I admit it hasn’t been the best of weeks. My cat’s still gone, I have a cold, I’m in the middle of a plumbing nightmare that involves 4 trucks, 10 fans, punched out drywall and 5 guys named Joe looking solemnly at my wet walls saying, “This isn’t good.” So you will forgive me for not being my usual cheery self when I tell you about the cat rodeo this weekend.
I arrive at work, itchy nose, empty wallet, crabby mood, only to be greeted by not one, not two, but four hissing cats who are just as unhappy to be there as I am. And these were not your garden variety angry cats- they were of the Tasmanian Devil caliber, the kind who can work themselves up into whirling dervishes of spittle and claws in as long as it takes to say, “Hi Precious!”
To make it better, all but one were obese. This poses additional challenges: one, they have no scruff to hold onto. Next time you go to the aquarium look at the seals and imagine trying to hold one firmly by the neck. Two, obesity makes my favorite method of restraint- the chemical type- riskier. I asked what they were there for, and all but one were there for checkups. No health concerns, but since it’s been six months since they have terrorized our doorstep the owners would like to have us once more play Russian Roulette with our limbs and oh, can you clip their nails too?
I look in the first cage. The cat glares back from beneath a heavy brow. I hear a deep, low growl, very low, then realize it’s coming from the cage below, where a paw is extended through and swiping in an attempt to draw first blood. In an ideal world, one should always evaluate your patients for health status before giving them sedation; but in some cases, it is, to put it mildly, completely impossible. Especially with cats- the more angry you make them, the more wild they get; once they cross a certain point you stand a better chance of shoving a Volkswagen through a window than you do of getting a safe hold of him or her.
I call the owner, who incidentally is an extremely fit athlete-type who inexplicably does not agree that 19 pounds is a dangerous weight for a cat. I offer him a choice:
“Fluffy is a little upset right now,” I say in the understatement of the century. “We can send you home with some oral sedatives and try again another day- no rush, since you have no health concerns. Or we can do x,y, and z and knock her out with heavy sedation in order to get her exam and nail trims done. I think that’s a little overkill myself, and remember that this does carry an increased risk of complications up to and including cardiac arrest and death, but it’s up to you.” Guess which one he chose.
I tell my tech to get the cat out. She refuses. I tell her to man up. She tells me to do it myself. The cat watches with bemused glee. We end up taking out a heavy blanket, one of those thick twiney types you get in Mexico, and toss it over the cat, who starts to howl in protest. While my tech holds down what we hope is the head, we inject the butt-ish area with some tranquilizers, then leave the cat to rest.
A few minutes later, my tech reaches in to remove a more compliant, comatose Fluffy. Fluffy feigns comatose pretty well. Halfway out of the cage, her eyes snap open, she clamps onto my tech and lets out a Braveheart-esque cry for freedom, then makes a run for it. While three staff members wrestle furiously to get Fluffy back in her blanket igloo with fur and yelling and bobbing and weaving, I calmly ponder my alternative career choices from the relative safety of the other side of the table. No one is amused. Fluffy eventually succumbs to the herculean efforts of my talented RVT who manages to get additional drugs directly into a vein; we get our exam done (other than the fat, nothing’s wrong); clip her nails, and leave her to sulk.
Because Fluffy is so large, all the drugs from the first injection are slowly absorbed over several hours from the fat repositories; this means that although it took huge doses to get her out, once she is out she remains there for quite some time. And because fat sedated cats can often have underlying cardiovascular disease- or other diseases- I make someone sit with them the whole time and monitor their oxygenation and pulse and all that fun stuff. The only thing worse than sedating an angry cat with no health concerns is sedating a cat with what you thought were no health concerns, but actually had heart disease, which you find out about because the cat is suddenly dead. That happened to me once. It is not fun.
Doing this once in a day is draining. Doing it four times is, well, really draining. Really really draining. Really really really really draining (one per cat.) Stick a fork in me. Or a claw, as it were.
I may not have the most popular view on this, but I’m not a big fan of cats being left in a clinic (or a boarding facility) without a really good reason- especially if you have one prone to bouts of panic induced hysteria. When they are already stressed by being ill, being in a clinic with barking dogs, loud cages, and chatty strangers is not going to help the situation. Stress hormones wreak havoc on normal biologic parameters, and it’s near impossible to get a normal heart rate, temperature, or glucose level. Unlike dogs, cats are not particularly social beings, and few things are more horrifying to them than being in a vet clinic. I think it’s wonderful (truly!) that people are invested in their pet’s well being and want to have them regularly seen, but I’m not sure how much good I am doing by knocking them out twice a year just to do a quick exam. There are other options.
Once you add up the costs, it’s no less expensive than having a home visit veterinarian come out to do your basic preventive care stuff. There are also a growing number of feline-only practices out there who cater to that segment of the population and are much better at making it a more serene experience than a typical dog and cat clinic. But if you really don’t want to go that route, OK, I’ll work with you. Especially if you are a plumber looking to make a trade. :/