Monday, October 17, 2011

Trip to the Vet

Saturday was Possum's "Gotcha Day," the second anniversary of the day we adopted him. It also marks the day he transformed me from a normal cat person to a besotted nutcase who gets physical pangs when we're separated for a few hours and gets her kicks by comparing him favorably with movie stars.

We celebrated by taking Possum and Wendy to the vet for their annual Wellness Checkup. They didn't need shots, so it was just a meet-and-greet.

By the way, our vet says, "Javier Bardem — it's the nose."

Wendy and Possum don't like going to the vet.  Cornered in the bedroom, Wendy rolled into her traditional Ball of Wendy pose, so she was easy to hold and put into her carrier. Possum toyed with voluntarily going into his but changed his mind. He is almost too big for his carrier and complained quietly as I used force to squash him down so I could zip it.

At the vet, we discovered that Wendy is 13 pounds, "a big girl," according to the vet, who says she should lose a pound. Wendy was perfectly ladylike and still through all the poking and prodding our vet did. My husband was thrilled to be able to pet her at length while this went on, without her running away. Back in her carrier, she purred as he petted her through the opening, and he was very pleased.

Possum's size surprised the vet as she struggled to lift him onto her scale. "He's so long!" she exclaimed, and indeed, there was a great deal of Possum to compress onto that little platform.

"Stout has more to offer," says Possum.

He weighs 17.5 pounds. He is fat. I have given him yet another alias, "Lardo," which must be said in a deep Italian accent with a heavily rolled "rrrrr". The vet says he needs to lose a couple of pounds, and sympathized with us because it's next to impossible to monitor the food of young cats when you are constantly trying to put weight on ill, geriatric cats. She said, "You probably have to resign yourself to having heavy younger cats for a while, while the old ones are still around."

But I want Possum and Wendy to be healthy — without putting them on a radically restricted diet that will leave them hungry and food-obsessed all the time. (I've seen that, and I think it's cruel.) We're going to try to help them slowly reach normal weight over the course of 8 months or so.

It seems we're not seriously overfeeding them — each of the four cats theoretically gets 3 ounces of canned food a day (although they switch bowls and seldom finish the stuff), supplemented by dry food.  From now on, I'll be measuring just 1/3 of a cup of Wendy and Possum's low-calorie dry food, morning and evening, for them to share from one bowl. I will also try not to leave their dry food, or any canned food around for hours, although our older cats like and need to graze all day long. It's a tricky situation.

I'll also be cutting way back on their occasional treats. Possum doesn't need treats at all going forward. But Wendy loves turkey lunchmeat (no nitrates, from Applegate Farm) so passionately that we can't refuse her a little when it's in the house.

And I'll keep policing the bowls of dry food I leave out for Snicky and Snalbert a million times a day.

Speaking of Snicky, we often get good advice from our vet about the cats who are not visiting that day. We told her that Snicky had stopped eating after her Wednesday visit to the groomer. She'd just stare at the water dish and bowls. I broke down and made her her favorite toy, a twisted pipe-cleaner "victim," that she loves to carry to her dishes before eating. She also likes to eat the metal tips of pipe cleaners, so I'd stopped giving them to her. But, as I figured, she was hugely excited about the toy and stumped into the kitchen with it in her mouth. She dropped it in her bowl and ate two kibbles.

We told the vet we were concerned.

Snicky and her victim.

She likes to try to eat with her victim in her dish.

According to the vet, when cats are stressed and don't eat, they often feel nauseated, which puts them off her food even more. So she gave us syringes and cans of Science Diet A/D, and we've begun syringe-feeding her and giving her just a few days of steroid pills. My husband has a good technique. And it seems to be working; she now eats a little on her own.

I admire the way our vet tries to think and feel from the perspective of a cat. I find it's the smartest way to figure out what to do to help them feel better when they aren't well.

As she examined Possum, I noted that he was rather, um, odoriferous these days. She took a whiff. "Impacted anal glands," she said, and whisked him off behind closed doors to take care of it.  Ew. This is one aspect of cat nursing I've never done. Perhaps if he loses a couple of pounds, it won't happen again.

When she returned with him, he was looking rather indignant. She asked if we knew anyone who wanted kittens. She took us back into the kennel area and showed us a beautiful, young tabby mother and five tiny, adorably wobbly kittens: gray tiger, brown tiger, black-and-white (the male runt), and two torbies with white. Some kind fellow had taken in the mother as a stray, not realizing she was pregnant, and was in over his head, so the vets took over for him.

If you know anyone who needs kittens, please let me know.

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