My precious little angel face is sick. No, not XFE. Our cat, Petunia.
(OK, so you’ve been warned: this post is all about me whining about my sick cat. I get that this is not for everyone. If this isn’t your cup of crazy-cat-lady tea, you can skip this. We’ll still be friends tomorrow.)
I know this makes me an incredibly bad cat parent, but I had not taken Petunia to a vet in about 10 years. I took her to the vet at six weeks old, after I had found her under a car meowing her little head off. They cleaned her up, gave her some shots, and sent me on my way. I took her back for her boosters a couple of times, and, of course, took her to get spayed. But that’s been pretty much it.
I always figured she’s a completely indoor cat, with no exposure to any other animals, no parasites, no weird plants. She eats a diet consisting solely of dried cat food – I never give her people food or wet food or milk or anything other than the same dry food I’ve been shoveling into her bowl twice a day for the last 10 years.
And, for the last 10 years, she’s been completely healthy. She’s playful and frisky, she always, ALWAYS uses her litter box (no matter how negligent I’ve been on the cleaning front. She literally has never gone to the bathroom anywhere else), and hardly ever even meows. Her teeth are clean and in good shape, and other than being a bit chubby (ok, a lot), she’s healthy.
But the other night, my co-cat-parent XFE saw her scooting her butt on the rug, which we’ve never seen her do. We both thought it was odd enough to look for other abnormalities and we realized that she’s been spending a lot of time in the cat box without much to show for it. She was basically jumping in there every 10 minutes, throwing litter around and then bolting out. We also noticed an increased amount of licking her privates, which, I mean, really, who can blame a girl, but it did seem excessive.
Always one to immediately set into a full-mode panic, I, of course, turned to the Internet and freaked myself out. I Yelped the various veterinary options near me and booked an appointment at a place near our house that also specializes in exotic animals. I figured if the guy is good enough to fix snakes, turtles and rabbits, he might be able to figure out our little exotic kitty.
It was, errr, interesting. Petunia is not generally the most cuddly cat when it comes to strangers. She’s been known to growl, hiss, and snarl at some of the nicest people. Or, even people of the male species that she’s lived with for six years.
So I was very surprised when, at first, the vet visit was going very well. I figured she must be pretty sick to let people other than me carry her around and poke at her, including feeling her belly. (They even weighed her, a subject that has been much debated in our house. XFE was convinced she’d tip the scales at over 18-22 pounds. Turns out she’s only 13.4 pounds. XFE claims vets are now using “vanity scales.”)
They took some blood and said her blood work came back fine: no organ problems whatsoever. Then they took an x-ray and said she was full of shit. No, literally. That she was blocked up with stool and they could not see her bladder, so she needed an enema. They suggested, quite wisely, that I leave and come back to get her in a couple of hours.
Well, there is certainly a line to be crossed with Ms. Petunia Potpie and apparently, that line is drawn when it comes to tubes of water shooting into exit only areas. I soon got a call from the very soft-spoken vet explaining to me that the side of Petunia I had earlier described had made itself evident and they could not get near her. Not to clean her (which she now needed), not to take a urine sample (which she also needed) and definitely not to put her back in her pet carrier. Could I please come and get her?
I felt sure I could. But I was so, so wrong. She was totally terrified and completely traumatized. She wouldn’t let me near her. She growled and hissed and swiped at me and backed herself into the corner of the cage. It totally broke my heart. After about five minutes of coaxing and backing away from Claws of Terror, it was abundantly clear that even I was not going to be able to get her out. Which meant the vet and two technicians had to suit up in heavy Medieval looking gloves and use the rabies leash to pull her out of the cage. Like a feral cat raised on the streets. XFE said it sounded like a war in there (I had to go out to the waiting room).
A much-relieved vet handed me our carrier, and gave us instructions: First, we had to take her home and get her calmed down. Then we’d need to give her a bath (something she’s never had and which I am not eager to do again). Let’s just say she does not share my fondness for a nice warm soak in the tub. Nor does she relish a hurried splash under the cold water of the bathroom sink, followed by a lightening quick scrub of a soapy washcloth and another dose of cold water in the sink (seriously, how long does it take for stupid water to warm up?? I know the answer to this: longer than it takes to give a distressed and fed up cat a makeshift gypsy bath.)
