanation until spring, when a junior assistant chanced to be reading up on drugs. He came to a passage which caused his eyes to bulge. Although the effect of morphine is thus and so, the medical book said, "when administered to members of the feline family it oddly has exactly the opposite effect."
"Ye gods," said the doctor. "And I gave it to Teddy."
When the two elderly ladies returned to Tyringham Valley this summer the doctor evaded them, but last week they finally cornered him, quaking, in the post office. "Oh, doctor!" they exclaimed. "We've been looking for you all summer. We can't thank you enough for giving Teddy that dose last year. Why, as it *was*," said they, "as it *was*, you never saw anything like it. He got excited as soon as the train started, broke out of the basket, rushed through the car for an hour like a mad thing, scared everybody and bit the conductor on the hand."
In this legend, a message about the same drug's producing different effects in different species is framed as a humorous tale about a cat who went through a rough time but survived. Through lore, an important message is made memorable.
Barbara "in the gatto" Mikkelson
Last updated: 2 August 2011
Brunvand, Jan Harold. Too Good to Be True. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04734-2 (p. 355). The New Yorker. "The Talk of the Town: Cat's Tale." 11 September 1926 (pp. 17-19).