Cat Scratch Fever

Snow leopard

It has come to my attention that I am not the only household harbouring criminals. There have been two usurpers prowling in the backyard lately, a gray tabby and a calico. Henry oversees all of this from his perch on the railing of the second-floor deck. He likes to sit on the northeast corner in loaf-of-bread position, like a tightrope walker who got overcome with lethargy halfway through his task and paused for a rest. From here, he has a panoramic view of the backyard neighbour’s birdfeeder. And I think that’s also the attraction for the trespassers. The gray one walks along the top of the chain link fence, delicately lifting his paws to step around branches until he settles on top of a shrub that’s about three feet from the feeder. Henry is just an observer, though. Dennis is not, as evidenced from the recent need to bring him to the vet.

I had hoped we were well beyond the days when Dennis was the proud owner of a frequent-fighter card at our local vet (I am sure he paid for the swanky new waiting room chairs). However, as Dennis probably maintains, it’s all my fault for making him live at the cottage for six months and hence his duty to defend his suburban turf was neglected, so who should be surprised that squatters moved in.  

Anyone who has cats knows that, even if they have somehow partially chopped their hind leg off with a chainsaw, you won’t know about it until six weeks later when it falls off from gangrene. But Dennis has a “tell.” Early last week, he was not sleeping in any of his usual spots: the living room couch, the other living room couch, the bedroom, the other bedroom, the other-other bedroom, the other-other- other bedroom, the chaise downstairs, the couch downstairs, the other couch downstairs. The weather was balmy, so I figured I had let him out and he was still out, but it was getting on towards bed time. I opened the front door and called him. I opened the back door and called him. I filled the dishwasher. I emptied the dishwasher. I emptied the coffeemaker. I filled the coffeemaker. I filled the recycling bin. I emptied the litter bin. Still no Dennis. I opened the front door and called him. I opened the back door and called him. I gave up. It was not cold out. I did not feel sorry for him. I was halfway through brushing my teeth when he appeared in the hallway, emerging from under the desk in the office. Emerging from literally going to ground, with a left ear that looked like he had not beaten Mohammad Ali for the world boxing championship.

Anyone who has cats knows that they will only admit to injury when it’s long past closing time for vets. One time Dennis came home on a Sunday morning with his neck covered in blood. I called the emergency vet ($300 just to walk in the door) to see if I could bring him in. Lucky for me, once I had looked more closely and applied a wet towel, it turned out it was someone else’s blood. Dennis was going to darn well wait until morning.

The current vet protocol is actually kind of great. Curbside pickup. Dennis was plucked, in his cage, out of the backseat, and I went back home instead of waiting in a room full of whining pets. The vet called me when she had done the deed. “I did finally manage to get him to let me look at the ear,” she said. I told her his name was Dennis for a reason. She said she gave him an antibiotic shot, and a pain pill. “The pain pill might make him drowsy,” she said. How I was supposed to tell the difference between a cat that sleeps eighteen hours a day and one sleeping, say, nineteen hours, I am not sure. “And also,” she says, “He has a cracked canine tooth that needs to come out. But not today.” I have to admire him, at twelve years old, still angling for the frequent-fighter discount when he should be lobbying for seniors-savings day.

It’s a deep freeze now, and Dennis is restricting his expressions of displeasure to trespassers to an indoor activity, which takes place at the downstairs sliding-glass doors. I have told Dennis there will be no feline plastic surgery, but no doubt he prefers it that way, as a cautionary tale for any cat that wants to take him on. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair,” he thinks, then settles down for nap number five. Back on the couch, this time.              

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