Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Journal of the Plague Year, 4

We met with our vet today. Seeing her these days is exciting, liking meeting with an oracle; usually I call and relay my questions through an assistant and then get a call back from the same person, repeating our vet's wisdom. When we actually see her, I come prepared, strive to communicate clearly, and listen intently. We discussed when to culture the cats, and how often. Ideally, all four cats are supposed to have three negative cultures in a row, done at intervals of one to three weeks. But cultures are $92 each, not including the office visit. (I comparison shopped and got a price of $127 per culture at another vet.)

Our vet had previously suggested lowering expenses by keeping the cultures in-house instead of sending them to a lab. Today she said, "But we can't, because we don't have an incubator. The cultures have to be kept between 75 and 85 degrees in a water bath."

"So we'll buy you an incubator," I said. She was startled: "How much are they?" "I don't know," I said, "but a small one can't cost $1,200!" (Later I found out that we could get one for about $300.)

Instead, our vet suggested culturing only the two kittens, twice. She had discussed this with the other two vets in the practice, who agreed. The older cats have no lesions, have been on oral medication, and are gettiing dips. They should be negative.

You'd think we'd be jumping for joy at this news. My husband brightened considerably. But I was troubled. I've read too many horror stories, related in real time, by people who stopped treatment too early, only to have the ringworm come back — worse — weeks or months later. That means treating everyone with the whole regimen, back to Square One.

Our vet's reasoning was that the treatment protocol was designed for shelters with rampant ringworm infestations. We're not so overwhelmed with it. But we are still dealing with four cats who aren't isolated from each other and who share everything. And the two adults are Persians, who are said to be more susceptible to ringworm than the general cat population.

Half of my brain was hollering, "What's WRONG with you? Do you WANT your cats STINKING for extra weeks and MONTHS, into 2010? Are YOU INSANE?" The quiet, reasonable half was saying, "This is very nice. But dead wrong."

For one thing, I pointed out, the lime-sulfur dips are ideally supposed to be given twice a week, and double the strength we're doing. We're only doing them once because we can't bear — or afford — to do them twice weekly. Also, the older cats are on a much lower dose of oral medication than is recommended (the vet seemed a bit stunned that I knew this) but, I continued, after all, they're elderly, fragile, and have no lesions. The vet nodded, a tad relieved, I think. So I suggested that we culture all four cats once, to be sure the older cats are negative. Then we'll do just the kittens twice more, to be sure — assuming the cultures are all negative. Our pet insurance should pay for all of the kittens' cultures. But we can't be sure until we get a reimbursement; with all the fine print in the policy, anything is possible.

I was hoping we could do the cultures during the same Friday car trip as the lime-sulfur dips. But we want our vet to do them herself, and that's her day off. So we'll probably be shlepping everyone to her office next Thursday night. I also suggested that she come to our apartment so they wouldn't have to decontaminate the exam room and waiting area, but they never do housecalls, even if it's more convenient for them!

* * *

Big triumph today: Wendy let me pet her tail. She was curled up on a chair and didn't run away as I slowly approached. The next time I tried it, she ran. But I finally got to touch her without corraling her or making her cringe in fear, and that's a first, at least since she's been outside her nursery-crate.

I wonder if she realizes her tail belongs to her, and is not a separate animal that's always following her too closely.

Wendy's favorite toy is her "birdiemouse," a leopard-print mouse that had a long feathered tail; now it has a feather stump. She carries it everywhere, singing in her delightful voice. When she loses it, as she did today, I hunt everywhere. I thought I'd find it when I did my daily vacuuming, but even when I took a flashlight and peered under radiators and bookcases (previously filthy spots but recently cleaned), I couldn't find it. I felt bad because, if I don't turn up the full inventory of lost toys daily, I'm missing areas I'm supposed to be cleaning and we'll continue to have the Plague.

But about an hour ago, I heard singing, and found Wendy curled on the bed, with her birdiemouse in her mouth. I wonder where it was; she must have put it in a safe place. A few minutes later, I heard her singing more passionately, and saw Possum leap onto the sofa with her birdiemouse in his mouth. Thief! Typical brotherly behavior. I stole it from him, gave him his favorite mouse (recently under a bookcase), and gave Wendy her toy.

We have a new bedspread, as you can see. All the cats tested it today and found it sleep-worthy:

One of the most depressing aspects of Ringworm Plague is living with furniture covered in old bed sheets, especially the PeptoBismol-hued flannel one on the couch. I broke down and ordered some inexpensive Indian bedspreads online and found this one in a shop in Coolidge Corner. These will add hippie charm, or bohemian je-ne-sais-what, to our rooms, which has to be an improvement on bedsheet decor. They will also absorb the scent of the lime sulfur, which rubs off wherever the cats sit or sleep. (Washing never fully eliminates the smell.) If they fade from thrice-weekly washing in the next few months, so be it. I will probably never want to see them again when this is over.

Will it ever be over?

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