Monday, June 08, 2009

Keep Ya Head Up

And now we may speak of Lupac, otherwise known as Lulabelle, the saddest cat in Sadtown, having the worst spring ever in the history of cats. As those of you who follow my life know, first she had several rounds of bladder infections, which meant several rounds of twice-daily pill-jamming-down-gullet. Then, we determined she was shot at some point in the past, which didn’t probably didn’t happen this spring but the bullet’s existence led to many, many abdominal palpitations, which can’t have been pleasant with her bladder infection.

Then Clementine arrived and life took a darker and more aggravating turn. Somehow, Clementine didn’t understand Lu hated her. Clementine assumed Lu's aggressive behavior was merely the “Meet-cute” in the romantic comedy which was to be their lives together. Lu would hiss and Clementine would pounce on Lu’s tail. Lu would spit and lunge at Clem, and Clementine would wait until Lu was dozing and attack her ear. Lu, who has brought half-eaten things into this house larger than Clementine, would look at me eloquently. I would murmur, “No, you may not kill her. Later, I will give you stinky wet food.” Then I would give her stinky wet food and Clementine would shove her head into Lu’s bowl.

So when Lulabelle was a little too interested in grooming herself, even for a cat, I just chalked it up to stress. When the fur started falling out I gave her extra love and attention and tried to dissuade her from licking the thinning patches. When the sores developed I started to think that if it was stress and one of us needed a Xanax in our stinky food. By the time the vet’s appointment came around, one of us had…how can I put this delicately? Oh, I can’t; Lu had a bald ass. When you are a black cat, a bald ass looks especially bald. I assumed it was some combination of stress and maybe a reaction to spring fleas but the doctor diagnosed it as a bacterial infection. She was to be given liquid antibiotics twice a day for two weeks.

Now, pill antibiotics are a chore because you have to hide them in wet food and the cat gets really good at surgically removing the medication no matter how deeply you bury it, but liquid is another matter entirely. Twice a day, I’d go to the fridge, draw out the dosage and carefully not think about medicating a cat because Lu can read my mind. I’d then locate her in the house, leap upon her, crack open her jaw, squirt the syringe, and jump off before she went for my carotid. The first few days were awkward but luckily her teeth only pierced the gardening gloves without actually making contact with my skin. By the end of the second week, I was medicating her with the ease of a ranch-hand on branding day. Lulabelle was slightly less blasé about the process. It didn’t help that Clem would bite Lu’s tail during medicating. After the medicating, I would pull teeth out of the gloves and pet Lu’s bald butt and croon, “I know, I know. But there’s only another week on the meds and Clem leaves on Friday.”

And she did leave on Friday with her new family, who were very excited to have her and who loved her very much. But their cat was not very excited to have her and did not love her very much. In fact, he tried to kill her, which isn’t to be taken lightly when the alpha cat weighs twenty-eight pounds. They might have worked it out but the humans who adopted Clem and loved her weren’t prepared to take the chance. Tearfully, regretfully, a week later, they brought her back. A week in a kitten’s life is not like a week in our lives. She had reached a new stage in her development: the “A” stage. Attack. Ambush. Ankles. If you move, you’re fair game. If you’re stationary, you’re fair game. The woman who runs our rescue group has a policy that any kitten must go to a home with another kitten already in place or with another kitten from the rescue, and I think this has a certain brilliance. Let me assure you that no other living thing wants to play as extensively or as forcefully as a kitten. Best to let them be with their own people.

Consort, Daughter and I took to carrying a water bottle holstered to our waistbands. Clem learned quickly; upon seeing the dreaded bottle, she’d drop the Sunday paper or the computer keyboard and go off to find something else to torment. Sometimes, it’s a bouncy cat-toy or the dog but for sheer kittenish joy you can’t beat teasing a middle-aged cat with a bald ass. A middle-aged cat with a bald ass and a twice-daily date with a nasty-tasting goo syringed down her throat. A middle-aged, bald-ass, forced-nasty-medicine cat who has to do another two weeks of the medicine because she's not totally well and is not allowed to kill the kitten even though the cloying interloper really, really deserves it.

Some nights, I scoop up Lulabelle and she and I go sit in the bathroom listening to the sound of two pounds of unmedicated maniac galloping through the house in search of an unwilling companion. I whisper in Lu’s ear, “Soon, my pretty. Soon she will be gone and you will have hair on your butt and life will be good again.” She shuts her eyes and we both dream of a more peaceful future world.

[For those people who are going to write in and say “You are so keeping Clem, Quinn,” we’re not. Consort’s allergies wouldn’t allow it, even if Lupac did. She wouldn’t be with us at all right now if she could go to the rescue, but there’s no room there. My favorite podcast, ‘Planet Money,’ uses quirky statistics as economic indicators so here’s my economic indicator: our rescue group has 25% more cats than this time last year. All of the most recent arrivals have been due to people losing their jobs or housing. Legally, we cannot put even one more cat in there, and every single volunteer who can foster, is fostering. We’re not alone in this. Every group I know of is straining at the seams. If you have it in you to foster for even a week at a time, please let some local group know. We’re up to our collective necks.]


Blogger kate sweeten said...

When I moved in with my fiance last year, I brought my boardline-psychotic cat with me. A few months later, we adopted a puppy...shortly after that, my fiance's cat started licking his butt bald, too! We were told by the vet that it's probably some kind of neurotic stress-grooming (he may have grown tired of being licked constantly by the dog or smacked all over the house by the other cat) or something has snapped in his little kitty brain to make him think that his back end itches constantly. Have the antibiotics helped at all with your cat? Maybe our vet needs to check out this infection thing instead of just telling us that Gizmo's gone crazy...

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

Even really docile cats are hard to give medicine to, much less a skittish one . . . poor Lulabelle! She's suffered enough trauma lately to last her many lives.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

When Pekoe (he's an orange tabby, I drink a lot of tea...) developed an abscess, I took him to the vet who stitched the wound closed and then put a bottle of pills on the counter.

"Oh, G-d. Please tell me that those are for me."

"Nope, you'll be giving them to the cat." the receptionist said, much too cheerily.

We've done both pills and liquid. If you're ever in Maryland, stop by and I'll show you my scars.

And ... I think I'll ask my apartment manager if I can foster a cat. Pekoe is on the lease, so he' legal, but I may be limited to one.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Aleta said...

I can't believe you're still administering medicine this way-
Greenies makes Pill Pockets!!
Twice a day I have to give Thyroid Pills to my Sabrina and I daresay that the pills hidden in the Pill Pockets (little soft treats) are the favorite part of her day (and mine too)!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Aleta, Lupac spits Greenies at the unwary.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous lynn shiner said...

Hysterical description!! As much as I see this go on (I've been a vet for over twenty years)and as much as I nod in sympathy and recognition- I am rolling on the floor laughing. Poor Lupac! She'll get her fur back when the interloper leaves... cats overgroom from stress often....we have a black clinic cat with a bald butt right now too!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Quinn, I wish this had existed during the decades when I was doing feline rescue:
Feliway is kitty hormones, and it will help de-stress BOTH Lupac and your kitten - and, in fact, any other rescue kittens.

I spent all my retirement money fostering cats and kittens; if my asthma hadn't gotten so bad, I'd be doing it still. I'm down to two permanent kitties now, but the Feliway has helped ease a lot of new kitties into new situations.

1:06 PM  

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