I’m not a cat person. I mean, I can appreciate a cat for a few minutes at a time, but I would never want to own one, and only reluctantly would I ever agree to take primary care of one for five days.
So it was with reluctance that I agreed to take care of my friends’ cat, Panthro, for five days while they were abroad. He’s a two-year-old domestic long-hair tabby. My friends explained his diarrhea problem, his medicine, his food, his litter, his toys, his furniture scratching, his anti-scratching water pistol, and his grooming. I set up camp in their apartment and bid them bon voyage.
The first few days went really well. Panthro and I totally hit it off. I discovered that he would actually play fetch with one of his toys for HOURS, which was pretty cool. He would also hang out on the couch with me while I worked on my laptop. He was also pretty happy playing with my feet under the coffee table. I introduced him to the concept of an empty grocery bag, and I think we bonded over that.
I awoke on day four, however, to a bit of a problem. Several small tightly coiled piles of problem, in fact. I found Panthro hiding in the corner looking apologetic. After telling him that I thought we were Bros now and Bros don’t make Bros clean up their poop, I cleaned up the poop. While cleaning, I noticed Panthro getting into his litter box and raising his tail. I sat and watched him for several minutes. I wondered if this was normal.
I pulled out my day’s work and got started. Panthro didn’t hang out with me at first, but I eventually heard him meowing in the other room. I went to check on him, and he was curled up on the floor, looking up at me and meowing mournfully. I tried to pet him, but he hissed and spat at me. All the comics and sitcoms say that cats are temperamental and capricious, so I figured he was just having his period and I backed off. He continued wandering around the apartment very slowly and meowing plaintively. I wondered if this was normal.
I went back to work, watching Panthro out of the corner of my eye. A few minutes later, I saw him puke on the dining room floor. If Get Fuzzy has taught me anything, I thought, it’s that cats LOVE to puke for no reason. But then the little homunculus popped up on my other shoulder and shouted that Panthro was clearly trying to tell me something.
So I called up a veterinarian friend who lives out of state. The poor guy probably gets calls like this from friends all the time. He listened to Panthro’s symptoms and calmly told me I should get him to the emergency vet ASAP. I listened in shock as he explained his phone diagnosis and the proper procedure for getting a cat into a carrier without losing an eye.
Panthro didn’t like getting picked up, but he seemed to understand I was his Bro, and I was trying to help. A quick ride to the e-vet, and the diagnosis came in: blocked urinary tract, just as my friend had diagnosed over the phone. If I’d waited much longer, poor Panthro could have had serious long-term damage. He needed medication, a catheter, and two overnight stays at the clinic. He’s fine now.
So I guess there are some lessons to be learned from this. [ul]Don’t believe what cartoonists tell you about cats. Whatever the cat is doing, it is probably NOT normal. Don’t let your non-cat-person friend cat sit for you. But if you absolutely must, make sure he’s got a veterinarian friend on speed dial. Litter boxes are gross. Even when you clean them out every day. Okay, yes, in retrospect, it was extremely obvious that something was wrong and the critter needed help. But when you’re dealing with a completely unfamiliar species, these things don’t really jump out at you. I’m even a little proud that I jumped into action as soon as I did. The girls at the vet’s office certainly thought I was pretty great. But on the other hand, they were a bunch of future cat ladies and this was on Valentine’s day afternoon. [/ul]