I didn't really tell them what EXACTLY was going to be done to him. They're 6 and 4, my son and daughter, and I wasn't sure how technical and specific I wanted – or needed – to be about his impending…ahem…procedure.
So I told them that he was going in to have a little operation that boy cats have to keep them from wanting to pee on the walls.
Go on and laugh, if you want, but the prevention of peeing on the walls was, in my opinion, much more easily explained and accepted than something like "Well, we're going to remove his testicles. Testicles? You know, Alex, those little ball-things you've got under your pee-pee. Scratchy has them too, because he's a boy, and we're bringing him to the vet so she can chop them right off!"
I decided to avoid the horror. And the cost of therapy.
So wild, wall-spraying pee prevention it was. And that worked just fine. They just knew the little guy had to go to the doctor's and that he might get shots. And that was enough potential trauma for my kids as it was.
So we dropped him off and then I brought the kids to school and went home. Alex, by the way, had insisted on lugging the cat carrier from house to truck and from truck to vet's office. It was his cat.
When I got home, Softie came RACING to the door, mewing hopefully. "Do you have my brother? Is he back now?"
I have to back up a minute here – I forgot to mention this. As usual when anyone is going to go under anaesthesia in the morning, the rule is "no food or water after midnight" the night before.
Well. It's one thing for an adult human to deal with. Quite another for a young cat.
I'd thought of putting away the cat food and dumping the water and just making all three felines suffer over night, but that wouldn't work because there are several other watering holes the cats favor, no matter how much we try to redirect them. Mainly there's the 55 gallon fish tank in the basement. We don't have a cover for it – just the two large lights that run across the length and at least keep the cats from diving in.
So instead, I filled a small litterbox and made a snuggly bed and locked Scratchy in the first floor bathroom. He immediately began to protest and scratch at the door and reach his paws UNDER the door, in a rather sad and pathetic attempt to, I don't know, become a cartoon and miraculously become two-dimentional so he could slither under the door and then poof! regain his three-dimentional form once freed from solitary confinement. Didn't work.
I felt horrible. Kind of like when I say no to Alex when he asks for ANOTHER snack before dinner and when I stand firm on the "no" and request that he not be whiney any more about it and he says he's only whiney because – and I quote – "You never feed us anything" and I beg to differ and he then tells me he's moving, and I ask where, and he pauses and then says "To England!"
Well, okay, when Alex threatened to move across the pond, I didn't feel horrible; I kind of laughed.
But for Scratchy, I felt horrible. And what made it even more poignant was the fact that Softie, his sister, spent a good part of that night and the next morning sitting right next to the bathroom door. Just sitting, quietly and supportively. "I don't know what you've done to deserve this, O my brother, but I love you no matter what."
Okay, back to the story.
We (the impatient and impossibly hyperactive at the vet's office children of mine) rescued Scratchy a little after 5:00 that afternoon. We would have been home sooner than we were, but as I was walking to the desk in the vets' office to sign off on the paperwork and pay Scratchy's ransome, some unsmiling woman clearly lacking in social skills stalked in the door, CUT in front of me and very bluntly said something like "Rude-People Crisis Center. Boris's medicine." Really. Just like that. She looked a lot like Severus Snape, if you want a visual. Just not as tall. The girl behind the desk started to explain that the nice woman with the two bouncy children was there first, but I waved at her to take the other woman first. It seemed the wisest course of action.
Snape-lady was joined by an equally grim woman and a little fluffy white dog. Julia immediately went to the second woman and asked if she could pet the dog. She had a lovely time making friends with the little fluffy thing while Snape glared at her. Actually, Snape wasn't necessarily glaring. I don't think her face could form any other expression.
At long last, Snape and the other one and their dog left and it was our turn. I read over the post-op care instructions, signed and initialed, and handed over my arm and leg in payment for Scratchy's procedure. Good thing I'm part gecko and my appendages keep growing back. An eternity later (the kids were whirling dervishes of impatience "Where's Scratchy???" "When are they bringing Scratchy out???") our tech reappeared with the gray-blue carrier. Scratchy was inside, quietly wailing. The kids looked inside the carrier. "What's that on him?"
It was an Elizabethan Collar. That conical embarrassment dogs and cats are subject to when they've had surgery or some other procedure and need to NOT lick, scratch or bite the wound site. I'm sure Scratchy's wailing had a lot more to do with mortification than pain at that moment.
We carefully settled the carrier in the truck – between the kids' seats – and the smothered him with words of reassurance and love the whole ride home.
Scratchy continued to complain.
Part of the instructions stated that he was only to have a limited amount of food and water the rest of the day because the anaesthetic was still in his system and he might vomit. The other main thing for Tuesday was that he needed to be kept quiet and safe. No playing, racing up and down the stairs, jumping onto or off of furniture…because his reflexes might be off also. You know, that darned ol' anaesthesia again.
I stressed to my wildly excited offspring that they needed to CALM DOWN and NOT PICK UP SCRATCHY and BE VERY GENTLE with him. Or ELSE!
And so we brought the carrier into the living room, Bill held the kids back a bit, and I opened the carrier.
Scratchy zipped out of there like a shot, ridiculous collar slowing him just a bit. He spent a good deal of the rest of the night learning how to navigate with that annoying THING around his neck, and did an awful lot of slow-motion ricocheting off walls and chairs and people in the process. He just wanted to rub up against all the familiar surroundings…just forget the whole torturous day…but that was impossible. The collar was a constant reminder that things were somehow different.
Eating, drinking, and using the litterbox were difficult at first – again, because of that collar.
The worst part was when Softie skipped into the room. Scratchy turned his alien head to face her, and she hissed at him and ran away.
I told the kids that Softie was just confused by the collar and the vet office smells, and that eventually she would stop hissing at her brother. In the meantime, Scratchy would need lots of VERY GENTLE love, and scratching him around that collar would be a huge favor to him.
Oh, and see that part on his collar where there's a logo and a word in an oval? I took a closer look, and found it somehow appropriate…the name of the company that makes these collars and, I assume, other post-op props for animals.
Have a closer look:
Yep, that's right. Butler.
Well, as of this writing (it's Friday, Halloween, and I'm finally finishing this post. I hope.), Scratchy has adjusted to the collar and seems resigned to his fate.
He doesn't bump into things much now, and has developed this odd, jaunty, bow-legged swagger, probably as a result of the collar messing with his peripheral vision.
Or perhaps it's the post-op situation at the other end that's causing this James Cagney/John Wayne/Komodo Dragon gait.
Whatever it is, it's kind of endearing.
Best of all – Softie has stopped hissing at him. She knows he is really and truly the same Scratchy she has known since birth, and they are back to hanging around together, sleeping on the back of the chair behind Bill's head together, and watching me try to eat my breakfast in peace together. And somehow they seem to realize that they can't wrestle just yet. Scratchy still needs to take it easy a bit longer. Instead, they work on annoying Blur. That's always fun.
Scratchy is supposed to keep the collar on for a full two weeks, but I don't know if that's going to happen. For one thing, he's already wriggled out of it once. I got it back on him and re-tied the gauze, but still…we'll see. I know it's to keep him from licking his…um…butler region and causing an infection or irritating the site, so maybe after around a week I'll take it off while I'm home and keep an eye on him. If he goes for that area, I'll put it back on.
In the meantime, the best gift we can give him is the gift of scratching. All around his neck where the collar is. He's so, so grateful. He purrs loudly, and sometimes his hind leg will start scratching air, like dogs do when you've hit just the right spot.
And that, for those of you interested, is the update on Scratchy and his Surgery.