Going to the veterinarian is traumatic for our cat which means it’s also traumatic for my husband and me. Probably for the vet too. Honestly, I’d rather take a bobcat in for shots. Or a Brahma bull.
Even getting Sebastian into the carrier is frightening and not just for him. I understand his trepidation. Anytime we put him in the carrier, we put him in the car. And anytime we put him in the car, we take him to the vet. As far as he’s concerned, nothing good ever happens there.
We can’t do anything about the shots, but this time we decide to try to make everything leading up to them easier for all of us. So we leave the carrier in the middle of the living room so he can get used to it. He eyes it suspiciously like it’s a sleeping bulldog.
A few days later, we attempt to put him in. Our once lovable kitty becomes eleven pounds of flailing claws. It’s like stuffing a panicked porcupine into a sock. It takes both of us, one to hold the sock and one to insert the porcupine. I prefer to hold the sock.
Then we go for a short car ride that seems like a long car ride. Sebastian howls mournfully and between howls, he pants. Cats rarely pant and when they do, it’s because they’re either extremely hot, sick or anxious. I’m going with anxious.
When we get home, we offer him treats. Cat treats are to Sebastian what peanut M&M’s are to me. I’d have to be in a bad way to refuse peanut M&M’s. But he ignores the treats and runs under the bed. We don’t see him the rest of the day.
A few days later we take him for another ride. This time he howls, but doesn’t pant. It’s progress. When we get home, we give him a treat—after he comes out from under the bed. The third time we take him for a drive, he doesn’t howl—much—and he goes directly to the treat drawer when we get home.
The fourth time we go for a ride, he doesn’t howl at all. But it’s shot day and I drive directly to the clinic. This is how trust is lost.
There’s a line of cars out front. Due to the pandemic, clinic staff are taking pets from vehicles rather than having pet owners bring them in. While we wait our turn, I think back to last year’s ordeal. I’d kept the cage covered while I waited in an exam room. If Sebastian was panting, I couldn’t see it. The veterinary technician came in smiling. She still liked her job then.
She asked if Sebastian was temperamental. Hmmm. If by temperamental she meant sweet as M&M’s to my husband and me and completely hateful to everybody else especially when he’s scared which is a lot, then I guess you’d call him temperamental. I said, “Maybe a little.”
Then she asked if he’d do better with or without me there for the shots. I had no idea, but I knew I’d do better without me there. “Definitely without me,” I said.
She took the carrier out of the room and I waited nervously, convinced she’d come back disheveled and covered in scratches. She was back in five minutes looking fine. But she wasn’t smiling anymore.
I asked casually how it went. She said diplomatically, “He’s…temperamental.”
This year there’ll be no choice about me helping. The veterinarian comes to my window and asks some questions. While we talk, a technician reaches into my car and whisks the carrier and my now growling cat away.
They’re back with the carrier in ten minutes. Both the doctor and technician look fine. Maybe I’ve been worrying for nothing. Then the doctor asks, “Is he always like that?” I say, “Like what?”
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact [email protected])
Porcupine, bobcat preferable to taking cat to the veterinarian