Monday, July 30, 2012

The delicate one

Chestnut sprawls on his back diagonally across Bear’s bed, his fluffy white belly exposed to the ceiling, his back legs stretched towards one corner of the yellow blanket, his chin towards the other. He is long enough to almost take up the entire space. His eyes are closed and his front paws, white tipped at the ends of orangey-beige legs, curl casually across his chest, while his tail lies in a relaxed curve along the length of his back legs. He does not look like a cat in distress.

I only discovered there was a problem when I found the puddle of blood outside the litter box last Sunday. Chestnut has had urinary tract infections before so I knew right away the blood was his and not Cleo’s, but other than that obvious sign there was no indication there was anything wrong with him. He was his usual food-obsessed, bed-hogging, loud-purring self.

Chestnut is the most laid-back cat I have ever known. He is a master of passive resistance, a solid lump of a cat who would rather be sat on than have to move. The only time he has ever had cause for alarm was when I brought home that crazy puppy four years ago, the one who was going to stay with us for just a few days until we found him a home, the one who turned everyone’s life upside down and who we eventually named Murdoch. His arrival just happened to coincide with Chestnut’s first UTI, which included crystals and catheters and hospitalization.

Ever since then we have considered Chestnut to be rather delicate and have tried to keep stressful situations to a minimum and feed him urinary tract health-specific food and provide about 20 different options for water. And he’s been doing so well. So I was extremely disappointed when I discovered the problem was back and realized we’d become lax during his bout of good health; we took it for granted and we changed his food.

Chestnut hardly made a fuss when I stuffed him backwards into the cat carrier on Monday morning. The loud protests started in the car and continued the whole way to the vet’s and into the waiting room. When no one came to his rescue, he eventually gave up and just stared out through the metal bars of the door with an expression of pure disgust on his face.

I handed over the empty pill bottle with the tiny urine sample I’d collected that morning by stalking the litter box and sliding the lid of a yogurt container underneath the cat whenever he squatted, collecting just a few drops at a time in hopes that it would all add up to enough for the vet to run tests.

The poking and prodding part of the visit went smoothly and we returned home with two kinds of medication and a new bag of food at which Chestnut repeatedly turns up his nose. “That’s what you’re getting Chestnut,” I tell him every time I tip the kibble into his dish and he sniffs it then follows me back to the food cupboard pleading his case. “I can’t live on that stuff!”

It is the pills I dread giving him. It seems so mean to crouch over him and force open his mouth and stuff in a pill around a flicking tongue and gnashing teeth and then clamp his jaw closed until he has swallowed, sometimes foaming at the mouth as the pill begins to dissolve. Sometimes he spits it out and we have to start all over again.

I hug him each time he takes a pill and kiss his head and hope that he doesn’t hate me. When I let him go he walks stiffly away licking his lips and I sit, waiting for him to turn around, which he always does. He stalks back to me, his feet thumping across the floor and rubs his face against my knee, his body against my arm. I run my hand down his back and watch white fur float behind him and I am so glad that Chestnut is too laid-back to hold a grudge.

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