Saturday, August 06, 2005

These cats will be the death of me

Between one cat's intermittent presents of dead mice, and the other's health problems, there have been some exciting moments cat-sitting this last couple of weeks.

One morning last week, as I was leaving for work, I heard a loud thumping sound upstairs. I thought it must be a raccoon who'd gotten into the attic to get out of the heat. Climbing the stairs, I was looking forward to finding out just what exactly I would do about a wild animal in the attic, as I had no preconceptions on that point--but when I got to the top of the stairs, it was clear that the sound was not coming from the attic. The cat was having a huge convulsion, flopping and thrashing around on the floor.

This was really scary to watch; I didn't know if she was dying, but from the violence of the seizure, it would not have surprised me. I was scared to touch her, because I thought I might inadvertently injure her, but when she started to flop over the balcony, I did grab her by the nape of the neck and gently pull her back. Otherwise, though, until the seizure stopped, I didn't know what to do.

Finally, it stopped, and Cat looked pretty disoriented, so I thought I should get her to the vet right away. Not having a car here, though, that's non-trivial, so I checked the bus schedule and found a bus would be along in fairly short order. We took the bus up to the cat's regular vet, but were turned away because I couldn't prove that I was supposed to be taking care of the cat, and because they don't take walk-ins, only appointments.

Fortunately, there was another vet a bit up the road, and rather than make the cat wait for an hour in the hot sun for another bus, I started walking uphill. Now, Philadelphia has been going through several heat waves this summer, and this was one of the worst days yet. So I'm walking up the hill, in the heat, no transportation, not knowing what to do about the cat if this vet won't see her, no extra money to pay for the bill as I haven't gotten my first paycheck yet, and the whole thing starts getting overwhelming, and I burst into tears. I got out the cell phone and called my best friend back in Seattle, "Dorothy, I want to come HOME!". As I walked along the road with the cat, she talked me down off the water tower with some sanity about how well things were really going in Philadelphia (not in the moment, but in the long run), and by the time I got to the vet, I was calm enough again to explain the situation.

The vet checked Cat out; she couldn't find anything wrong except a certain unsteadiness, but recommended further tests. I told her I'd get back to her on that after communicating with the owner, but as she's abroad, sometimes it's a few days before I can get an answer.

I was walking back home when the carrier broke open, and the cat landed on the sidewalk. I had visions of going to all that trouble to save her life, only to lose her under the wheels of a car. Fortunately, she was so stunned by her successful escape that she just stood there looking confused for a moment (my Daphne, on the other hand, would have been running before she hit the ground), and that was all I needed to grab her, and stuff her back into the carrier, which I then carried home in a death grip to prevent another escape. I could just feel the cortisol stress hormone coursing through my veins, but we made it home without incident.

With transportation and everything, I ended up taking the whole day off work, but my coworkers were extremely kind and understanding about it, and reassured me that of course I had to take care of the cat. By the end of the day, I was feeling better, and emailed the cat's owner what had happened.

A few days later, I got an email back from the owner: "Sorry, I forgot to tell you--she does that about once a month. I just wrap her in a towel until it passes.".

Someday, this is going to be a really funny chapter to look back on in my mémoirs--but I can tell, I'm still not quite there just yet.


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