After the “bath,” she dove under our duvet, (on XFE’s side, of course) which compelled XFE to give up his rights to sleep in his own bed for the night and go sleep on the couch. I crawled in bed next to her (by this time it was 11 PM. We had started this ordeal at 2:30), but she was so angry at me, she promptly left and went downstairs, at which point XFE came to bed. I guess an enema is a deal breaker in our cat-human-caretaker relationship. Well, and then there was the whole bath thing, which didn’t help.
Oh, but we were far from done with the cat humiliation. We still had to complete the next step in our home care instructions: We needed to collect a urine sample. She’d only peed a few drops at the vet’s office, but there was blood in her urine, which could mean an infection or bladder stones. We’d need a sample to make a determination. And it needed to be a fresh; ie: non-contaminated sample. Too much time out in the open air and the sample would be compromised. So, we needed to collect this mystery sample from Pepe Le Angry right after it occurred, bottle it up and store it in the fridge until we could bring it to the office at 8 in the morning.
I cannot begin to describe to you the befuddled and incredulous looks we gave the vet when he told us we’d have to collect a cat urine sample. We looked from him to the wild, snarling she-beast in our carrier and both muttered under our collective breathes that we had clearly picked the wrong vet because this one was certifiably insane. I immediately began scanning the walls for his fake veterinarian’s degree.
The vet wasn’t completely throwing us to the angry cats, so to speak. He gave us two collecting options, both of which I ended up using: First, I had to take away her normal litter box and replace it with a clean box containing some black charcoal litter, which is extra absorbent. I decided to attempt this after she’d calmed down, so, we’re talking 4 AM.
The problem was it was just a teeny tiny bit of litter, not the normal Sahara-like landscape of clay I usually provide her with. And Petunia didn’t really like it very much, so she barely dribbled in it. Still, I dutifully scooped it into a provided container, working like a drug fiend hunched over some very precious drug commodity, dutifully scooping as much as I could and cursing when a black pebble (surely containing tons of urine!) fell on the floor.
Second, since I had taken away her other litter box and she was sick, she ended up peeing on the floor of a closet near where her litter box normally is. I was able to suction it up with a vet-provided syringe, deposit it into a vial and store it in the fridge until we could run it over in the morning.
Gentle reader: You should have seen the triumphant victory lap I did around the house upon collection of the mini-milliliters of cat pee. I ran around in my pajamas and socks, tiny vial clutched delicately between my fingers (so as not to warm it), exclaiming, “I got it! I got it!,” to an audience of one, very sheepish and embarrassed cat.
XFE delivered this holy grail to the vet this morning and we’re waiting to hear back. Hopefully, it’s a good enough sample (uncontaminated by floor and air) and we can figure out what’s wrong with her. It was all very traumatic and long night for both of us. I really hated tricking her into doing something that she would normally NEVER do, and would, in fact, be punished for if I ever saw it, ie: peeing on the floor.
But hold on: There’s yet another cat torture chapter at work here. Not only would I torture her through the entire evening and pre-dawn hours, but I would force even more disgusting spectacles upon her in the morning.
Part four of the cat trauma plan prescribed by the vet required us to give her medications. An antibiotic pill (in case it’s an infection) and a liquid steroid (to relieve pressure on her bladder and help her pee).
So this morning, after a little breakfast, I decided to sidle up to her, stroke her little face in a friendly fashion and then cram a syringe into her mouth and shoot some disgusting fluorescent pink liquid far too quickly down her throat. Any goodwill I may have garnered this morning was soon a distant memory as she gagged and hacked her wobbly way into the living room to collapse under the coffee table, far out of my evil reach.
I was again devastated. XFE took over on the antibiotic pill front, hiding it in a soft treat that she willingly ate. He also proved once again why he’s the best boyfriend in the world/winner at life in general by working from home today, keeping an eye on our cat and providing me with frequent updates so I only had to cry at work once today (some totally insensitive soul had the nerve to ask me how my cat was and listen kindly while I detailed the horror of the last 12 hours, ending with me in a puddle of tears in a professional setting. I’ll take my promotion to the C-Suite now, thanks).
To say I’m a bundle of worried, tired, frazzled nerves is a bit of an understatement.
Our man-on-the-scene XFE says she seems to be improving on some fronts (yeah, pee!) but not so much on others (where are you poo?). I’m trying to wait patiently for the vet to call so I can accept his congratulations on collecting such a wonderful and useful sample. Then I can fill him in on all the bodily goings-ons so we can speculate some more on what might actually be wrong with our Petunia.