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Family Pet Animal Care - My Cat Would Never - April 2016

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Family Pet Animal Care 
My Cat Would Never...

by Dr. Michael Trapani

Rant Warning! The veterinary hospital is a constant source of life lessons on how NOT to behave. It’s Bob. Again. We all know Bob: He’s Dick (from the Internet)’s brother. You know the guy: Bob drives a huge truck and tailgates you mercilessly when you’re going 35 in a 25 zone. Bob takes up two parking spaces in a crowded parking lot. Bob stops in the middle of the road to carry on a conversation with a long-lost pal. Good old Bob. Bob knows that rules are for other people. 

At the veterinary hospital, Bob arrives with a scared cat loose in his hands. We ask Bob to place his cat in a carrier, “For his and your safety.” We offer a nice, comfy carrier for Bob’s use, but NOOOOOO! What does the doctor and his staff, with decades of experience between them, know about handling terrified cats in the veterinary hospital? It’s not as if we do it, full time, day after day, year after year, and have seen, over and over, what happens when people don’t follow the rules. Oh, wait, we DO, and we HAVE! Never mind!

“He’ll be fine,” Bob assures us. “I’ve always brought him in like this,” (Uh-Huh). What Bob doesn’t know is that his brother Dick is right behind him with Killer, his bark-full Rottweiler on a 30-foot leash. “He loves cats,” Dick will say as Killer lunges to say hello to Bob’s cat, all while emitting as series of ear-splitting barks.

Now, – I don’t want you to think I’m joking – it really is amazing to see just how far the skin of Bob’s neck will stretch when his cat plays Road Runner in a mad, panicked dash to reach the stratosphere using Bob’s skin as a ladder. It gives the term “redneck” a whole new meaning.

Cats: You gotta love ‘em. Cats are sweet, simple little creatures who don’t exactly stop and think about what they should do when they feel threatened. In the veterinary hospital, we have a saying: “Don’t argue with a ticked off cat.” These really are words to live by, as are their corollary, “Don’t wrestle with a panicked cat.” Ticked off and panicked cats tend to explode into a buzz saw of claws and teeth. If you are crazy enough to allow any portion of your anatomy inside the cat’s protective radius, you had better expect to pull back a bloody stump. 

It’s not as if cats enter our office in a calm, jovial mood. Let’s face it: If you’re a cat, a ride in the car will never end well. It’s not like you’re going out for a romp in the park. If you’re lucky, you might get vaccinated. If you’re less lucky, you might get neutered. If you’re UNlucky, you’re sick or hurt and in pain, and no matter how nice they are, a bunch of scary strangers will be touching you and possibly putting things up your butt. For cats, Car Ride = Bad, and the cat might meet a barking dog named ‘Killer’ who wants to get really, really close without so much as a “Sup, Dude?”

It could be worse, of course. Bob’s cat might leap from his arms outside the office. At least, inside the office the cat is contained. We will get him off the ceiling eventually. Outside, the cat will land nimble-footedly and bolt for the nearest shelter in an absolute panic. Lost and alone, the cat will forget everything he’s ever known, including his ability to recognize the person he loves best, and will revert to full feral mode. Bob can’t calm him and can’t persuade him to return. If Bob follows the cat, he is ‘chasing’ – as a predator – and the cat will run faster and further. Poof! Gone! If Bob doesn’t chase, and waits a few hours, the cat might return. Maybe, if Bob is really, really lucky, and waits, and cajoles, and begs, he’ll get his cat back.

This is real. This stuff happens. And yet, we’ve had people storm out of our office when we offered them a carrier. “My cat would never…” We’re still searching for the cat that escaped from an owner’s car yesterday.

When you visit the veterinary office with your cat, you absolutely must have the cat safely and inescapably contained, for your safety and for your cat’s. Don’t cut corners, don’t make excuses, and don’t ever, ever ignore the warnings given to you by expert staff members who handle hundreds of nervous cats every year.