Thursday, January 20, 2011

Caturday in Vetville

This past Saturday marked the first trip to the vet in about a year for any of the youngstercats here. Coraline and Shadow went in for their vaccine boosters (rabies, etc.) and a general physical exam; Brodie will have his turn this upcoming Saturday (the "little guys" are no longer little enough to allow simultaneous triple-kittywrangling, so we had to make two appointments!).

In any case, I am pleased to report that Cora and Shadow are apparently in glowingly good health. Not that I'd expected otherwise, but I was definitely relieved to hear that Shadow's heart sounds normal, as both he and Brodie had low-level murmurs when they were babies. The murmurs resolved by the time the boys went in for neutering at the age of five months, and thus were not a sign of any worrisome illness, but it's still something I like to make sure gets checked now and then.

On another physical note, initially the vet suggested Shadow was "on the high side" weight-wise at 15 pounds, 2 ounces. She adjusted her appraisal, though, after I showed her how LONG he is. Shadow might look stocky when he's all scrunched up (he goes into this tight-crouch position when he's nervous) but when he stretches out it's really apparent that he's pretty much all lean muscle everywhere. He relaxed a little when I picked him up and thus I was able to unfurl him a bit; at that point the vet remarked that he actually did look like a 15-pound cat (as in, a cat who SHOULD weigh around 15 pounds given his length and frame). I agree, especially considering he's 38 inches long (including nearly 14 inches of tail) at a year and a half old and had a solid build even when he was otherwise tiny.

Cora, meanwhile, weighed in at 9 pounds, which (though absolutely unproblematic and healthy for her frame) surprised me a bit. Picking up Shadow is rather like picking up an elongated, silky brick, thus, in comparison Cora feels like air and fluff. She's also got rather kittenish proportions (or at least the effect of such proportions, given her fluffy cheeks and her big round eyes) to the extent that I continue to be surprised when I see her standing next to Nikki and clearly being longer and taller than her elder housemate. Of course Cora isn't liable at this point to get as big as her brothers but she's certainly turning into a grownup in her own right -- and judging from her demeanor lately, she knows it!

But anyway. One interesting aspect of this most recent visit was that the vet we saw was new -- well, new to me and the Wonderful Felines at least. She's been at the VCA clinic we go to since 2008, but I'd never seen her before. I really hope she sticks around, though, because so far I like her a lot. We started off seeing one vet when the kittens were babies and I really liked that one too, but she moved out of state in the middle of last year. So then we got assigned to a different doctor, and while she did a fine job caring for Nikki's battle wounds, she wasn't as much inclined to get down to the technical details of feline healthcare with me the way the previous vet was. Which made it a little harder for me to feel like I was actually communicating with her. But the new vet seems to have a similar analytical style to the first one and even apparently spent a number of years as a field biologist, which is just cool. I think she is going to be a fine doctor for my kitties.

I am also glad to have finally gotten the "so what are you feeding them?" discussion over with. This new vet didn't even flinch when I told her the younger cats regularly ate raw meat, and in fact seemed to be pretty well informed on the subject of feline nutrition. She just said to be careful about sourcing meat and was glad I wasn't feeding them pre-ground stuff (as ground meat has a lot more opportunity to pick up nasty bacteria before you even get it home, plus grinding allows oxidation which can destroy important nutrients like taurine).

Oh yeah. And the vet also remarked on how nice the kitties' teeth looked, which at least suggests chewing up gizzards, etc., is indeed conferring dental benefits. Yay! Of course Cora, Shadow, and Brodie are still quite young and many cats who are going to end up with dental disease don't show any signs of it until age three or so, but it's at least encouraging that they don't have any early-manifesting issues in that regard.

