aka The Frazzled Mom
Sometimes I wonder at the amount of animal blessings that have come into my life. Oh, I know I don’t have it as bad as some out there. And I’ve loved every pet I’ve had living with me. Still, it makes for interesting stories.
Allow me to share my personal “top ten animals and what baggage they came with when they moved in” list.
1) Anal Glands
A Main Coon cat rescued by a friend and given to us, Tigger came in a medium sized cardboard box. On the ride home, he huddled in the corner and frightened beyond all rational thought (yes, I have watched Ghostbusters). I setup a place for him in our bathroom, so he’d have a chance to acclimate to the new environment… to slowly get used to the place, the smells and us. I even went so far as to leave him with one of my recently worn t-shirts to inspect in my absence. During the night, he shredded and spun an entire roll of toilet paper, decorating the bathroom floor and toilet. But that’s not the unique part of the story, because lots of cats feel the need to shred toilet paper as if it were they personally scratching post.
The real story begins when Tigger was one or two years old. He was always a nervous cat, no doubt due to his time on the streets. You can take the cat out of the street, but you can’t take the… eh, you get the idea. Tigger had attached himself as my cat. Typically, when I would settle down for the evening to work, he snuggle next to me… that is until my husband would appear. Tigger would bolt out of the room as if his life depended on it.
On one particular, I chose to watch television, so Tigger curled up on my lap. When he was truly happy, receiving scratches, he would drool and, at that moment, he was really drooling. He was so relaxed. Why? Because it was just the two of us. Eventually, I got up to refill my cup of water. He jumped off, protesting a bit. That’s when I noticed it: a small spot on the thigh of my pants. Annoyed that I must have spilled some water, I changed into a dry pair of sweats. I kept thinking that I couldn’t have spilled the water with the cat on me. Against my better judgement, I did a sniff test.
And nearly passed out.
If you’ve never smelled the “juices” from the anal gland, consider yourself fortunate. It’s a horrible smell. I understand their purpose, but still…oh that smell.
During one vet visit, I mentioned the above incident. He explained that sometimes….(ahem) sometimes, the anal glands become impacted and need to be expressed. If you’re not sure what I mean by “expressed”, I’m not sure you’d want to know. He carried Tigger into the back of the animal hospital to have the techs express the cat’s glands. I sat in the exam room and waited. Within minutes, I heard several people cry out in disgust. I was told later that as one tech worked to push on the glands, two others mistakenly stood in the direct line of fire. They were hosed. (shudder)
So Tigger blessed us with his “anal retentiveness” as I fondly call it. What I mean to say is that his anal glands were often impacted, I think because he was a highly nervous cat. When he’d relax, REALLY relax, he’d release some of what was inside. As I said before: ever smell juices from the anal glands? You’re missing out!
I’ve learned a lot working for an animal hospital, but I think I’ve managed to discover some of the strangest, unique afflictions for felines while at home. Take Tigger as a case study. Sure, he had issues with anal glands, but that isn’t uncommon for animals. The “uniqueness” of Tigger lies in his fondness for eating crickets. One sunny afternoon, Tigger vomit the contents of his stomach onto our carpeted floor. *sigh* But stranger still, it was a pile of white worms. By a pile, I mean at least as large as my fist, though the worms were small. My first thought was possibly tapeworm, but no, these looked different. They didn’t look like roundworms either. I took an inside out ziploc bag (so I didn’t have to touch them), scooped up the pile of worms and took both it and the cat to the vet. When the vet says, “Huh, that’s interesting”, it can’t be good. He had to send the worms to UC Davis for further exam. What we learned: the worms were from a rare parasite that sometimes infects a minute amount of crickets (I think it was Physaloptera, see picture and imagine a whole pile of them). Tigger just happened to pick the lucky one to eat and the rest is history.
3) Ear Wax
Spike was a good cat, over all. Though he did trick us by initially acting sleepy only to be extremely energetic, he made up for it in cuddles and silky, fluffy fur. The one thing we discovered about Spike really only happened for about a year. He had developed these hanging pieces of dirty wax inside his ear. On exam, the vet announced that Spike’s body was producing an excessive amount of ear wax. Gross. As annoying as it was to keep his ears clean, and his body medicated, it did give us an excuse to take him camping. Spike was able to go on vacation with us to Pismo Beach. There, harnessed, he’d relax on the picnic table or lounge in one of the camping chairs, just watching the world go by. He loved every minute.
3) Blindness By Medication
Onyx was my husband’s cat, but soon became mine by marriage. On our first night together, Onyx blessed me by peeing (perhaps marking) all of my clothes in my bag. Still, he was a sweet cat and very laid back. He wouldn’t complain about anything. Unfortunately, Onyx was plagued with multiple recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), eventually leading from his bladder to his kidneys. Typically, he would undergo a round of antibiotic (Clavamox), but at one point, the vet thought it might do him good to take a more aggressive approach. Onyx was prescribed Baytril. I’ve used Baytril with other cats and dogs. Never had I noticed any problems. Twenty four hours after Onyx’s first dose, I noticed him jump at furniture or at our approach. What the vet found was surprising. The blood supply to the eyes (the Ophthalmic arteries) had been severely constricted. It was her hope that, by immediately stopping the medication, he’d regain blood flow to the eyes and subsequently, his eyesight. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Onyx lived the remainder of his days blind. So we did our best to accommodate him. From that moment on, we did not move furniture. He was familiar with the setup. To change anything would be cruel. But still, I do have some funny stories to tell…
Onyx still loved to sit on our balcony. I know this probably horrifies some, but with the area we were living in, releasing a cat to wander about meant certain death. We were near a hill and multiple packs of coyotes. So in order to give him that outdoor feel, we allowed him access to the balcony, which he had known when he was sighted. Once evening, we arrived home late from a movie. Driving down the “alleyway” between condos, my husband and I noticed a black cat running across the street.
I said, “I wonder if that’s Onyx.”
Less than few seconds after the words parted my lips, we watched as this black cat ran head first into a closed garage door.
“Yep, that’s him.”
It was during the thunderstorm season and we deduced that, while he was out on the balcony, a roll of thunder hit and startled him. Thankfully cats land on their feet, even blind ones. He suffered no broken bones, though perhaps a bruised ego and head.