Thursday, October 05, 2017

COLUMN: Catfight

It's normally my goal to try and bring a little levity to your Monday newspaper, but it's tough to be carefree and jovial in times of war.

I refer, of course, to the battle of wits that I'm currently waging against one of my cats.

As you may already know, I recently got some bad news about one of my feline houseguests. After eleven years of companionship and column fodder aplenty, poor Bez's kidneys are starting to give out. There's no magic fix for kidney failure in cats, but there ARE therapies that can slow the process while hopefully giving her continued time for her favorite hobby: testing my patience to its absolute breaking point.

Specifically, this therapy involves subcutaneous fluids to help take some of the load off her kidneys. This means sticking my cat with a IV needle three times a week and somehow getting her to hang out while 100 cc's of fluid drips under her skin.

In theory, it's an easy process. You just grab the cat by the scruff of her neck, make a little tent with the skin, poke the needle in, and just sit there for a few minutes while gravity does all the work. It's so harmless that my vet showed me how to do it using one of their office cats, who strolled in and sat amiably while a vet gave her a few cc's of fluid.

"See?" the vet tech told me. "They don't even feel it."

Clearly, they had never met MY cat.

Back home, I logged onto Youtube and watched countless instructional videos. In each one, happy cats sat around seemingly undisturbed in the slightest by the process. The most common advice was to distract your cat with food. As long as there are delicious nom-nom's, cats don't generally care who's doing what to the scruff of their necks.

Clearly, they had never met MY cat.

I was ready. IV bag in place? Check. Delicious cat treats at the ready? Check. As Bez began to chow down, I lightly grabbed her scruff, made a tent, gently put the needle in, and then watched in horror as my cat turned to me and squealed as if I were trying to kill her. Next thing I knew, claws were sunk in, needles were pulled out, and IV fluid was shooting around my living room willy-nilly. Not good.

Things haven't improved. I did not raise a dumb cat. Now all she has to do is SEE the IV bag and she runs for the hills. I'm doing everything right but she's just being a huge baby. I tried distracting her with food -- and now she's equated food with pain. When I set down dinner for her, now she circles it warily for minutes as if she expects someone to leap out and stab her in the neck the minute she takes a bite.

Happily, my vet's office will do the deed for me as often as needed -- but this creates a whole new set of problems. The minute I put her in a carrier, she howls like the world's ending. My vet's office is only nine blocks away from my house, but the other day she spent those nine blocks howling so loud that she blew out her little cat voice and spent the rest of the day hoarse, meowing at me like a chain-smoking cat reincarnation of Brenda Vaccaro.

Of course, to make me look even crazier, the minute we're inside the vet's office, she shuts up and acts like an angel. Doesn't even make a peep when they put the IV in.

"She's such a sweetheart," they told me the other day. "We can't imagine how she could give you trouble at home." And then the SECOND I take her outside of the office, she starts howling again like I'm the world's worst human.

And now she's catching on. After two times of waking up early to take her to the vet before work, she now hides in the mornings. Last week, I mixed it up and took her on my lunch hour -- and now she hides from me any time I come home mid-day. I was hoping as the sub-Q treatment carried on, eventually she'd get used to it. Instead, she's getting more stubborn. Work is sympathetic to a degree, but I can't exactly call in late because I'm playing hide-and-seek with a scaredy-cat.

Like I said, she's not dumb. When I come home from work at night, she knows the vet's office is closed. There's never any hiding at night. Instead, she comes running for skritches and spends most of the night contentedly purring on my lap. As I type this, I'm laying on my stomach while she's sprawled out on my back, checking out the laptop over my shoulder and probably learning how to read.

I suppose it's all worth it. Despite our ensuing battles, the therapy's working. She's back to her usual self and seems happy (except for the stabbier parts of her week.) I know friends whose cats have lived for years thanks to sub-Q fluids. At this rate, Bez might just outlive ME -- the stress of being continually outsmarted by a cat might just be MY early end. War is hell, friends.

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