Sunday, January 5, 2014

Now is the winter of our discontent

Prologue:  Last week I called the vet to make an appointment for Wild, the half-grown yellow kitten who makes up 1/6th of our farm’s feline population.

“She needs to be spayed,” I said. “Or possibly he needs to be neutered. I really don’t know. I’ll let you decide.”

Fortunately, my vet understands these things. It’s really hard to tell the sex of a cat by looking at its face. Said cat is not tame enough for further inspection.

“But,” I continued, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch her/him, so if I can’t, I’ll bring Bonus instead, he needs to be neutered.”


“Yeah, Bonus. A cat I didn’t need or want. He just showed up. Like a bonus. Bonus Cat.”

“Okay . . . are you sure he needs neutered?”

“Yeah. So can you just schedule me to bring in a cat of one sex or the other and you can proceed accordingly?”

My vet’s office is great. That’s why I always pay my bills on time. I never know what I might need them to do for me next.

Present day: This morning I scooped up the Adorables – Gryphon, Siren and Weezel – and moved them into the basement. We’re heading into a mini ice age here in Iowa with air temps forecast lower than -20 tonight and wind chill values of -30 to -40. The high temp tomorrow will be -15. This is wrong on so many different levels I don’t know where to start.

The Farmer assured me the Adorables would be fine in the garage, out of the elements and snug in their insulated cat box but since this is their first winter, I decided they could stay in the basement for a few days.

The kittens, now 10 months old, are swaddled in thick fur coats and look like denizens of some Arctic planet. If George Lucas had put cats on Hoth in “Return of the Jedi,” they would look like the Adorables. However, I am not convinced that they are all that bright when it comes to winter survival skills. Bringing them into the basement for a few days brought me peace of mind about their well-being. At least, it was supposed to.

Nothing these kittens do is very peace-inducing. They are constantly in some degree of trouble. I had to rescue the Fed Ex guy yesterday when Siren got into his truck. He had pulled up in front of the house and opened his truck door, then disappeared into the back to get a package. Siren put her paws on the first step, looked around, then, tail waving jauntily, leaped up the steps and into the cab. She was not the least bit repentant when I captured her and apologized to the Fed Ex guy, who was balancing a 60-pound box of dog food and clearly wondering how he was going to explain taking a header out of his truck because he tripped over a cat.

So the kittens came in the house this morning. It wasn’t the first time they’ve been in the house. It was the first time they’ve been in the house with permission. I wondered if this was the start of my descent into crazy cat lady status.

I gave them food, water, litter pans and a couple of cardboard boxes to entertain themselves with. They settled in with apparent gratefulness. That is to say, they immediately started prowling around in the shadowy corners, knocking things over and coming out draped with cowebs. Our basement is a veritable feline Disneyland, complete with all sorts of rides and attractions. I went back upstairs and spent the rest of the morning listening to assorted thumps and bangs.  Whoever said cats are stealthy and silent never met the Adorables.

Later in the morning I went down to see how everyone was getting along. Siren was sitting on the top step on the basement side of the kitchen door. Being the social climber that she is, I opened the door and she waltzed into the kitchen. I reached down for her and she darted across the floor. Phoenix had a look of delighted disbelief on his face. Finally – cats in the house! Disneyland indeed!

The fact that there are kittens in the house has Phoenix in a state of consternation. He thinks the basement is clearly a Gateway To Hell and will not go down the scary stairs but will sit for hours and stare at the door because he knows the kittens are on the other side. And maybe if he stares hard enough, one will slither through the half-inch crack at the bottom of the door.

I captured Siren and turned to find Weezel sauntering toward the dining room.  I scooped him up, too, and headed down the basement stairs, stopping just long enough to pull the door shut behind me. The Farmer is going to have to deal with cats dropping out of unexpected places in the basement the next few days – I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to find one in his recliner in the living room, too.

Lest Gryphon feel neglected, I deposited his brother and sister and scooped him up. He let out a yowl, whipped around and sank his teeth into my sweatshirt sleeve.  So much for gratefulness. This is very un-Gryphon-like behavior. Since getting bitten once apparently wasn’t enough for me, I put my hand right back on him. This elicited another unhappy yowl but I was fast enough to move this time and didn’t get chomped. Then I noticed thick greenish yellow pus trickling down his flank. Surprise. I had ruptured an abscess on his back.

I am a farm kid. I’ve seen a lot of gross things. I’ve smelled a lot of gross things. But I have never smelled anything that reeked like the pus draining out of that abscess. How could one relatively small animal make such a big stink? I gathered up Gryph and carried him up the basement steps, out to the grooming table on the back porch. As long as I didn’t poke at his flank, he didn’t seem to mind.

I collected a bowl of warm, soapy water, a couple of towels and the dogs’ grooming scissors. Holding my breath, I cleaned up the mess and tried to trim the hair around the puncture wound. This met with limited success. Gryph has a coat like a wooly mammoth.

I was wearing leather gloves and had a firm grip on the scruff of his neck. This didn’t stop him from making several more attempts at chomping me. Such appreciation. I decided I had achieved crazy cat lady status.

As I rinsed clean water over the wound, I was imagining my Monday morning phone call to the vet.

“Hi, I called last week about bringing in a semi-feral female cat to be spayed or a semi-feral male cat to be neutered, really not sure which, or I might not be bringing that cat at all if I can’t catch her/him but a totally different cat who definitely needs to be neutered and now I need to bring in another cat who’s been fighting with something and has a nasty stinking abscess.”

I suspect the vet’s office is the only business that gets weirder calls than the newspaper office where I work.

Can’t wait for Tuesday morning cat wrangling.


  1. Can't wait to hear how the cat wrangling goes!

  2. I'm glad the poor in pain cat didn't make contact with you. Then you would have another office visit to make.
    Hey, did your one dog have IBS. I tried to look back to read about it but couldn't find it. I wanted to send the link to my friend.

  3. Diana - Jamie's inflammatory bowel syndrome posts start on Jan. 7, 2011, and run for a couple of weeks through all the testing and eventual diagnosis. I'm happy to say that was 3 years ago and he's doing great!

  4. We need photos of very fluffy adorables.

  5. Believe me, that doesn't even top the list of weird!