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July 23, 2004: Herding cats

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A week or two ago we got the postcard in the mail saying it was time for the cats to get their annual check-up, and when I called to schedule, it did not even occur to me that ‘next Wednesday’ would be our anniversary. All I wanted to do was to make sure we could work in an appointment. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to have access to a vet who makes house calls – so I try to be as accommodating as possible to her schedule.

I headed home from work a little early on Wednesday afternoon in order to have time to corral Zucchini in the upstairs bathroom, (since he’s impossible to catch when it’s only me around, and it would have been nightmarish to try to do it when other people were present) and then the vet came over. It was one of the hotter days of the year, so the air conditioning hadn’t kicked in as much as I had hoped by the time the vet and her assistant arrived. Combine a fairly warm house with three sweaty people and seven cats who shed several times their weight in hair when stressed, and an oh-so-pleasant (and oh-so-fuzzy) time was had by all. Or not. But we did manage to get enough blood from Rebecca to run some tests (to check the status of her kidneys), and everyone had their teeth checked and their weights recorded and got their vaccinations, so at least the basics were taken care of. We did try to get some blood from Allegra but she reverted to her feral side – the side she used to display when she went out for adoption lo those many years ago when she was just a foster kitten – and between the hissing, the spitting, and all five pointy ends doing their best to rip any available skin from any available human, we decided that perhaps drawing blood just wasn’t going to happen at that particular moment.

The reason for the blood draw attempt was that she’s lost weight since last year. And so, by the way, has Rebecca – not since last year, of course, since she’s gone through extremely expensive treatment since then for her hyperthyroid, but she’s lost weight since the last time she was in to the vet to be checked. And I realized that while this special diet she is on may buy us an extra few months for her kidney disease, it is not going to be worth it if she (and the other cats) is losing weight because they don’t get enough to eat. The vet and I talked about the efficacy of the prescription diets and ultimately decided that Rebecca will do fine on the food all the other cats are eating. It may mean we may lose a little time with her, but with the cats I have always tried to subscribe to the philosophy that what is important is their quality of life, not how long I might want them to be around. Making her stressed and unhappy is not good for her, even if it might seem like it’s good for me. And they are all much happier (and healthier) when we free-feed. I accept that eventually this kidney disease will kill my little grouchy tortie cat, since they cannot cure it, only treat the symptoms. But I also know it is a slow disease, and I'd much rather she be happy and not losing weight in the meantime. Plus, Rebecca is demanding enough that we already turn on water faucets for her every time we turn around, so she’s certainly getting the extra water the vet says she needs for her slowly failing kidneys, and hopefully postponing, on her own, the inevitable time when we will have to start giving her fluids through an IV.

So once the vet left, the food bowls came out, and they are staying out. Ah, the blissful moments when I awoke the past few mornings and was not immediately accosted by cats demanding to be fed Right Now. We’ll see how things go, and keep an eye on Allegra to see if she gains back some of that weight, but for now I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about the situation and am crossing my fingers that it all works out.

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