Saturday, February 11, 2006

How do you apologize to a cat?

NOTE: I wrote the following several years ago. I wanted to share this little essay with you because I love my cats. I presently have six females who are all spayed. I have had cats in my life since I was five years old, both male and female, but after the following incident, I decided that I couldn't bear to have any more male cats in my life. Too much guilt.

A young, male cat lives at our house. He is the alpha cat, the leader of the pack, the king of his jungle. Because of his ferocious nature, the three spayed females are forced to live in the house. He has been known to beat the crap out of the females, even when they were doing nothing more than looking around outside, sniffing the air, and watching the birds. He likes to keep them trapped under the central air conditioning unit if they happen to be caught outside to demonstrate his dominance and to state that this is his territory. He still had his balls, thus his nature was to lord it over everyone else.

One day last week this male, a carouser by nature, limped home with bloody wounds to his right leg and left ear. He looked sad and puny, thin, dirty-looking, and really messed up. No doubt he had been out and about, doing what all young un-neutered males do, trying to find a date. For several days he stayed at home to recover, limping from one end of the deck to another, following the sun to absorb its warmth. On Wednesday, however, I found him lying on the back step with fresh blood dripping everywhere. Much as I hated to, I decided it was time for a visit to the vet.

Over the years, I calculate that I must have owned around 100 cats. We have had litter after litter of kittens and I have either given them away, they were eaten by the cruel cars out on the road, or they mysteriously disappeared. Eventually, I got tired of the mess and the expense, and I decided to get the females spayed and the males neutered. I had had enough of the heartache of losing all those cats and kittens. Our backyard is a graveyard for lost pets. For the past 10 years or so, we have managed to whittle ourselves down to these four cats, all "fixed" except for the male. They seem to be smarter than the rest because they have managed to outlive the others.

Anyway, to continue the tale of the mangled cat, we finally found the cat carrier out in the garage. As soon as he saw it, however, he knew he was going for a ride and promptly voiced his displeasure. Picking him up was scary, but we managed to back him into the cat carrier without getting scratched or bitten, all the while telling old "Tom" what was going to happen to him. This guy had probably never visited the vet but once or twice before in his lifetime, so in addition to being hurt, he was told he would have to ride in the car to go see someone strange who would probably hurt him. We hoped our soothing litany would calm him, but no sooner had we gotten settled in the car, we were now innundated by the pungent, pervasive aroma of male urine emanating from the cat carrier. So, in addition to having to endure his pitiful cries, we had to smell his nauseous stink while we drove out to the vet. All during the ride, we continued to assure him that he would be okay and that the vet would take good care of him. In fact, we told him, before you know it, you will be as good as new and home where you belonged.

We arrived at the vet's office where several others were already sitting in the waiting room with their dogs and cats. No doubt old "Tom" was now in serious shock. After a long wait, our turn finally came. We were ushered into the examining room and we managed to get the cat out of the carrier. Old "Tom" looked pathetic beyond belief, but certainly glad to be out of that stinking cat carrier. The lady vet, whom we had only seen once before, started to examine our guy. He was really scared but at her request, we agreed to leave him overnight so tests could be run. I decided that if he had leukemia, I wanted to put him down so he wouldn't suffer. If he proved negative, I wanted her to treat his wounds so we could bring him back home to recuperate. The promise was that he would then continue his lordly life in the manner to which he was accustomed. Lady vet said she would have to anesthetize him to provide wound care since she thought he was kind of a wild cat and I agreed. We had already experienced his displeasure in the past.

Later that evening, she called the house to say that the leukemia test was negative. I was happy about that, so I told her to go ahead and "fix him up." She told me that he would probably be ready to go home later in the afternoon the next day. Life seemed grand and we were happy.

