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!