"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cat-Shit Crazy

After we moved up to the lake house, my wife decided to take on the primary responsibility for cat care. This was no cavalier decision; as you may recall, we've got five of the buggers living with us and each one gives us paws... er, pause to reconsider why we ever decided to become "crazy cat people" in the first place.

Anyway, I have suddenly been absolved of responsibility for a variety of tasks that took up a fair amount of my time each day -- supplying food and drink, combing through litter boxes, and most significantly the elbow grease required for puke-stain removal. I don't think any of our cats leave "deposits" more than the average cat does, but when you annualize those singular occurrences and multiply them times five, barely a week day hour went by that I wasn't huddled over a hardwood floor/carpet/couch/bedspread without a damp paper towel and bottles of Carbona and Febreze in hand(s).

When Carol told me she felt I'd been saddled with the responsibility long enough and she was going to take it on, I first thanked her and then asked if she was embracing this task out of a tremendous sense of guilt due to some deep, dark secret she was keeping from me. She paused and thought for a moment and then assured me that wasn't the case.

Of course, now that this was Carol's project, it was going to handled Carol's way. This meant:
  • Carol made her own litter boxes (out of large storage bins -- based on a recommendation she read on the internet).
  • We were now using a new, plant-based litter (commercially available, but can be cheaply substituted for by purchasing a markedly-similar brand of animal feed at a farm supply store -- based on a recommendation she read on the internet).
  • She was reconsidering whether the cats were eating the "right kind of food". When I pointed out that we'd managed to maintain the oldest members of our current brood in good health for the last 13 years and the eldest of our two original cats to age 20 on the same cuisine, she told me she would discuss diet with the veterinarian -- having read some recommendations on the internet.
  • Rather than taking our grand-cat Miles (he is our son's cat but we've had legal custody of him for the last 5 years), who is the one long-hair in our coven and requires the occasional "lion cut", to a professional groomer, she purchased an electric pet-hair clipper and decided to handle the trim herself.  She felt confident in her ability to do this after watching the vet buzz one quick swipe off Miles's butt and then followed it up by viewing a number of YouTube cat-clipping videos on the internet. She bought the clipper from Amazon.com, which I understand is also on the internet.
But please don't think I'm trying to sound ungrateful, or I'm second-guessing any of Carol's decisions. She felt if we were more vigilant in our grooming practices, the cats would ingest less hair and therefore produce less hairballs. That made sense. She felt if they were fed more easily-digested food, they would produce less waste product (both fore and aft). That also made sense. She felt if we took a more holistic approach to cat ownership, it would result in a happier household for all of us. That made no fucking sense at all.

To wit -- the feline-focused lifestyle was almost immediately put to the test when our cat Chloe developed a case of explosive diarrhea. I'm talking nuclear here; it was like a fire hose of liquid cat shit being sprayed on any previously dry and not-a-litter-box surface.
  • Now, a brief aside about this particular cat: Chloe was a stray who showed up at our door (along with her sister Sophie) 13 years ago. We coaxed the two of them inside, which took a few days, and once we did they were promptly transported to the vet for shots and spaying. Chloe, we quickly discovered, was a sociopath. Other than those occasions where we've had to chase her around the house to get her in a carrier for some reason, we have literally not put a hand on her -- because she won't let us. She gets along fine with the other cats, and is absolutely devoted to her sister, but she'll have nothing to do with human beings whatsoever. If you've ever been to visit us and have seen the cats, you've never laid eyes on this one. Sophie was also initially quite skittish and didn't like to be handled, but over the years she decided we posed no threat and became a very affectionate kitty who happily cuddles next to us on the couch or bed and enjoys being petted and brushed. Chloe, on the other hand, will be stretched out in front of an open door, laying in the warming sunshine, eyes closed and purring contentedly -- and then if one of us approaches her general vicinity, her eyes pop open and ZWING! she flies out of the room. My point here is that if any of the other cats had been afflicted with the runs, our affection for them would lead to grave concern and a relentless pursuit for a cure so they could be returned to their prior healthy and loving state. But Chloe -- not quite as much.
Chloe had apparently been suffering this malady for a few weeks, but we never saw which of the cats was leaving the trail of slurry behind them. Once we moved up to the lake, we finally caught Chloe mid-spray one evening (you know when you were a kid and your dad was watering the lawn, and you'd be inside behind a window and he'd spray the hose at you full-force and it made that pounding sound against the side of the house? That's what Chloe's affliction sounded like.) and promptly made an appointment to have her checked out.

The vet was a charming woman and quite thorough and obviously a "cat person". Chloe was hyperventilating through the entire exam but stayed still and didn't hiss or sink her teeth or claws into the vet (which she's done to both of us in the past. And by "the past", I mean in the fifteen minutes before leaving the house when we had to catch her to get her in the carrier.). The vet made some observations and recommended blood work and x-rays as long as we already had Chloe in the office. Sure, sure - it's only money, right? We wanted a conclusive diagnosis, regardless of treatment options. We left with a traumatized cat, a vial of antibiotics, and a bill for $300.

The vet called the next day with results of the tests -- of course, they were all IN-conclusive. It could be this, or that, or that, or that or that or possibly that... I think she laid out the diagnoses in order from least- to most-expensive to treat. At some point, the words "biopsy" and "exploratory surgery" were introduced into the conversation and Carol clearly stated, "We are NOT interested in anything invasive." They agreed on next steps and we were now ordering a probiotic dietary supplement (I think John Stamos endorses it) to help counter the effects of the antibiotic. And maybe we would consider a course of steroids. A few minutes later the vet called back to say, "Oh, and I don't think I mentioned before -- it could also be THIS..." which I believe would require the most costly course of treatment of all, combining surgery, chemo, prescription diet, aromatherapy and recovery time at a clinic in Baden-Baden. We reiterated our preference for starting with small steps.

Anyway, Chloe is several days into the moderate course of treatment and while she's still crapping up a storm, at least she's doing it within the confines of the storage bin cat boxes (each is big enough to hold the entire transcript of the O.J. Simpson trial). She seems a touch less jumpy around us; perhaps she now realizes just how much we care about her well-being and some of her icy reserve is beginning to melt. Or maybe she's just zonked from the pills. Through it all -- Carol has taken the lead in pill-administering, litter-cleaning, poop-pickup and carpet shampooing. The other day I wanted to express how much I admired her dedication during this crisis and so walked over to offer some affectionate words of encouragement and a loving caress. She saw me coming and ZWING! she flew out of the room.

I wonder if what Chloe has is contagious? I hope not, since we've already ruled out anything invasive.

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