You know, I've found that conversations with the vet about kittens are pretty similar to conversations with the pediatrician about babies. Especially about illnesses and symptoms. Particularly the condition of their poop. Or stools, if you want to be more clinical about it all. But what's the point, really? We know what we mean, and what we mean is poop.
So consider that a bit of a head's up – if conversations about poop-related issues are disturbing to you, this post may not be for you. But if you've been through kitten or puppy or baby stuff, and are a veteran of ick, then read on.
One or both of the kittens have had diarrhea for a couple of days, and yesterday morning I saw what looked like blood in one of the…um…samples. Up til then I'd thought maybe it was caused by them eating our adult cat's food, and it not sitting well in their little kitten digestive systems. But the blood? Not something to mess with – or even the diarrhea, as they can get dehydrated and die from that. (My PSA for the day.) So, veteran poop mistress that I am, I saved some "samples" in a ziploc bag (inside another ziploc bag…inside a paper bag so I wouldn't have to look at it any more) and called the vet. Got an appointment for mid-afternoon for the babies. Here we go.
Coincidentally, my kids' yearly exam appointment was scheduled for the same time. It's handy having a spouse – one can do the human appointment, one can do the feline. I took the kittens. I do most of the kids' doctor visits through the year, so it's good for Bill to take them now and then. Heh heh.
So off we went, in opposite directions.
I got to the vet's office, filled out the paperwork for the babies (cringing as I wrote "Softie" and "Scratchy" because, you know…I would have named them something like oh, Luke and Leia, which is so much more mature. Or Pesto and Remoulade, maybe. Or Bechamel and Bolognese. You know, proper cat names. But we let the children name them, and so their names stand.
I went to sit, with the kittens in their carrier, until it was our turn. Over on the table in the corner, the magazines were fanned out nicely, so I went to get something to read. My choices were "Cat Fancy" or "Dog Fancy" (at least that's what it might have been – I didn't really look at the dog magazines because a) it would be disloyal to the kittens and b) it would get me wanting a dog, and right now, that's a very adamant NO. I've got enough poop to clean right now, thank you. So I took a copy of "Cat Fancy" and sat. And flipping through the magazine I felt…uncomfortable. Like I was peeking in on a meeting of some secret society. Because, you know, I have loved all my cats over the years, but I have never even considered rebuilding my home so it is more pleasing TO THE CATS. I saw glossy spreads of home interiors with skinny stairways running up the wall, leading to a little doorway (think Tom & Jerry size) so the cats can go – where? So they can have privacy? They can crawl under a bed for that! Or hide in a closet! I found myself shaking my head a lot, a little bemused grin on my face, as I flipped through the pages.
And yet…there are a LOT of subscribers to Cat Fancy. A LOT of people who submit photos, share heartwarming stories, and read their pets' horoscopes on a daily basis. (Okay, I don't know about that last bit, but it sounded appropriate.) And I'm not knocking any of that. But it's just not me. I don't quite get it. But whatever. As long as everyone's being nice to their pets, I'm fine. I guess I'm just not quite ENOUGH of a cat person. And I like dogs, too. I can't be pigeon-holed. I'm a rebel.
Okay, enough of that.
Suddenly, out of the silence, I hear a pleasant and professional voice over the loudspeaker. (oh, and I've never been at a vet's office where there is a LOUDSPEAKER. It felt, briefly, like a grocery store – "clean up on aisle five!")
And the voice said: "Softie and Scratchy are here for their 2:20 appointment with Dr. Blahblahblah!"
LOUDspeaker. An appropriate term. So there we go – the whole WORLD got to hear what my kids named the kittens. I put my magazine down, in anticipation of someone (laughing hysterically, no doubt) to come looking for me and the kittens.
A rather business-like looking woman (the office manager, I believe) came over and confirmed, in a business-like manner, that the kittens in the carrier were, indeed, the aforementioned Softie and Scratchy. I followed her to room 4, she told me a tech would be in shortly, and then she left. Moments later the tech showed up – she looked familiar but I couldn't think where I'd seen her before, unless it was (in all likelihood) last time I was at the vet's with Blur.
First one out of the carrier, once all the preliminary questions were answered, was Scratchy. He is, I have to admit, aptly named, though he didn't do any real damage. He tried to, however, once that thermometer went in. Oh, he didn't like that at all, and he was quite determined to get as far away from it as he could. He twisted and turned and reached and squirmed and made little angry kitten noises. The tech said she'd need to have some help with him (besides me). She reached into the carrier for Softie, who, not surprisingly, was huddled way at the back of the carrier, hoping we'd forget about her completely. But she was very docile and patient during the temp-taking part of the show, and only let out a little tiny "mew!" of discomfort during the whole thing. Her temp was normal.
The tech took Scratchy out of the room for his temperature re-take and also so they could do a Feline AIDS/Leukemia test on him. She said I might hear some horrible cries from him but he'd be okay. I told her I'd been through it before and I wouldn't worry about anything I might hear. Strangely enough, he was very good during whatever torturous things they did back there, and I didn't hear a peep from him. Tech Girl brought him back in and he seemed fine, but he refused to look at anyone and promptly sat down and started licking the leg they'd taken blood from. He shook his head a few times at the unpleasant taste of the antiseptic, but soldiered on, licking determinedly, in order to erase, as best he could, the memory of all his recent indignities.
