Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Ballad of the World's Saddest Cat

One Monday night, almost exactly 3 weeks ago, there was a filling Station meeting. On my way out the door, the cats escaped. I was cranky and running late, so I yelled for Ed to come and herd them back in the apartment, and left. The meeting went very well, as the Blow-Out planning was well underway and issue #39 has just arrived, so after some delegating and a few beer Tara and I called it a night and went to get some gelato.

Ed had decided to let the cats stay outside for an hour or so -- something we often do, as our back yard is fully fenced in and they love being outside. An hour after they'd escaped, he went to get them back in the house and discovered that George had already come in and appeared to be snoozing on the couch. After hunting Lydia down and hauling her growly petiteness downstairs, he settled into Resident Evil 4 on the Wii.

It wasn't until I got home around 9:30pm that we realized anything was wrong.

I walked in the door and George got up to say hello. But then he stopped and held up his left paw. He wouldn't out any weight on it. His eyes were wide and he seemed to be confused. I tried to look at his paw, but he got very distressed when I tried to touch it. It was clearly quite swollen and looked to me to be at an odd angle. Ed was just as stunned as I was and had absolutely no idea what might have happened to him. We had a very short conversation, grabbed the cat carrier and headed downtown to the 24-hour emergency vet.

After waiting about half an hour, a doctor was finally able to look at him. I had to hold him down and when she felt his paw, he screamed. Not meowed in protest. Screamed. By now it was so swollen that she couldn't tell by feeling if anything was broken, but said it honestly looked like a bee sting to her.. Just to be safe, though, she'd give him an x-ray.

Ten minutes later Ed and I were crowded up behind the doctor in the lab as she showed us the two bones that were badly fractured in his left foot. They'd have to keep him overnight, and in the morning a surgeon would see him. If they had to operate, we were told as gently as possible to prepare for a $5000 bill. George was by now sedated and loopy, but they let me say goodbye for a few minutes before we left him for the night. I wept in the car all the way back to Parkdale.

In the morning I got a very positive phone call: George didn't need surgery! They were able to anesthetize him and realign the bones manually, so once the cast was completely set and he had come down off the drugs somewhat, he could go home, probably right after dinner.

We got to the vet around 7pm and were immediately greeting by a very apologetic vet tech, which had apparently been trying to reach us while we were driving over.

Tech: There's...been a problem with George.
Me: What's worng?
Tech: You can't take him home.
Me: [imagining my cat in emergency surgery or dead]
Tech: [sees the look on my face] Oh, he's just fine!
Me: [pees in releif] What happened?
Tech: Well...

She proceeds to explain that while the alignment was a success, the casting process was not. George, my sweet, dumb, docile cat, apparently becomes some sort of Houdini/McGuyver hybrid under pressure. He managed to chew through 4 fibreglass casts and remove 3 splints, all while doped up. He tore up his paw pads and broke some of his claws form all the struggling. As she told me this, her face became very solemn.

Tech: We've never seen anything like it.

So we had to leave him there overnight again. I managed not to cry until I was in bed that night, still missing a cat.

By the next morning they'd finally managed to get a splint on him that he seemed content to leave on, and they called up to come pick him up. By now he was well on his way to becoming the Saddest Cat in the World. They had a cone on him to keep him from chewing his 8th cast off. His leg was encased in a splint and lots of yellow self-adhesive gauze. There was a shaved and bruised patch of skin on his right foreleg where he's yanked out his IV, and another shaved spot on his right thigh where they'd had to reposition the IV. His eyes were squinty from the drugs and his voice was hoarse.

We took him home, gave him his first painkiller as instructed, and then I nearly had a panic attack when he bit into the pill instead of swallowing it and started FOAMING AT THE MOUTH. I made the first of dozens of calls to the emergency vet, who reassured me (as they always reassured me) that it was just because it tasted bad. After dry heaving and cleaning up cat spit, we sat George on the couch between us and tried to keep him as comfortable and still as possible while he healed.

But The World's Saddest Cat had other plans. Two days after we brought him home, we had to take him back to the vet because one of his toes was bleeding. He'd stubbed it, we were assured, and they re-splinted it just to be safe. As the weekend, and out trip to PAX, approached, he seemed to get better, stumping around the house a little, eating some kibble. Neil came to catsit for us and we left for Seattle, assured that there would be no further complications.

When Neil came to get us at the airport, on Monday, he hugged Ed and I hello and then broke the news that George's toes were looking a little off, and still bleeding, so he'd taken him back to the vet. Again. They once again kept him overnight, and when they took the splint off discovered that he'd managed to ulcerate between 2 of his toes and the whole thing would have to be redone. He managed to get out of a couple more casts before they finally got a new plaster cast on, as well as a new cone. In order to get the new cast to stay on, they'd shaved his leg and stuck it to him with surgical adhesive. It also, extended a good inch past the end of his foot to let his toes heal.

He mooed pathetically when we came to pick him up. He had now fully transformed into the World's Saddest Cat.

For the first few days, we kept him in the bathroom for the majority of the time, just like our vet told us, to limit his movement. We held him as much as we could, but whenever we were gone into the bathroom he went. Which was fine...until nigh fell. We had to put him in the bathroom to sleep, and he hated it.

He howled. All. Night. Long.

By the fourth night of not sleeping, even with earplugs, we both broke and brought him into bed. IN his agitation, we reasoned that he was stumping around and jumping on and off the toilet so much that it was probably worse for him to be in thee than it was to just have him still in bed. It may be an excuse, but he did (and does) stay in bed with us all night.

Then. Ah, then. Then he figured out how to get his cone off.

I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it, but what he managed to do was balance himself with his cast, sit, and use all 3 functioning legs to shimmy the come off his head. It was a feat of acrobatic wonder. I called the vet for the millionth time and they said were it any other cat they wouldn't believe me either, but this was Houdini cat, the Stubbornest Cat Ever to Live, so they said as long as he didn't chew his cast, it was okay.

Over the last week or so, George has settled in. He stumps around a little, but walking is hard on a leg too long so most of the time he just lounges and tries to look as miserable as possible so we'll feel bad for him and give him human food. He ran out of painkillers, but he doesn't seem to be in may real discomfort aside form the awkwardness of hopping around. He's confined his destructive urges to moderate fretful licking, so this cast seems to be staying in place.

But he hates it all. He is so sad. He lays there, sighs deeply, and they utters a long, trembling "mooooooo" to let you knowhow sad he is about every 20 minutes. He'll take a few steps, fall over with a dramatic Floomp and put his head down, because he is so miserable he cannot bear to keep his head up and instant longer.

You too can own the Saddest Cat In All the Land. Ours cost us a mere $1500.

I hope you feel better buddy.


Natalie Zed updated @ 6:04 p.m.!!