Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Feline medical emergencies (or not-an-emergency-yet-but-could-turn-into-one-if-we-wait-much-longer, almost-emergency) are now only allowed on Tuesday mornings. Apparently, it’s only on Tuesday mornings that we can get in and out of the veterinarian’s office in record time…

How maddening. Typical vet visits have been taking too much time for my peace of mind (and the sanity of my cats) during the past few years. Forty minutes in the waiting room for a five-minute procedure for which we were on time for a made-two-weeks-in-advance appointment? I know the vet is really very good and, being very good, is very popular and also by virtue of being good will see emergencies before a routine, non-life-threatening-if-not-done-immediately procedure. I also know that appointments can run late. (Being too early because you were, for once, actually able to catch the cat on the second or third try is worse than running late—you figure appointments are always going to run late, so your being five or ten minutes behind shouldn’t really matter. But adding too-early time to waiting time is absolutely hellish.) Yet still… Forty minutes for a blood draw on the cat who doesn’t have such thick skin it takes a couple of tries?

Humph. That was just a week ago.

Therefore, when I noticed last night that Russell the Red was walking around a bit squinty-eyed, my first thought after examining him more closely was "Oh, good, I have the next two days off with no immediate plans and the vet is open late on Wednesdays, so we have plenty of time for a long wait."

The closer examination had revealed a swollen, gunky, smelly (*gaugh*) ear, which recalled the memory that a night or two previously there had been a rumpus followed by a yelp... I had already checked over the other boyo who usually comes out the worst in these encounters; he was apparently fine (he’s rather fluffy and won’t miss the tufts of fur that still marked the battlefield the next day [damn predator species and their penchant for striking prey when most vulnerable; it’s a miracle that any cat in my house is still willing to step into a litter box]) and neither combatant had been exhibiting any obvious signs of distress until I noticed Russell’s unintentional half-wink and slightly-pinker-than-usual skin tone above an eye.

[So innocent when they are sleeping! Russell at peace, with the bully aspect of his personality well-hidden.]

*sigh* Here we go again… It’s a week shy of exactly eleven months since the last time Russell was walking around with an abscess in his ear. (Yes, I checked the date. And yes, I had written it down. I’ve learned that it will pay off in the long run to keep track of seemingly-inconsequential things when it comes to critters.) The house being over-populated with cats, abscesses have become quite routine around here; being a scab picker and pimple-popper myself means caring for an abscess has become an off-hand routine as well, and nearly one of the easiet things to do to a cat. (Too bad they started keeping tighter regulations on medicines; we even used to have a small home supply of Clavamox for just such occasions; a quick phone call request for a script sans appointment worked once, too.) Spring is in the air and the boyos are duking it out, never mind that they are all fixed and have been living together for eight years… *sigh again*

Back to the waiting… I didn’t want to call the vet office too early, so it wasn’t until well after ten this morning that I remembered to do so. It was closer to eleven by the time the second try reached the receptionist, and she was able to confab* with the vet. "Surgery day today, can you drop the cat off and Doc will take a look between surgeries?" Um, I would if this weren’t the cat that has seizures when you lock him up. "We are prepared for that." Yeah, but why put the cat through it? How about I see how getting a hold of him goes and we just swing 'round when we can? I’m not doing anything today. "Sure."

Paying large installments every year into your vet’s kids’ college funds does pay off.

[The fighting isn't so continuous that Bits n Pieces can't take a decent nap most of the time...]

I strapped Russell into his harness and leash (we discovered last year that he can travel this way without freaking out; when confined by walls, his ventricular arrhythmia kicks him into seizures—I can't even close him into a large dog crate), plopped him in the truck and off we went… Oh, as much as I love to see them, please let today not be a day the local boys in blue have set up a speed trap across the street… I can only imagine what we must have looked like: a giant white pick-up truck heading down the highway with a big orange tiger cat at the wheel… (I am normally a very good and responsible driver, but two trips with a seizuring cat in a carrier is enough to make even the most law-abiding citizen a little bit reckless. Besides, I did have the leash snubbed so Russell couldn’t get down to the floor at my feet. Live and learn…)

"So sorry we didn’t call ahead; hard to juggle phone and truck and cat all at one time. We’re doing well and can wait however long we need to. No hurry." I had even taken my iTouch (yes, I know it is an "iPod touch" *phhbbtt*) so I could watch Doctor Who episodes (the new series—I highly recommend it) if we had to wait awhile...

"However long" wasn’t long at all; in fact, it turned out to be the shortest visit we have made in years! We waited just a little bit before we actually met with the vet (sometimes they just take the cat by itself while you wait) for a quick exam (which included temp and weight checks—yikes, time to add some "lite" kibble back into meals!). Russell had his ear cleaned and had his antibiotic shot (relatively new and wonderful—no more trying to pill a cat twice a day for two weeks!), had his photo taken for his records (somehow over the years we’ve missed getting pictures of a few of the kids and I keep forgetting to email my own photos so the cats don’t look like they were being strangled in their mug shots), the bill was paid, we even waited in the still-empty waiting room a bit more to see how Russell would handle the ride home, and we were back in the truck and pulling out of the parking lot all within half of an hour of our pulling into the parking lot. Thirty minutes. That was it. Just thirty minutes... I can’t remember the last time I was in and out in thirty minutes with a four-footer in tow. (Unannounced arrivals without a critter merely to order/pick-up a script refill or to make an appointment typically take 15-20 minutes.)

Just when you have about reached your tolerance limit, you get such a gift. And we got to Russell’s infection quite early so aside from as many warm compresses as he’ll put up with, we’re good to go. Which is why I was fully prepared to call in favors owed… (FYI, I’m making such a big deal because 1. Cat-bite abscesses are nasty things and 2. They are even nastier when they are in the cartilage of an ear. Untreated or too-far-gone infections can result in serious deformity or actual loss of the ear.)

[Having never been let outside in his entire life, the problem here was not that Russell was on the wrong side of the door; he's still inside. The problem was that I was on the wrong side of the door.]

Upon consideration, they must not schedule appointments with the secondary vet on surgery mornings. I had noticed that the parking lot was, remarkably, empty but for us. Still… Thirty. Minutes. (I’m making such a big deal about this because, well, I have cats. I don’t have any therapy cats who would be used to frequent road trips; I have cats who get stuffed into a carrier once a year barring medical emergencies and not counting those who need twice-yearly blood tests; and further more, cats who have contact with only one person. Trips to the vet are Big Deals around here.)

To be fair, it was this self-same vet who came out to the truck once a couple of years ago to personally apologize after I lodged a complaint about waiting forty-five minutes for an appointment to have a tech remove one staple. (Just one, the cat had taken care of the rest herself. Even allowing for the emergencies they had had earlier, this was a bit too much.)

As I said, single-handedly making up a significant percentage of a vet’s practice over the last 15 years does, eventually, pay off in unexpected dividends. (Visit fees get a multiple-patient discount when I haul in two kids at a time, and seizure medicine is cheaper when purchased in bigger batches.) How nice that the unlooked-for benefits kick in just at the times I am working towards a good fuss.

Please, please remind me of today as I start this year’s rounds of annual appointments and all of the hours of waiting that come with them!

* I decided to make sure I wasn't making up this word. I'm not. "Confabulate=to discuss." Who knew?