Softie left the room with Tech Girl and Scratchy worked his way across the floor until he was under my chair, and there he stayed. Softie was brought back – she had behaved well, of course – and she, too, sat down right away to attend to her leg.
She barely licked the damp fur and then she was airborne – made me think of a popcorn kernel bursting open – the taste was clearly the most horrible she'd experienced in her 10 weeks of kittenhood. She gamely tried again and – POP – up she went again. Yuck! She tried one more time, and then gave up for a bit. She saw her brother still licking away under my chair, so she went to sit near him and gave it another go. Nope. Just not working. So she opted to prowl around the room a bit more instead.
Well, to prevent this long story from getting TOO much longer, I'll cut to the point where the examination of the disgusting poop was complete and Tech Girl came in (Dr. Cat Lover was already in there with me and the kittens, she'd examined both of the babies and played with Scratchy a while, and we were chatting about Old Wives' Tales regarding urinary tract blockage in male cats. Fun stuff, I know. Anyway, Tech Girl came in and confirmed with Dr. Cat Lover that yep, she was right, it was coccidia.
Coccidia, in case you're interested, are (and I am quoting from the hand-out they gave me) "protozoan (one-celled) organisms that can infect the intestine. The disease "coccidiosis," most often affects young puppies and kittens, but can infect animals of any age." Symptoms include (surprise, surprise) diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss and loss of appetite. Fortunately for my kittens, they only seemed to have the diarrhea issue, as they were eating and drinking (and peeing) just fine. If ignored (another PSA here), the kittens or puppies can eventually have seizures, and can lead to a weakening of the immune system and even (because of the dehydration) death.
Fortunately it can be treated with medication, so I'll be dosing the kitties for the next 9 days. Tech Girl gave them their first dose (a double dose) in the exam room. She said the initial taste isn't bad (how she knows this for sure, I'm not certain and didn't ask) but the aftertaste was yucky. She dosed Scratchy first, and he handled it well. Softie, she of the more refined palate, struggled and coughed and spat out what she could. She will be the tough one to medicate, clearly.
Oh – but the best part? When Dr. Cat Lover told me, with a slight wince of sympathy, "It's (the diarrhea) going to get worse before it gets better." Such common words, actually, in illnesses. The pesky little parasite responds to the meds by MULTIPLYING RAPIDLY and causing the symptoms to increase, in a desperate attempt to fight off the meds and remain, happily and disgustingly, in its happy intestine home. The parasite, however, will soon learn the power of the dark side, and will be forced to flee or die. Something like that, anyway.
So, armed with a bottle of medicine and two droppers for the kittens, plus a box of free kitten food and two free samples of some flea and tick and ear mite and heartworm stuff, AND the carrier with the kittens in it, I paid my (shockingly huge but okay, it was for TWO kittens and the first year is the worst in terms of shots and illness and all that so just take a few deep breaths and sign the check already) bill and all the people (really) in the front desk area took their turns oohing and aahing and squealing and gushing over the kittens – AND calling them by their names without snickering at me – I left the vet's office and headed home. The kittens promptly curled up in exhausted little balls of fur and fell into comas. Really. They didn't bother to move until hours later. It was just so draining, all the various devices poking them and sticking them, people looking in their ears and at their teeth. Just too much for such little baby creatures.
And speaking of being stuck and poked, Bill and the kids arrived about 20 minutes later. Alex told me "Wait til you hear how brave Julia was!" Ah yes, age 4 – THE SHOTS. My baby girl sported 4, count 'em 4, band aids on her arms (two and two). But the thing was, when it came time for her to have those shots, Julia was – according to the nurse who inflicted all the pain – the bravest 4-year-old she (the nurse) had ever seen.
First off, she refused to sit on Bill's lap for the shots. She climbed up onto the table herself, and told the nurse she was ready to go. No reaction to the first shot. Second one – a bit of wimpering, but the nurse said that was the one that would sting most. Third and Fourth shots – yeah, is that all you've got? And then it was over. She got her band aids and she was all set. The nurse gave her a sticker because she was such a tough little chick.
Bill was amazed and impressed. He probably would have cried more. I know Alex would have. But not my girl.
She is probably so jaded about needles now that as long as she doesn't see any blood, she's fine.
That was the only horror story from the kids' visit – and it's not even a horror story, really.
There were, of course, the humorous moments. It's nice for Bill to experience those, too. I don't think he's been to the yearly checkup appointment in a few years, so he hasn't had to sit and cringe when the doctor asks the kids "What kinds of healthy foods do you like to eat?" and Julia bursts out with "Macaroni and Cheese!" every time. Alex said ribs first, but also included sushi, and eventually got around to peas, and squash, and carrots. So we're okay as parents, I think. At least they didn't say "Happy Meals!" or "M&Ms!" or something like that.
And Alex is going to need a visit with an eye doctor, because apparently his right eye isn't seeing as well as the left one. Ah well – he can blame genetics for that. I wear glasses, and Bill SHOULD but doesn't unless he's reading music in a low-light situation.
All in all, though, the kids and kittens are healthy and (now that the appointments are over) happy, so things are good here. This morning Julia had me rip off her band aids because "I'm all better now." I made the mistake of saying "One, two, three, BLOOP!" or something else dumb like that when I ripped one of the Daffy Duck ones off. She told me, in a rather condescending tone "Mommy, don't say 'one, two, three, bloop' when you do that, okay?"
At four, she's just simply too old for that sort of thing.