Bad things happen when you’re busy. I have just self-published a novel and the last few months have been dominated by editing, proofing, and yet more proofing... which is why Oatmeal (6.5kg of feline lap-hog) chose his moment to be sick. Cats are never ill when you have time to deal with it. So, in the final week of mind-numbing work, when I really needed to concentrate...
My partner noticed one of Oatmeal’s eyes was not opening properly, so we took him to the vet who diagnosed an ulcer on his eyeball. We have no idea of the underlying cause – a bit of grit, a scratch from playing with one of the other cats, or something else entirely. The cure was simple – a course of antibiotics. Not tablets, or a handy, one-off injection, but eye-drops.
Cats appreciate us and what we do for them – the food in the bowl, the comfy sofa, the warm fire in winter, the lovely absorbent pillows on the bed for drying paws in the middle of the night... Really, the only thing they actively and aggressively don’t appreciate is the health-care plan.
Amazingly, the vet got a couple of drops in Oatmeal’s eye with no trouble. OK, not so amazing really – we have seen this with most of our cats over the years. It’s scary at the vet, so the cat tones down normal responses. The trouble starts at home – one drop every two hours for the first day, then four times a day for a further four days. Welcome to cat-owner’s hell.
Oatmeal is a remarkably placid and amiable cat, until you need to give him a pill, or apply flea-treatment. The solution for the eye-drops was a towel – wrap the cat so that all paws, and their claws, are contained and controlled. So I held Oatmeal whilst my partner attempted to get the drops in his eye, and Oatmeal wriggled. Then he ducked and wriggled some more, backed up and disappeared inside the towel, shuffled around, I lost my grip, caught him again, got him re-wrapped... this may take some time... ow, shit... wait... ow... just a moment... ow... and finally the drops were in. Then all I had to do was drop my clothes in the wash, because the smell of cat pee gets everywhere.
On the second round, he only managed to pee on my trousers. On the third, he scored a hit on everything. Again. Oatmeal has a very solid policy of peeing on anyone who tries to put drops in his eyes.
We modified the approach and used the towel to pin him down on a piece of lino in the kitchen. Even with virtually zero traction, he managed to reverse up, hide inside the towel again and pee on my ankles. And the door-mat.
That’s just day one. Four more to go. Time to start the count-down – undamaged fingers... ten... nine... eight...
By the end, we had a system – change into the least offensive-smelling trousers, catch the cat, work entirely on a bigger piece of lino, wipe afterwards, wipe shoes afterwards, change socks, clean trousers back on... And under no circumstances say ‘it looks fine now, we could just stop...’ because if the antibiotics haven’t quite cured the infection we might have to start all over again from the beginning, every two hours on the first day...
Oatmeal didn’t win, as such, and his eye is now fine, but whichever way you look at it, he had a policy to deal with unwanted medical attention. A policy with a capital P.