Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Traumatizing the Cat

I've had Zsa Zsa for six years and I've never taken her to the vet. I know several people who never take their cats for regular check-ups, and since Zsa Zsa is as healthy as a pony I figured there was no point.

But guilt finally won out. Also I bought her one of those cat water fountains, which is sort of like buying a Thunderbird fountain for an alcoholic. She's always been OBSESSED with running water, and now she can drink it whenever she wants...and as a result her litter box is a wet swampy mess.

Golly! Maybe she's diabetic? Maybe she caught it from me that time I smooched her?

So I made an appointment at the vet's, dusted off her old cat carrier, and dragged poor Zsa Zsa into a strange environment. She meowed pitifully in the cab when I got out to get her adoption papers. She sat with her face pressed against the grille, gazing at me, in the back seat. Then, at the vet's office, she had a staring contest with a dog (and won), she hissed and growled when the vet examined her butt, and finally she looked resigned and proud as they wrapped her in a blanket and took her away to do a biopsy of That Thing On Her Head.

First things first: she's probably not diabetic. Rather than subject her to blood work they gave me a packet of litterbox crystals that supposedly change colour when she pees on them.

Next, That Thing On Her Head. It's a lump that suddenly grew during her first year with me but hasn't changed since. Turns out it's a mastocytoma (warning, sad and gross), which in a dog is critical...but cats get them frequently and they are almost always benign.

Finally, her "happy-twitching." When she's very very relaxed and I'm petting her, her face starts to spasm slightly; her lips twich suddenly, her mouth wiggles a bit, her eyes clench spastically. It never seems to bother her but looks like some kind of seizure. I mentioned it to the vet because I noticed she was doing it in the clinic, which means it happens when she's both happy AND stressed. I'd be stressed too if the vet thought MY name was pronounced "Saw-see."

The vet was very happy to expound on twitching cats. She's heard this from a few other cat owners and she feels it's a "cluster seizure," but since nobody has the time, motivation, or money to stick cats in MRI scans to see how they act when they're happy...well, maybe we'll never know what it's all about.

A non-deductable $70 later, I now have peace of mind and Zsa Zsa -- on my lap as I write this -- doesn't appear permanently damaged. Of course I still have to do the urine test...but I'll leave that for another day. Jeez, I think I found the whole experience more stressful than she did.


Anonymous said...

Poor kitty. Glad to hear she's checked out okay.

We just took our little monster in - she's lost some weight but she always seems ravenous. Her bloodwork checked out just fine, thankfully, so it's down to bringing in a 'sample'. Which would be okay except we've got four other cats sharing the same litter. Nnngh.

Adam Thornton said...

Aw jeez, do you actually have to learn how to recognize each cat's poop? I'm sure there are differences -- maybe even to the naked eye -- but who wants to deal with that?

I guess the only solution is to keep it scrupulously clean -- several times a day -- and follow her around without trying to look suspicious or pervy. I hope it turns out okay...

Anonymous said...

At least it's easier than getting a urine sample.

Well, sometimes urine samples can be easy. Once we had to get one from Mister Whiskers, the poor scruffy old fellow we took on as a palliative care case. He was shaky, deaf and half-blind, and tottered about spooking the hell out of the other cats.

So one day we were all sitting down to dinner when Mister Whiskers padded stiffly to the litter box, put his front paws in, and started happily peeing all over the floor. Instantly, M leapt up with a sample bottle and stuck it under him while the rest of us looked on, stunned.

Sadly, we couldn't actually bring the bottle in soon enough for them to analyze while it was still fresh.

Adam Thornton said...

Sounds like Mr. Whiskers got his wires crossed!

It's interesting to see how cats respond to stimuli. Usually their responses make them look like geniuses, but sometimes you get a close look "under the hood."

For instance, I keep Zsa Zsa's can of "Pounce" treats in a certain cupboard under the kitchen counter. I've tried for seven years to train her to knock the can over when she wants treats, but either she's obstinant or this just isn't a trick cats are wired for.

She will open the cupboard door and meow, which brings me running to see if finally -- this time -- she'll do it. Instead of knocking over the can of treats, however, she darts in and out of the cupboard, staring at me.

Usually she gets a bit closer to the goal: she'll gently tap the treat can with her paw. But she'll only move it an inch. She has NEVER understood that just TAPPING the can isn't enough, she needs to KNOCK IT OFF THE SHELF. If the can is close enough to the edge, her minimal tapping technique works; but usually she thinks that just TAPPING is enough. Then she darts in and out of the cupboard again, as though she were a really good girl who figured it out (or swallowed her pride).

I might be undermining all of this training. Eventually I get so exasperated that I just give her the treats. So she's probably learned that if she runs around in the cupboard enough, I'll feed her out of sheer frustration.

Anonymous said...

I taught Tarquin to pull open (unlatched) doors in case he ever got stuck in a room, and all the others learned from him.

Somehow knocking things off shelves doesn't strike me as a good thing to teach a cat. :D

Anonymous said...

put the cat treats on satan's lazy susan

Adam Thornton said...

She's got enough sense not to go into that thing!