Came the next afternoon, however, and the sky turned black for us. We were told that the cat was ready to go home and we headed out to the vet's for the pickup. After waiting for about 45 minutes in the waiting room, one of the "girls" told us that the cat was still recovering from his surgery and inadvertently let it slip that he had been neutered. What? we said. Did you say neutered? we chimed in unison. I never said to neuter the cat, I said. My blood pressure rose about 30 points but I was determined that I would handle this situation in a calm, grown-up manner. Pretty soon I see lady vet coming out of the examining room after finishing with another patient and the "girl" who let slip that our old "Tom" was now de-balled rapidly look lady vet back into another room to tell her the bad news. Lady vet then slithered back into the waiting room to explain to us that when I said "fix him up" the night before, she literally did just that. She thought I gave her "carte blanche" permission to do whatever and she took it literally. (I was told the next day by the man vet that "to fix" in veterinarian terms means to neuter.) At any rate, no apology to speak of was given, but we were stuck with a $215 vet bill, several medications, and explicit instructions on how to treat him once we got him home.

While still in shock, we loaded up into the car with the now de-balled mewling cat, and all we could think of was, how do you apologize to the cat for wreaking havoc on his physical body after we had promised him he would be okay? He was now a eunuch in his harem. He would spend the rest of his days getting fat and lazy, and would never again experience the thrill of female companionship. We coulda cried. Old "Tom" must spend the next week ensconced in the garage until he heals, and then he can be released back out into the wild sans his male ferocity and his hormonal drive for self-preservation. So instead of being a puss in boots, he will now be a wuss in his own back yard for the rest of his natural life.


At February 11, 2006 12:02 PM, Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Poor's so sad. And it's even sadder that you had to pay that vet bill. They should have just appologized and wrote it off as a loss. I hope you never took any of your pets back to them after that.

Our vet makes us sign a surgical consent form and on the consent form we have to write an explanation of what surgery the pet is going to have and for what reason. We can't just copy the name of the surgical procedure, but have to explain it in our own words. I guess what happened to your cat has happened to our vet in the past.

At February 11, 2006 12:44 PM, Blogger Motherkitty said...

Actually we were in shock after talking to the lady vet and I just paid the bill. The next morning, after a bit of recovery, I called and left a message for the male vet to call me back. I have dealt with this guy for over 25 years so he knows me. He finally called back and I read him the riot act. He asked what would make me happy, and I told him. The female vet left the practice within a short period of time to be replaced by another female vet who's more professional. I make it a point on all visits to this vet to explain exactly what I want done and I make her repeat it to me so I know we're on the same page. Even though this vet is a college graduate and has an advanced degree, she is young enough to be my daughter and I treat her accordingly, with respect but firmly.

One time I took one of my older cats to her and I explained that she's a biter and scratcher -- I offered to hold her -- but they insisted they could handle her. This vet now understands the meaning of vicious biter. She shoulda listened to me.

At February 11, 2006 9:57 PM, Blogger TUFFENUF said...

Nothing old Tom can do about his missing parts now. However, when cats are neutered late like that sometimes they still have a sex drive, so he might still have fun but with no kittens! I hope for his sake!

At February 11, 2006 10:33 PM, Blogger Motherkitty said...

Thanks, Sandy and Tuffy, for your kind comments. Poor old "Tom" is no longer with us. He has gone on to his reward, unfortunately, up in kitty heaven. And, it was all my fault. But, that's another story for another time.

Isn't it amazing what we do and feel for our pets? Almost like our real children, only they don't talk back to us or blame us for their failings.

At February 12, 2006 5:47 AM, Blogger cheesemeister said...

I've had lots of cats in my life. We currently have five. All of them, both male and female are fixed, except for Trinity, who came to us last July. She had been dumped by her previous owners because they thought she was pregnant. She was really just having a hormonal surge and her teats swelled so it looked like she was preparing to give milk. She is now an indoor cat and I haven't had her fixed yet because I haven't had the money. But since all my males are fixed it's no problem. The funny thing is that Raymond, the "alpha" male, will sometimes try to get frisky with her even though he is fixed! It's pretty hysterical.
Sorry to hear that old Tom had such a tough go of things though.

At February 12, 2006 6:34 AM, Blogger Alipurr said...

i think you should wait a long long time for that story

At February 13, 2006 10:01 AM, Blogger Neo said...

Kitty - Oh man! Poor kitty cat!

I saw a friend of mines cat get "Deballed," before. I felt so bad for that cat.

What a horror story.

Peace & Hugs,

- Neo

At February 16, 2006 2:36 PM, Blogger bornfool said...

I can tell you one thing. I'm going to be careful the next time I go to the Doctor. I sure don't want to accidentally tell the doc to "fix me up."


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