We were able to trim Garrus’ nails ourselves today with a towel over his face, a stress reducer to calm him, and patience! (He normally gets his nails trimmed at the vet’s office.) The stress reducer also made him more chilled out and affectionate (!) so he forgave us quickly and repeatedly asked for visits from both of us. He even started talking outside my office door when I was trying to do schoolwork, at which point I took a break and he came in for a desk visit. We were able to pick him up and have lap time with him – and he even purred in my lap! Such huge progress for our Gentleman Cat!
At last year’s Clear the Shelter event (held on Saturday, August 19th), our lives changed when we decided to foster two tabbies. We had not fostered before but Aaron and I decided jointly that these boys really needed us.
Aristotle was gaunt, pitiful-looking, and had patchy fur due to overgrooming. Because of his severe stomatitis, he had (understandably) a poor appetite.
Tink, then two years old, had spent cumulatively 18 months at the shelter (partly in foster care). He had been adopted and returned three times, and had recently lost his buddy cat Pan. While he had been successfully paired with a new buddy, Tink was decidedly not doing well in the shelter and spent 95% of the time hiding.
Both cats were skittish, extremely shy, and wary. They needed a lot of TLC and a quiet respite from the shelter. In our care they made noticeable improvements, especially because we were patient and made an effort to gain their trust. Only two weeks later they moved in! Since we brought them home during the Clear the Shelter event, the adoption fees were waived.
A year later, they are very different, and much happier, cats. They are no longer so skittish and timid. Charlie (formerly known as Tink) blossomed into a perpetually sunny, friendly, and affectionate cat. He squeaks! He flops! He snuggles! Garrus (formerly known as Aristotle) underwent dental surgery to treat his stomatitis and is now a much healthier cat with bunny-soft fur. While still on the reserved side, he now asks for visits, bats at crinkle balls, and chases after the red dot with gusto.
As you can see, Charlie and Garrus are not concerned. They may, however, be only slightly overloved in our house.
As you may remember, Garrus (aka Gentleman Cat) underwent extensive dental surgery two weeks ago. Dr R wanted to check how his mouth was healing and determine the next steps needed to make Garrus a healthy and happy cat.
Aaron and I were pleasantly surprised that we were able to get Garrus into the carrier in under 10 minutes and with remarkably minimal fuss. He wasn’t too happy about it and there was at least one pitiful meow saying “I want to lodge a complaint with the management about this!”. He didn’t meow at all in the car but let me know he was quite alarmed when we were in the vet office lobby. “Excuse me but there are dogs in here and I do not like this at all!” he seemed to say. Thankfully we were put in a room lickedy-split and instantly the complaints stopped.
When a tech came in to ask me questions, I told her that he has been eating, hasn’t displayed any lethargy, and has not vomited or had any diarrhea. In general he eats about 1 can of wet food a day but frequently when we offer him more food during the day, he faffs about and seems anxious. While he expresses gratitude by being affectionate and sweet, he won’t always eat the food we offer him. We’ve experimented with how we present the food (finely chopped, at room temperature instead of right-out-of-the-fridge cold) and ensure that Charlie doesn’t come in and make him nervous. I reported that Garrus sometimes appears ill at ease around Charlie, who, in his desperation for a playmate, will occasionally get most persistent and end up pestering Garrus.
The tech took him in the back, where she weighed him and took his temperature, and brought him back to the room, where Dr R examined him. I was pleased to learn that Garrus gained 0.6 lbs in two weeks! Most of the sutures dissolved on their own but she noted that there is still some inflammation (stomatitis) in his mouth. The treatment for this is steroid therapy, and she wants to see him again in three weeks to monitor his progress. In response to the anxious behavior I reported, Dr R thought that Zylkene, a natural supplement that helps pets manage stress, might be useful. We had given the boys this when we first adopted them to help them acclimate to the house and overcome shelter shock. I hope that these treatments help Garrus feel better all around.
Dr R reported that Garrus behaved exceptionally well and acted rather calm, huge improvements from how withdrawn and skittish he was when we adopted him 10 months ago. Cat parent achievement unlocked! He didn’t fuss at all while being weighed or getting his temperature taken, and, while not happy about getting his mouth examined, did not freak out. We had no issue getting him back into the carrier either. On the car ride back I repeatedly told him that he was such a good boy. (Yes, cats need to be told this too, not just dogs.)
About an hour after I let him out, I found Garrus investigating the carrier on his own.
He moved his head up as I snapped this photo, showing me his vampy teeth.
“I am pleased to report that the carrier is clear of any dangers, madam. Thank you for your cooperation.”
This is one of his favorite sunning spots. Sometimes after he finishes a lounge like this, he comes into my office for a visit. I love petting his soft, sun-warmed fur.
