I also wanted both cats to be checked out by a vet just to be on the safe side. When I brought them home, I had two immediate concerns:
- I wanted to get Garrus on the road to health. While we provided Garrus with wet food, as the shelter had suggested, we noticed that he did not eat much. I wanted to know if he had an underlying medical problem explaining his lack of appetite and resulting bony physique.
- Charlie’s left eye weeped occasionally, and I worried that he had an eye infection. If that was the case, I did not want (a) the infection to get worse or (b) to be spread to Garrus.
Having received permission from the shelter to take them to the vet, I made an appointment with the veterinary clinic the shelter used. They had a cat specialist (Dr. R), and my good friends Tracey and Sam brought their clowder of five cats there. Both of these were boded well. Of course, getting cats into carriers and to the vet is rarely a simple or stress-free experience.
Cue complete feline panic. Charlie was so utterly terrified of being taken to the vet that he had a near meltdown while we put him in the carrier, let alone when he was brought into the actual exam room. He was so stressed that he needed to be sedated for his and the staff’s safety. I was a bit mortified since I had just met this vet (Dr. R) and her staff but assured me that they were accustomed to dealing with scaredy cats. I was also a bit thrown since I had never needed to sedate a cat at the vet’s office. Charlie was a sorry sight, though, since he was not at all aggressive but clearly scared witless, highly stressed out from his time in the shelter, and in need of lots of TLC. Thankfully, Dr R deemed Charlie healthy and determined that he did not have an eye infection. A clogged duct was the cause of his weepy eye; it occasionally weeps now but does not hurt him.
After we brought Charlie home from the vet, he regressed back into his extreme hidey self for a day or so. We gave him time and space, offered him treats and toys, and provided him with plenty of safe spots to hide in if he was so inclined. Garrus immediately came over to give him a comforting lick and snuggle, so that helped Charlie calm down. He started to emerge from hiding once he felt safe again. Fortunately, he did not seem to hold a grudge against us for taking him to the vet.
Looking down at Garrus from above, you can see how gaunt he used to be.
Garrus, by contrast, was relatively docile at the vet’s office. Dr. R immediately discovered the cause during the exam: his teeth were in terrible shape and his gums were quite inflamed. He probably had been living with chronic dental pain for some time. No wonder why he wasn’t eating! By nature, cats are pretty stoic and tend to hide pain or medical issues as much as possible but we could not ignore this problem. I immediately informed the shelter and the generous Friends of the Shelter arranged necessary funds to cover his medical expenses since he was in foster care. Garrus underwent emergency dental surgery the next day. Five teeth were resected, four of them on one side of his mouth. Fortunately, the surgery went without a hitch and, after a period of observation, I took my drowsy foster kitty home.
Understandably, he was a bit out of it so I have him space and let him snooze. After he had a well-deserved nap, I came to check on him and sat on the floor. Garrus stretched, walked over to me, and gave my hand a gentle head bunt. My heart melted. Just by watching his more relaxed body language, I could tell that he clearly felt better. I took cues from him. Was he hungry? Thirsty? Did want to go back to sleep? Did he feel up to playing? I did not want him to overexert himself only hours after he had surgery.
He let me know that he was hungry by sitting tall beside the food bowl with his tail wrapped primly around his paws. He gazed levelly at me with those enormous, sad, yellow moon eyes. That was also the first time that he really looked up directly at me instead of with a lowered, shy, indirect gaze. He seemed to say, “Beg pardon but I trust that you can arrange sustenance for me? I would most appreciate it. I am a wee bit peckish.” Even after surgery, which must have felt something akin to an alien abduction to him, he was nevertheless unfailingly polite.
Following Dr. R’s advice, we gave him wet food for kittens (which has higher fat and protein content than adult cat food) for a few more days as his mouth healed. To our relief, he had no complications and his appetite slowly increased. After his recheck appointment, we were encouraged to transition him to kitten kibble so that he could get back to a healthy weight. Dr. R said he needed to gain about 2 lbs (he had lost muscle mass as well) and estimated that it would take him at least a year to gain that amount. She also suspected that he had food anxiety, given that he had been bullied by his food-guarding previous housemates, and that contributed to his scant appetite. Getting him calm and comfortable in an established safe environment would be our immediate task.
The boys would only eat together, not by themselves. They were also seemingly perplexed the first time we offered them treats. It took them both a little while to get the idea that treats were edible. Once they grasped this concept, they were soon on board.