Monday, September 29, 2014

A Visit to the Vet, Part 1

Possum and Wendy had their annual checkups the week before last. We brought Lion along to experience a road trip and to be weighed.

Lion was unhappy in the car. He cried loudly, peed a bit, and abraded his nose trying to escape through the mesh fabric of his carrier. With our vet, he was polite but nervous. He weighs 11 pounds, a healthy amount. Our vet admired his eyeliner and silky fur, and said he was striking and "almost Goth." She found a long, thin cut on his belly that was healing nicely... and I cringed in horror.  I'd cut off his very first mat a few days earlier and it was a doozy: huge, hard as a rock, and in a sensitive spot between his belly and thigh. I had no idea I'd cut him; he'd never reacted. "No cutting!" my vet lectured me. "Get clippers instead." We have clippers, but I've been terrified to use it. I may have to practice on my husband.

More surprises were in store with Wendy, who was so paralyzed with terror that she let me pet her continuously as she sat in her open carrier, waiting for the vet to pick her up. I had a great time; I can only pet her when she is curled up on a tall box under the bed, so I can never see her and pet her at the same time.

We learned that she is also a healthy weight but her teeth need cleaning; no extractions, we hope. I've never brushed my cats' teeth and I realize I've been remiss. It's time to aim for a higher plateau of cat care. Our vet went over her technique: She uses a tiny brush and cat toothpaste, aiming to get many strokes across the back upper teeth in particular. She told us that she's brushed her own teeth with cat toothpaste more than once, when she was not paying attention, and that it doesn't taste like chicken, as advertised. It also doesn't taste like toothpaste, she reported. It's sweet, gritty, and not minty-fresh at all.

Possum in a typically athletic pose.

Possum was last. He had gained back some of the weight he'd lost two years ago, and needs to drop about one pound again. He is a little over 15 pounds, much better than his all-time high of 17.5. Given how little exercise he gets — when he's not eating, all he does is move slowly from one lounging spot to another — it was not surprising.

The real shocker was inside his mouth. Our vet found two broken teeth that need to come out. He has  a disorder called "feline odontoclastic resorption lesions." Apparently it's very common but I'd never heard of it... and it sounded scary. You can read about it here. It seems it is probably not caused by lack of brushing but tartar can be a trigger. Some vets think it is an autoimmune disease since it is often found in cats who have had calicivirus or other viruses. Possum had calicivirus as a kitten. Some vets think it may be caused by excess Vitamin D in cat food. At any rate, cats have had it for many hundreds of years.

And now Possum has it. He may have been in pain for months, from exposed nerves, without telling us. Or not. His dental problem doesn't seem to have affected his enthusiasm for meals.

Possum and I needed to have a serious talk.

"So Possum," I said, "Why didn't you tell me you had broken teeth? I would have done everything possible to help you. Weren't you in pain?"

Possum appeared bored. "Whatever," he said. "You know about it now. And I suppose I'll put up with anything you plan to do to me. But I hope you won't bring this up again. You know very well that cats don't complain when they have health troubles. We work very hard to be Spartan and Stoic. We aren't known for being whining sissies. So I'm certainly not about to betray my kind. Not even with you."

"But Possum," I said. "Why put up with pointless suffering? I know you feel it gives you solidarity with your species, but it will never make sense to me. I could help you. And I feel just awful that you may have been suffering for months with painful teeth and I didn't know. Is that why you are always lying around napping? I thought you were just being lazy."

Possum assured me that he is not lazy. He is always thinking complicated and interesting thoughts as he lies around with his eyes closed. He apologized for worrying me but but said our talk was over.

I will post more tomorrow about our adventures in toothbrushing. In the meantime, please send positive thoughts to Possum, who has no idea what he will be going through tomorrow. He will need about a week to recover, and antibiotics and pain medication. I'm not sure how well he'll be able to eat; the vet won't know how much more work she needs to do until he's sedated. I will be a wreck tomorrow; we've never left at the vet by himself before and I feel so sorry for him. He'll be there for about 12 hours. I must think up some ways to make this up to him....

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