Who took my kitty? Who stole him and replaced him with this cautious, nervous and cowardly cat that I hardly recognize? Think overnight scaredy-cat. Max, renowned in my neighborhood for chasing snowflakes, sneaking up on deer, pouncing on anything and everything that moves (fallen leaves fluttering in the wind included) and running out into the driveway to meet me when I get home has changed. Suddenly.
In my house, it is customary kitty protocol every morning, to twist the handle on my bedroom door ever so slightly and crack open the door. Silent as I may think I’m being, I hear Max hop down from whichever window he may be perched in and run, feet softly padding their way on the carpet to my open door. Good morning.
This morning was different. I cracked the door, heard him hop down from his window and I waited. And waited. This time he slinked around the corner. He didn’t look at me, but was eyeing . . . a folded up shirt I had left in a stack just outside of my laundry room door. Yes, I know it should have been put away. But the shirt was obviously there all day yesterday, overnight, and still there this morning. I’m quite sure it hadn’t snuck up on him during night’s dark shadows.
He eyed it, slinking up on it cautiously. He got closer, then coiled back away from it. He inched closer, front paw out. Tap. Ever so slightly, more of a fake tap. I’m pretty sure he missed tapping the actual shirt, just tapped the air very close to the shirt. He was testing the waters. Folded up shirts lying on the floor can be pretty menacing. He backed up. Inched forward a little. Tapped again. At this same unfortunate moment, my hand twisted the door handle it had been holding. He was gone in a flash, scared out of his mind by the turquoise, ruffled shirt folded on the floor.
This hasn’t been the only incident though. Lately the sound of my doorbell has been unnerving him. Now granted, my doorbell doesn’t ring often, so it is one of those loud, rare, somewhat frightening occasions, for me included.
He’ll sprawl in his window, watching the visitor approach without a care. But the minute that doorbell rings, he’s out of the window and into the back room in one second flat. I have to admit, I sometimes want to run into the back room too. A few minutes later he’ll slink back toward the front door, belly low to the floor, peeping around the corner. Curiosity always gets the better of him.
I wonder if he may have an uncanny ability to sense that I recently received his Vet reminder in the mail, encouraging me to make an appointment for his annual shots and vaccines. A day he dreads, I’m sure, more than none other. The day I will load him into the cab of my truck, holding him on my shoulder as I drive to the vet clinic just outside of town. We drive haphazardly down the road, kitty in one arm, steering wheel in the other hand, world whizzing by at 30 mph breakneck speed. I’ve sometimes wondered what other drivers may think, maybe they assume my cat goes everywhere with me. When we arrive at the vet clinic, it gets worse. I open the truck door and hold him tightly, with the nearby herd of quarantined cows mooing and the flock of 4-H sheep and their new babies mewing.
Together, we open the door to the clinic and step into a veritable sensory overload. Dogs barking and running, toenails clip-clapping on the vinyl tiled floor, cats meowing, more dogs barking from far off kennels and that smell. The smell of antibiotics, mixed with antiseptic, cloaked over the underlying ever-present odor of urine, feces and dog food.
As if the smell isn’t enough, one memorable day I even flung open the door to a full-fledged dog surgery going on. The vet, busy with tools and blood just waved to me with a smile, like “I’ll be there just as soon as I get this artery pinched off.” I think both myself and my poor Max were traumatized by what we saw. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to stay, and I’m sure Max was feeling the same way.
When the time comes on the tall examination table to be looked over and under, neck pinched, foreign objects inserted, he freezes. Paralyzed. The vet tech even told me that when cats get scared, their skin releases their hair follicles, resulting in a cloud of floating, fine hair. I hold him as his fur releases into the air above, catching on my lip gloss and nose. In a few seconds, he’s more leaning, tipping into my arm. If not for my hands holding him up, I believe his noodle-like appendages would flop under his weight and he would lie in a paralytic state upon that cold exam table, looking up at me, thinking “Why???”
There was also the time Max suffered some kind of infection by way of an alley cat foe’s scratch above his right eye. The vet’s assistant assured me that it was a good thing, it proved that Max didn’t back away from fights, but took them on straight in the face, literally. The poor little fuzzy guy had lost three pounds, and when your maximum weight is around 14 pounds, that equals nearly a quarter of your total weight. I wonder why that sort of unplanned weight loss never happens to me? Hmmmmmm. Of course, I really don’t want to wind up in an alley cat fight with a nasty scratch uncannily close to my eye either.
In addition to an antibiotic shot and creams, he was to receive subcutaneous fluids. “Sub Q” fluids as my sister, a one-time vet tech, corrects me with the appropriate abbreviation. The IV was started in the nape of his neck as I silently witnessed drop by drop of what looked like a liter of fluid descend down the long tube and into his little neck. I thought it was my eyes tricking me, but I could see his neck start to grow, bulging as more fluid dripped slowly down into and under his skin. Could he feel that watery ball of salty fluid caught between his skin and tissue in his neck? I wondered if I should alert the vet, but then the picture of him in the next room with his gloved arms bloody up to his elbows, dog on table, half sutured up enters my mind. No, I think I’ll wait.
By this time, the fluid starts trickling out of poor Max’s neck. Drip, drop from the liter bag, down the plastic tube, then drip, drop out of Max’s neck in a trickle down his side and onto the examination table in a clear puddle. A lady in the waiting room starts laughing, “I guess he’s full!” Oh, the joys of patient privacy. I find myself wondering why there hasn’t been a four-legged version of HIPAA enacted on veterinarians by now. Never mind that, I guess a door or two could solve that problem.
So as the time comes to take our annual adventure to the vet clinic again, it’s no wonder why my cat has aged so much overnight. I just hope he doesn’t see that the turquoise, ruffled shirt has moved and will now be hiding out for him in my closet. And I beg, will the person who took my old Max, please return him?