No beating around the bush here: at some point in cat ownership, there will be some level of cat-induced disaster. It will very likely be gross and involve bodily fluids or substances. In that sense, the gritty part of pet care can be compared to babysitting drunk friends or caring for a sick toddler.
When you successfully clean up a cat-induced disaster by yourself without retching a little, you level up in Cat Parent Achievement. When two of you have to corral a freaked out cat (Charlie) in a Cat Genie and put a towel on him to calm him down so that one of you can clean up his rear, you both receive Experience Points.
It’s all fun and games until someone throws up a hairball on the bed…
When we brought the Downton Tabbies home as fosters in August, it was evident they were completely unaccustomed to being handled on a daily basis. Aside from visits from volunteers who loved on them and foster care, probably most of what they had experienced was rough manhandling that involved being scruffed, put inside a carrier, and taken to the shelter, the vet, or a temporary home, all of which are stressful places and situations for cats. The whole experience must have been like an alien abduction to them.
Picking up and holding a cat is part of socializing that cat, a topic I’ve discussed at length with my vet once I took the boys in as fosters. It is also an integral part of having to hold and, on occasion, restrain an animal for certain situations. Good examples would be to trim a cat’s nails, clean their ears, or to administer medication. Also, getting them into the carrier is a challenge every cat owner and cat must face!
With some coaxing and a lot of patience, Charlie is submitting to being picked up. The trick is getting him to disengage his claws from fabric or his tower. Once scooped, he does well if he is held close to the body in a semi-circular ball. I think he likes the reassurance, support, and security my arms provide as I hold him. I also give him smooches, sneak in belly rubs if his tummy is exposed, and talk to him. On several occasions I’ve been rewarded with purrs. For some reason, Aaron hasn’t had as much luck being able to catch and pick up Charlie as I have.
Garrus is another matter. He hops, wiggles, shimmies, darts, and skitters away from both of us when we try to pick him up. If we’re able to actually get a grip on him and hold him for a few seconds, he uses his long back legs to kick off of our arms or chest to spring away. Then he looks back reproachfully at us. Once he’s onto us, he gives us a wide berth until he is certain that we won’t try to pick him up. Clever boy.
I’ve spoken about his tactics with his vet and her technicians, who have provided a few tips and a lot of encouragement. We have to move slowly with Garrus and acclimate him accordingly. Aaron and I have made it a goal to habitually pick him up just a few inches off the ground a couple times a day. We don’t pick him up each time we pet him or else he will avoid our approach. As I’ve mentioned, he’s smarter than Charlier and a bit feistier.
This evening I demonstrated both persistence and patience as he walked in figure-8s around my legs, apparently wanting rubs but seemingly catching onto the idea that I might want to pick him up but not sure exactly when I might do it. In due time I picked him up twice, each time putting one hand in front of his chest (to prevent him from hopping off) and the other beneath his hind legs and bottom to give him ample support (and to prevent him from kicking).
I gave him a break and rewarded him with his favorite form of affection: scritches on the side of his neck and chest simultaneously. He began to purr, relaxed, squinted his eyes, and semi-flopped on the floor. Stroking him and talking to him all the while, I managed to scoop him up into my arms and held him for about half a minute–a record! Amazingly he continued to purr! I smooched his head and told him that he was such a good boy. I’m not sure if Garrus appreciated such praise but Aaron concurred.
Then Garrus had enough and flew out of my arms, his back paws flying off my chest. He didn’t give us the side-eye this time because instead he got a treat for not being such a wiggle-worm when being held. His claws left a tiny hole in my shirt. C’est la vie. I still won.
Cat Parent Achievement Unlocked: Receiving unsolicited slow blinks
Charlie is currently scampering around the house after a long cuddle and snooze session with Garrus. There’s lots of squeaking, investigating, and probably some toy relocation/stealth regifting. Several times I’ve seen Charlie trotting down the hallway and I’ve waved my hand at him to let him know he can come to me for rubs. (The hand wiggle gesture is our way of beckoning kitties for rubs and inviting them onto the bed or couch. Each cat owner, I assume, has their own gesture for a similar purpose.) He’s given me slow blinks each time I’ve done this. I win.
Me: Hi little man! Whatcha doin’?
Charlie: Hi Mama! *much squeaking*
Me: Would you like rubs?
Charlie: Oh yes, please! *slow blinks followed by squeaking; jumps onto the window seat* I have arrived! You may now pet me! Behold! I am so pettable! *more squeaking*
Garrus: *lingering in the doorway* Excuse me, Madam. May I also receive gestures of affection? I find them agreeable. *gives big vampy smile and slow blink followed by a head bunt*
Boudicca: *waving paw at me from her pink bed* Mama, pay attention to me now! Is it lap time yet?