As for how the cats themselves reacted to their outing, it was very obvious that they were quite anxious in the vet's office -- as I mentioned previously, Shadow went into his fearful scrunched-up crouch posture and pretty much stayed that way throughout the whole visit, aside from when I picked him up to demonstrate his striking resemblance to Tacgnol. Cora also did a lot of scrunched-up wide-eyed staring but wasn't nearly as tense as her brother and did a fair bit more moving around during the whole affair, like she was clearly apprehensive but also curious.

Neither cat seemed to enjoy being in a carrier, especially when the car was in motion. Matt and I tag-teamed to get them into the carriers in the first place at home so that didn't end up being a major ordeal for us, but Cora and Shadow seemed absolutely beside themselves. :/ They both howled a fair bit, especially Shadow, for whom the carrier seems to represent All That Is Vile And Evil In Existence.

I had attempted to acclimate all the cats to the carriers by setting them up in the spare bedroom weeks ago, and putting treats in them, spritzing blankets with Feliway and laying those inside, etc. The first day I had the larger carrier (we have two: a big plastic one and a medium-sized soft mesh one) out of the garage, Shadow refused to even enter the spare bedroom. He spent most of the day hiding in the office closet! By the next day he was okay with the carrier's mere presence, though, and that seems to have stuck even post-vet-visit. I think he's figured out that the carrier itself can't just scoop him up like some sort of cavernous cat-swallowing monster, at least.

Cora was also clearly unhappy with the carrier situation, but made far fewer operatic Tauntaun noises than her brother. She was also in the smaller (soft-sided) carrier, though, which to me looks a lot comfier than the plastic one. Plus the soft carrier has a zipper opening on the top, which I was able to unzip a little during the car ride (enough to fit my hand inside and give Cora ear-scritches, which definitely calmed her down a lot). I would have put Shadow in that one given his generally greater carrier-angst, but he really needs the next size up, which hopefully I manage to acquire at some point. With four cats we really ought to have four carriers, but I didn't want to get that many before I got an idea of how big the boys were going to grow.

In any case, I could tell Cora and Shadow were very happy to finally get home on Saturday! Since they'd basically been babies last time they went anywhere in the car, I was thinking the whole time during this past visit that part of their obvious anxiety might have been due to not realizing that they'd actually get to come back to familiar territory. But of course they did get to come home, and after a day of sleepiness (from the shots) they both bounced right back to their usual level of activity. This Saturday will of course be Brodie's turn...then we shall be quite done with vet visits for a while, which I don't expect any complaints about from any felines here!


  1. Cats are so funny. Tonight PhysioCat jumped up on top of the bookshelves and decided to rub up against a big ceramic vase we have up there. He tipped it nearly over, and it rocked back and forth dramatically, startling the fucke out of him! HAHAHAHAH!!!!

  2. The fun of acclimatizing cats to carriers. One black cat I had was okay with this until the first vet trip, at which point it was the operatic tauntaun noises and filling the carrier with pee.

    He was a lot more like a puppy during his first automobile trip - no carrier, so he explored the car and spent most of the trip watching the landscape through the windows. At some point he decided to hate cars even when he wasn't in a carrier, however.

    I've been thinking of researching a raw meat diet, although at this point affording it is definitely beyond my means.

    Also: Getting a vet who communicates (as well as gets along with the cats) is pretty amazing. I miss my aforementioned cat's first vet as she worked with me, and was less inclined to simply telling me without involving me, as well as quite friendly with both of my cats at the time.

    The last vet I had was pretty terrible, I brought in a kitten who had been constipated (and had diarrhea caused by said constipation), and he insisted it was typical diarrhea just long enough for her to get megacolon. I can only imagine what would have happened if they'd given her enemas as soon as we took her in.

  3. Lisa Harney: Re. the cost of feeding raw, I actually pay a lot LESS than I used to when I was buying only commercial cat food. But then again, Brodie literally can't eat ANY dry foods you can find in the grocery store without getting sick. All of them have corn, which gives him the explosive squirts. :/ So for me it was actually more economical to go raw than continue buying just pricey grain-free/limited-ingredient commercial stuff. But I can see how that might not be the case for everyone, depending on what their cats like/can tolerate (and what foods are available in their area; I'm sure people who live in "food deserts" would have a heck of a time finding a consistent source of affordable, quality meats, for instance).

