Searching for a new pastime to stimulate your mind and raise your heart rate? Look no further than an exhilarating game I call "Medicating Your Cat."
If you don't own a cat, run out and get one. If you've no time to cat shop, feel free to take one of mine. (Send me your address; I'll be right over.)
Once your cat is procured, choose teams and positions. Simply explained: A cat's role is always king or queen, while you must play pawn. For a more challenging version, include multiple cats, particularly those with anxiety and social disorders. (This encompasses most of the feline population.) Regardless of how many cats you own, all will play for the opposing team.
The rules are as follows: A cat exhibits some inappropriate, unhealthy and likely unhygienic behavior, e.g., peeing in the bathtub or puking wherever your bare foot happens to step. To win, you must discover the cause, treat any underlying conditions and finish the game relatively unscathed.
A typical game transpires much like this, recently played out in my own household:
One of my cats begins by attacking members of his own team (much like politicians in a primary election). This particular player is named "Lennon," in honor of the man who penned "Give Peace a Chance." The irony does not escape the snickering crowd which nicknames him, more suitably, "Demon Cat."
I attempt to stop Demon Cat through a variety of maneuvers, most notably the popular Squirt Bottle Play. But, oh, he's a clever competitor! In one match-winning strategy, he stalks the squirt bottle from across the room and smacks it clean off the table.
As the game progresses, the other players succumb to Demon Cat's bad sportsmanship. When the cat known as NUTS (Neurotic, Unbelievably Timid and Stupid) begins puking blood on the arena's new carpet, I consult the team physician.
Herein lie my most challenging game duties, as pawn.
First, I must capture NUTS and transport him to the doctor. After three days of failed tackles, I finally manage to corner him. As I shove the snarling and lashing creature into the cat carrier, I question my sympathy for this downed player.
Second, after the team physician flips a coin to announce any sort of diagnosis, I must open my wallet and allow it to bleed dry. (Sideline action: As I drive away, the doctor chortles and books a week in the Caribbean.)
Third, I must administer the ordered treatment. NUTS is prescribed twice-daily antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine for ten days. In addition, the physician also recommends a daily pill for Demon Cat--to be administered indefinitely.
This medication is best described as Kitty Prozac.
I spend a week chasing down one neurotic feline and another one clinically diagnosed as "aggressive." Throughout my repeated attempts to capture NUTS and Demon Cat and pry open their jaws, the crowd roars. Ringo, the amiable golden retriever mix, watches my moves from the bleachers with a desperate, salivating hope that I'll drop a pill. If only I were trying to medicate the damn dog--then this game might be as simple as his tiny brain.
By day seven, I manage only three doses in each cat. And in an arena where I once couldn't walk without tripping over three or four lounging players, not one cat can now be found. The entire team has virtually disappeared from the playing field. Well-played, you friggin' felines! Far more impressive than your seven lives is your apparent sixth sense.
Demon Cat gradually begins approaching me again-- preening and purring--but only when I neglect to close the bathroom door. I briefly consider carrying Kitty Prozac with me when I pee. But wrangling a cat while sitting bare-assed on the toilet seems vaguely wrong. (And the crowd mutters a collective "Eww.")
Meanwhile, the team physician calls to say the bloodwork he did on NUTS also indicates a thyroid issue. NUTS will require two more daily pills, FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
In addition, the hit-or-miss doses of Kitty Prozac will do Demon Cat no good; his medication is reliant upon a cumulative effect. The by-far-second-best medical tactic, the doctor notes, is something called a "Nurture Collar." This is a contraption infused with maternal hormones which theoretically calm aggressive and anxious cats.
I frown. I am merely a not-so-bright pawn, but I know my own middle-age experience with female hormones is not such a favorable one. Regardless, I hand over my credit card to the team physician. I leave with a vial of likely never-to-be-ingested pills and a plastic purple collar.
As expected, NUTS will have nothing to do with the thyroid pills, even when crushed and hidden in canned catfood or tuna. Beaten, I again consult the doctor, whose final suggestion is a liquid compound. It's chicken-flavored! And it is available, by special order, for only $50 per vial! I hyperventilate just for a moment before agreeing. Because this is sure to be the game-winning play!
Apparently NUTS has grown street-smart with his recent excursion into the outside world. He isn't fooled by my mixing the medicine in dry catfood, in wet catfood or even in canned tuna. But just as I'm ready to forfeit, I finally score! I dribble .5 ml of this Liquid Gold into a pile of fresh roasted turkey--which NUTS promptly devours!
I accept my win with mixed enthusiasm. It seems this cat will be eating better than I do, for the rest of his life. (As will the rest of the menagerie, all of whom circle my feet every night when I prepare NUTS this post-game feast.)
As for the Nurture Collar, Demon Cat wriggles out of it within two days. I head to the doctor's office to buy another. I sigh. I hand over my credit card once again.
I figure it's not really a useless investment.
If I can't keep the damn thing around Demon Cat's neck this time, I'll wear the magic soothing collar myself.
Because I'm clearly the one in need of medication.
Who wins the game between Pawn and King in your house? Is it just my vague recollection, or is attempting to medicate your cat much like coercing your husband to go to the doctor? And all you non-cat owners--call me for a special delivery, please?