Pumpkin, age 5, July 2014
Today, I took Miss Pumpkin to my dear vet, Dr. Nicky Joosting, who along with her partner Thomas run Vancouver Feline Hospital. I think this was only the second time that this cat, five years old, has seen a vet–the first, with her original owners, when she was a kitten and was spayed, in 2009. Mewed in the cat carrier, but only when I was carrying her in our “no pets” building. Once in the co-op car, which I’d picked up earlier, she was silent. Of course I used the seatbelt in the rear seat to strap in the carrier, even though the vet’s isn’t very far away.
And so well behaved at the veterinary clinic! I’d expected bloodshed, or at the very least, three strong people (and me) to hold her down. But no, while she certainly wasn’t amused to be there, she put up with getting a vaccine boost, a light examination (3.8kg, some tartar buildup, but mainly a good strong cat) and a microchip injected into the fold between her shoulder blades.
Dr. Nicky recommends the Indoor Pet Initiative (Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine) for information on creating a safe, comfortable, and stimulating environment for our indoor cats:
I hadn’t been able to clip Pumpkin’s nails. Tried, failed. Called a house-visiting former veterinary assistant, who came a week ago, tried, got fangs buried in her hand, bandaged her up and said good-bye, no nails clipped. Today, Dr. Nicky explained that this cat probably had not been acculturated to handling, and would require months of patient and gentle holding. “Put one paw in your open hand. Don’t close your hand around her paw, don’t stroke it, just let it rest there. That’s all you do for a month. Then, very gently, using a finger, you pull back the hair over one of the nails, and SNIP off the tip with a pair of human-style nail clippers. Do not press on the paw to extend the nail–it hurts the cat.” Dr. Nicky only got two nails clipped before Pumpkin became restless, but she said not to worry, the nails were in no danger of curving around to meet the pads on her paws. One or two nails a week, rather than trying to get even one paw done at one time. Slow and easy.
What I think is interesting is that I chose to adopt a “difficult” cat long after I chose the title Mein Kat for this project, the title of course referring to Mein Kampf, which is translated as “my struggle.” As Dr. Nicky said, Pumpkin hasn’t learned how to signal her gradual annoyance: rather, she switches from contented purr while being handled to eviscerate and kill defense mode instantly, making human detection of her change in reaction difficult to discern. Still, it is rewarding to see incremental advances in her trust: she’ll let me hold her a bit longer; she’s now coming up onto the bed in the morning, where she wouldn’t before; she has accepted my coming and going without having to hide when the door opens and I enter. This gradual trust-building has to done in baby steps–and initially I had tried to get her to accept me too quickly, and it backfired. Each little step is a big deal for both of us, as we learn to live together.
After all, we’ve got years to go on this journey of love and companionship.
From http://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/basicneeds/, some advice on using the cat carrier as a safe place for the cat (I have it open, a towel over it to provide privacy):
FACT (Free Access Crate Training)
FACT is an alternative way to provide a refuge for your cat. FACT is similar to crate-training for dogs. The cat accepts the crate or carrier as her own safe haven. For cats, the carrier should be big enough to hold bedding, food and water bowls, and a litter box big enough for the cat. Place the carrier in a quiet and secure place in the house, for example your bedroom.
Cats prefer to be at a height where they can look down on their surroundings. Putting the carrier on a bench or dresser may make it more attractive to the cat.
For cats who already associate the carrier with scary experiences (like trips to the vet) you can start out slowly. First, put the carrier in a place where the cat usually rests. Take off the top and the door. Put the cat’s favorite blanket in the bottom of the carrier. Create positive associations with the carrier by playing with, petting, and feeding the cat near the carrier. Once she accepts this, attach the top of the carrier and let her get used to it too. Once the cat accepts both the top and the bottom, then add the door. If the cat is reluctant to use the carrier, applying Feliway spray may make her more comfortable.
FACT not only provides the cat with a refuge in your home, but allows the cat to take her personal space with her everywhere she goes. Veterinary visits, boarding, travel, and moving to a new home are easier because the cat feels secure in her space. Having her own space also makes the cat less likely to feel the need to compete with other animals for territory and may help decrease fighting and urine marking. For more detailed information on FACT please visit: www.mmilani.com