We noticed Possum limping today. It wasn't the first time; I'd noticed him walking oddly a couple of times in recent months but as soon as I worked myself up into a state of alarm he'd stop. Then I'd see him trotting briskly, with his "lion paunch" belly flab swinging from side to side in jolly fashion.
Last night, I heard a nasty thud in the wee hours as I was wishing I was asleep. (I'm on my third rotten head cold since September and sleeping is hard work. Just lying down is hell.) Maybe the thud was Possum falling or making a bad landing after a jump. I examined him gently, feeling his legs and feet and comparing them for any differences. I didn't find anything and he didn't react. But then he stumped away, with a stiff gait reminiscent of Marshal Dillon on Gunsmoke.
Cats do their best to hide their pain so they don't appear weak and vulnerable. I know that, and you know me: I called the cat hospital. I described what I saw and that I'd seen it before. They told us to bring him in, that it might be a dislocated knee, which can pop in and out, causing intermittent limping.
He later told me that the puppy pad lining the carrier upset and embarrassed him.
I told him that it meant was for Lion, not him, and he cheered right up.
He spent the 20-minute drive complaining, but was either a gentleman or a martyr in the exam room, patiently letting the vet on duty bend and flex and pull at all of his legs until she detected some stiffness in a front leg and a back knee. She gave us a few days of anti-inflammatory liquid and told us to keep an eye on him and to bring him back for some tests if it continues.
He's still limping a bit but is otherwise his old self. Except that going to the vet made him an unwanted foreigner to the other cats. When we got home, I rubbed all five with a paper towel saturated with Feliway pheromones so no one would pick up on Possum's strange vet smell and hiss and swat at him. We usually have bad reactions whenever anyone goes to the vet. Harris and Wendy in particular freak out about the "new" cat in their midst. I made sure to rub them thoroughly, which annoyed the heck out of them. Even so, Harris decided he was in enemy territory and refused to eat his supper near Possum. Wendy decided she couldn't risk it, either, and then Lion defected. Possum and Toffee ate in the kitchen while the other three had their bowls delivered to the living room.
I haven't heard any more hissing and growling, so I hope we are one big furry family again. What would life be like if we humans stopped recognizing each other every time one of us left the premises? Imagine hissing and taking swipes at your beloved or your roommate every time he went out for groceries. You'd think that would get old quickly; you'd think you would learn. But cats do not learn. They don't even try to hide their hostility when an old friend returns from the vet. They'd rather look irrational and melodramatic, and downright dim. Harris and Wendy would, at least.
I don't really understand cats; I just love them. Especially Possum, who'd better stop limping. NOW.