What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the tag “pets”

A visit to the vet, reluctantly

For you first-time readers in this space, my name is Penelope, and I’m a rescue cat. Penelope_softedgesI’ve lived with my adoptive parents over two years now and, much as I hate to admit it, things are pretty good here. Wondering why I hate to admit it? I’m known for my whiny vocals (which Mom calls kvetches; I had to learn a little Yiddish after I came here). I wouldn’t want it too seem like I have nothing legitimate to whine about.

But I am comfy here. Wet food…the Elegant Medley (more expensive) kind, dry food, a litter box that’s scooped several times a day, and two very attentive people who are home much of the time. It’s all good.

Except, that is, once a year, when my parents attempt to take me to the vet for a checkup. They try to be subtle and act like it’s just an ordinary day, but I know something’s up. Maybe it’s that black bag sitting on the floor…the one with the mesh sides and zippers. I remember being in it last year when they took me to the vet. This can’t be anything good. My motto is “You’ll have to catch me first!”

They try. I manage to outrun both of them, even if they’re on opposite sides of the room closing in on me. Dad’s the official catcher though. I give him a good workout, zooming from bedroom to bedroom, down the stairs and up again. When I think he’s getting dangerously close, I scoot under the bed or the sofa, a place neither of them can reach. In fact, they can barely bend down to see if I’m still there.

After this goes on a while, I can hear snippets of a phone conversation Mom is having. “I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule. We can’t catch Penelope!”

I’ve won another round! Alas, the appointment was rescheduled, and as hard as I tried to win again, I let my guard down for a second, and Dad scooped me up and put me into the black bag. Soon we were on our way.

Although I don’t like other people, the technician and vet were nice to me and very gentle. And I got a compliment! I lost 0.6 pound, and the vet said “Good job!” She may have been talking to my folks, but I’ll except the praise too. After all, I’m the one who scurried around the house and raced up the stairs…an excellent way to trim my tummy.


Penelope: Things you should know about me

My favorite toys: tissue paper, plastic straws, string, and a cardboard box

I get bored with cat toys and immerse myself in tissue paper, plastic straws, string, and a cardboard box.

I wish my owners would get some new toys for me. The laser pointers and catnip mice are becoming boring.

I scamper away when they try to pet me, but I really love their gentle touch. I crave it. Just do it on my terms, when I’m ready.

I wouldn’t ever want to be in the water, but I’m fascinated by the running water in the bathroom sink. After it goes down the drain, I like to step into the bowl and dampen my paws.

I like my owners a lot—maybe even love them, if I could figure out what love is—but I don’t understand why they can’t devote all their waking hours playing with me.

And speaking of their waking hours…why on earth do they have to sleep at night? Can’t they take cat naps during the day like I do? I’m ready to rock and roll at 10:30 p.m., and they’re turning out the lights!

When I’m running around, bouncing off the walls, and doing somersaults, she calls it a hissy fit. I resent that. None of that activity involves hissing! If they want to see hissing, I’ll show them what it’s like. And it’s not a tantrum either. I’m just showing off my gymnastic prowess.

And speaking of my gymnastic prowess…I keep hearing, “We should enter her in the Kitty Olympics!” But nothing ever comes of it. I doubt there is a Kitty Olympics. It’s just flattery.

I’m a really good girl. I’ve jumped onto the kitchen counter only three times, and I got down as soon as I was reprimanded. When I put my paws on the kitchen tabletop and hear a sharp, “No table!” I get down immediately. I eat all my food, wet and dry, and use my litter box all the time. I don’t even scatter litter everywhere while burying my business like my predecessor did, so I’ve been told.

I’ve been called a “kvetch” because of my daily mournful sounds. Does that mean I’m a Jewish cat? Can you kvetch if you’re not Jewish? And if I’m a Jewish cat, it would be nice if they gave me a bat mitzvah—with lots of luxurious gifts. (In case you’re wondering what to get me, a climbing tower or a nine-lifetime supply of Fancy Feast would be welcome.)

Until next time,


On loving our pets and sticker shock

It’s time for an update on the health of our beloved cat, Maude. You non-cat people out there can just click the “X” in the right-hand corner and wait for a more interesting post. For those who are still with me, here’s what’s going on:

When Maude had her ear canal removed because of a tumor, the biopsy showed that it was a squamous cell carcinoma. The vet surgeon said that there were residual cells that couldn’t be removed because of their location. She added the dreadful “These cells can progress rapidly,” and recommended that we consult with the vet oncologist to explore our options and their possible outcomes.

When I called the Vet Specialty Center to make the appointment, I was told not to feed Maude on the appointment day because the oncologists like to perform an ultrasound to see if the cancer has spread. Being the practical person that I am, I asked for the price of the ultrasound. “It’s $400,” was the unwelcome reply. I said that I’m not sure we’d want to do that yet…we just wanted information.

Just before Monday’s appointment date, Maude was hiding in the closet, eating and drinking very little, and because of that, not leaving anything in the litter box. So when the oncologist suggested some tests to see what was going on, how could we say no? We wanted to find out and, we hoped, correct whatever it was. The ultrasound was out because Maude had eaten a few bits of food in the morning, so the tests that were run were those that didn’t involve anesthetics: blood work, chest X-ray to see if there were tumors there, and others that I can’t pronounce nor spell. All came back negative, so that was a relief. They also hydrated her through an injection, so I could stop worrying about the deadly effects of dehydration. And they injected anti-nausea medication that might help her appetite.

This center is very well run and efficient. And they always show you the cost estimate before they do anything to your pet. If during the testing they find that they need to probe a little deeper (and charge more), they’ll come to you again for your approval. So the sticker shock came early in the process, not as a surprise at the end. It turned out to be much, much more than the ultrasound would have cost. But we wanted to proceed and to find out what was making her lethargic and withdrawn. So I muttered, “Who needs a retirement fund?” and gave the okay.