    Re. vets and communication, yeah, I'm beginning to feel like I really need to try and hold onto the good ones! I've had enough bad experiences with *human* doctors due to my own communication difficulties, I certainly don't want my cats to deal with any similar nonsense. And since I'm basically their advocate when it comes to all things medical I feel responsible for making sure they're going to be treated by someone who is respectful of them as individuals (as well as just respectful of cats in general). But it can be really hard when one is geographically/financially limited...the clinic I go to now is okay, it's just kind of a crapshoot as far as whether the vet you saw one week will be there next time. Hence I feel really lucky who have what seems like a decent one now and I hope she doesn't go anywhere soon!

  4. Oh and re. carriers, as screamy as my guys can get in them I have to admit I feel pretty lucky that there's no expulsion of fluids accompanying the opera! Nervous pooping/peeing/barfing seems to be really common (at least per a recent informal survey of some other cat-people I know). :/

    That said, I do know a couple whose two cats LOVE carriers, car rides, and travel. I got to meet these kitties in my friends' hotel room (at a place that has pet-friendly rooms) this past December holiday season during an out-of-town Gathering of the Nerds. These were seriously some of the most adventurous (and outgoing) cats I'd ever met. One of them, a few minutes after meeting me for the first time, even ran up my chest and tried to bite my ipod when I was having it make bird sounds!

  5. Hmm, I assumed meat would be more expensive because it is meat and dry food can be pretty inexpensive. I live near...fresh meat isn't a problem around here. I'll have to look into options and reread your fresh meat posts.

    I hope you get to keep that vet.:)

    Thankfully, I've only ever had the one cat who peed in the carrier. The rest were much less messy, thankfully.

    And those cats sound pretty amazing. I think part of that kind of thing is all about familiarity. I think if I'd taken my black cat on more rides he would have continued to love them - and I think maybe acclimatizing cats to carriers for not-scary trips rather than primarily using them for vet trips might also help with associations? I don't know. I don't mean this to sound like training, but more like involving the cats in more things might give them more experiences to be comfortable with?

  6. Some dry food is very inexpensive, but unfortunately it makes Brodie sick. But I've known some cats who've lived to be 19 on cheap dry food so it's not necessarily the worst thing ever for all cats. Lots of other variables (access to vet care, shelter, etc.) can impact health and hence lifespan too; it seems to be a very individual thing.

    That said, economy-wise, remember that cheaper dry foods often contain a high carbohydrate percentage. Which cats can garner some energy from, but which still means they've got to eat a lot more of it to meet their protein and fat needs than they would of a grain-free canned food or fresh meat. Cats eating raw can look like they're not eating very much at all volume-wise, but that's just because their nutritional needs are being met with a smaller amount of food. But that also depends on the cat; some very muscular, very high-energy cats can put away a lot of raw too. In any case, my aim in writing about this stuff is definitely not to induce guilt in anyone....mostly I expect people feed whatever they can given their situation. If people learn something from my posts that's cool but they're not to pressure anyone so hopefully it doesn't ever come across that way.

    Oh and re. my friends' travel-loving cats...oddly enough, these particular kitties seem to be more concerned about being with their humans than being on their "home base". Which is unusual for cats; that kind of tendency is more commonly seen in dogs. I love how there's so much variation in cat-personalities!

  7. It's not that it's the worst thing, and my cats clearly love some brands. When I can afford it, I try to feed them canned meat as well (right now I can't), and I don't like not feeding them meat.

    You're not inducing guilt in me, you're making me think of options. I certainly feel no pressure from anything you write. I'm here voluntarily because this is one of the few cat-related blogs I can relate to.

    That is really unusual. And I agree! I love that cats have such variety, despite being stereotyped as being a particular way.


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