Maude, in friskier times

There was no evidence of cancer, at least in the places they looked, that would be causing her symptoms. But that leaves the ultrasound, which they were quick to tell us could be rescheduled for later this week. That would look at the original area of the tumor and see if new growths were causing pain and keeping her from eating comfortably.

When all the probing and prodding were done for the day, they brought Maude out to us in the waiting room. “She was not happy with us,” the tech said. (What animal would be?) I didn’t realize how unhappy she was until we were in the car on the way home and I unzipped the carrier top so that I could stroke her head. I must have surprised her. I have never heard a hiss like that come out of that sweet little mouth. She was on guard and not at all trusting. She did this twice more before finding a hiding place at home. Then, the next morning, as I was dressing for work, she got in my way and the pant leg I was trying to put on swung at her. She hissed again and sped off. My husband said she probably thought the cloth was someone coming after her with a towel to capture her. We need to tread lightly around her for a few days.

The good news is that she’s back to sleeping with us—and therefore trusting us—although she hides much of the day. Yesterday we found her under our bed (gathering the dust balls I’m sure).

We haven’t scheduled the ultrasound yet, but since she’s still picking at her food (and has lost weight she couldn’t afford to lose), we’ll probably do it soon. And I can guarantee that we’ll end up paying more than an additional $400. If you’re wondering about pet insurance, I’ve heard that it doesn’t cover everything and is not valid for pre-existing conditions. Might I suggest ObamaPetCare?

My daughter, who was Maude’s owner until April 2013 when Maude moved in with us, keeps apologizing. No apologies necessary I tell her. Things happen. But I realize that she knew when she handed Maude over to our care that we would be as devoted to her as she and her husband were.

I’ll report again when I find out more. And if Maude feels up to it, she’ll give her perspective on these events. I’m sure it won’t be pretty.

When you love too much

Sorry to disappoint you starry-eyed romantics out there, hoping to find a torrid love story about man vs. woman, man vs. man, or woman vs.woman. (I’m nothing if not inclusive.) This is about woman and man vs. a cat. No torridness, just foolishness.

I love our cat, Maude. My husband loves Maude too. Because he’s not the father of my two daughters, Maude is the closest we come to having a child together. Also, he’s never had children, so this is his chance to show his fatherhood chops.

I understand that most people who have pets love them too (although I could never get emotional about a boa constrictor or a piranha). But most don’t seem to be as obsessive about them as we are about Maude. So many of these pet owners work all day, travel for business or pleasure, or basically go about their lives—the lives they had before the pet entered the picture. The pet is an additional family member, not the focus of the home.

The object of our affection

The object of our affection

I’m not referring to the early days of kitten- or puppy-hood. Those periods are necessarily pet-centered and devoted to training, acclimating, and getting to know cute little Morris or Fluffy. Maude is over 12 years old, although we became her family only a year ago.

Maude adapted very quickly to new owners and a new household. The first week she hid in a corner of our closet at night, but soon she found more visible places to nap. And before long, she was sleeping with us, making a queen-size bed feel no wider than an army cot. Did we complain? A little. But as I said, we love her, and we love it when she snuggles up to us, resting a front paw on our arm or rolling over on her back so we can give her a belly rub.

We’re home more often than we’re away, so there’s a lot of snuggling and belly rubbing going on. In short, we’ve spoiled Maude. After she eats her food and drinks from her water bowl (and uses the cat facilities), she can’t understand why I might not want to go back upstairs with her to…snuggle. Giving her a warm look and saying, “You had your dinner; it’s my turn now” doesn’t phase her. She continues her cat-whining—sort of a mournful “Mrrrroww”—or what I call ca-vetching (combining cat with kvetching and pronouncing it the way Gentiles usually pronounce kvetching).

Maude also has asthma, but it seems to have improved in the last year or so. Occasionally, she starts coughing. If it goes on for a while, we give her a nebulizer treatment with Flomax (yes, the same obscenely expensive medication given to people). After every attack, we look at each other and ask, “What if we hadn’t been here?” And that leads me to the title of this post. We love too much. The evidence is irrefutable. We haven’t gone on a trip since October 2012, six months before we got Maude.

There are cat sitters, I know. I’ve looked online and read many profiles. But this is Maude! Maude is used to being the center of attention in our house many different times of the day—and not just one or two 15-minute visits by a kind stranger.

Do I realize this behavior (ours not hers) is not normal? Sure I do. Will I do something about it? I had good intentions of trying, gradually, to be away from her for longer spans of time. Maybe even work up to an overnight trip…or a weekend! Then came the diagnosis.

At Maude’s recent annual checkup, the vet noticed something suspicious in her left ear. “It could be a polyp or a mass, or just a very deep infection,” she said. She suggested we take her to a veterinary specialty center for another opinion and possible surgery if it needs to be removed. So we snatched her up and put her in her carrier and took off for the vet center—a huge, efficiently run operation that offers surgeons, neurologists, nephrologists, dermatologists, oncologists, and probably other “ists” that I didn’t get a chance to read on the sign. After the initial (not free) consultation, Maude is scheduled to go under anesthetic later this week so both the surgeon and the dermatologist can get a better look at what we’re dealing with. I’m already stressing over the fact that we were told not to feed her that morning. How will we explain to her that we’re eating breakfast but she can’t?

And now we’ve added worry to the loving picture, but I know that pet owners experience this anytime their darlings are ill. But the real test of our love for this sweet, beautiful feline is that we didn’t flinch (not more than a nanosecond, that is) when we say the cost estimate. Home equity loan anyone?

So we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. But I promise that if Maude is in good health after this ordeal, we’ll make plans. Watch for updates.


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