Thursday, October 13, 2011

Of Pawns and Cat Kings

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?


  1. Ailurophobic here. Which word always makes me think of alluring. But there is nothing alluring about being a scaredy-cat.

  2. I'm bookmarking this post for the next time one of my kids asks me for a pet and I find myself considering it. No, no, no. Absolutely not. I'd sooner stick a fork in my eye.

  3. My 2 cats are similar...the alpha cat hates everyone and pukes at least once a day and only on the carpet, never on the tile. The other is such a scaredy cat that if anyone besides me is in the house she hides under my bed. Plus she snores.

  4. Oh, Sherry, this is freakin' brilliant. Only a fellow cat owner would understand that 1) you're not being hyperbolic. This is a documentary piece. 2) bringing the pill with you to the bathroom is a viable alternative and 3) every time you pay a bill, you're thinking of what the hell else you should be spending the money on, and yet the plastic always ends up in the vet's hand.

    And in return, you get to have an animal that makes you feel that your craziest way of handling a situation is calm and collected compared to theirs. Ha!

  5. Downith and MSB: I guess I didn't do much to support Adopt a Cat Month, huh? You just need to witness their charming side. Next time I will post some adorable photos. Or show up at your houses with all four cats (and the dog).

    Amanda: NUTS snores too! Maybe it's the sound of their own snoring that has made them both so neurotic. Hmm... Sherry the Cat Whisperer will have to ponder this.

    Lyra: Such a kindred spirit. (How IS that new cat of yours coming along?) But just to clarify, what did I say that might possibly be construed as a "craziest way of handling a situation"?

  6. I'd keep putting it in his food. He'll eat, eventually.

    Otherwise, you have far more patience than I. They should invent some kind of cat drugging system that relies on a squirt gun. Or misting nozzle.

  7. I am thinking about getting a fish but I don't know, it's such a big commitment.

  8. Bluz: Oh, he's eating just fine. A quarter-pound of fresh poultry and .5 ml of Liquid Gold each night.

    Bobbi: Commitment issues, eh? Know any good psychiatrists?

  9. Sherry! I should know better than to read your stuff at work, with my new Droopy Dog boss wandering around. Busted, grinning at the screen.

    Here's the address for that special delivery:

    D. Dogg
    7734 Stickuphisass Lane
    Gooberville, NV 89000

  10. Averil: I'll be sure to send him Demon Cat. Right on time for the office holiday party.

  11. You just need to submit to being your cat's bitch. I submitted to my type A Golden Retriever and I am now able to keep all my limbs. I'll have to use some of your cat wrangling techniques for my daughter to take her medicine. At least she doesn't bite.

  12. LM: I am roasting fresh turkey or chicken for this cat every single night of the night. I'd say I'm his bitch all right. (Fortunately my Golden Retriever is type C-.)

  13. See, when I pill the cat, I get a pill plunger from the vet, like a long skinny syringe with a little grabber at the end.

    I put the pill in the plunger, find the cat, kneel on him gently with his head facing front, realize I've dropped the pill, find the pill, stick it back in the plunger again, find the cat again, kneel on him again, stick the plunger down the cat's throat, plunge, pull out the plunger with a wet pill still attached but only until it clears the cat, at which point it falls off.

    I then reload the plunger with the wet pill, re-adjust the protesting cat, tell my children to stop laughing, plunge the cat again, remove the plunger, close the cat's mouth on my finger, yell, tell the kids never to repeat that word ever, rub the cat's throat until he swallows, and get up with a feeling of victory, until I hear the distict sound of a cat spitting a pill across the room.


  14. I'm dying here! Too funny and way to familiar. Cat meds become a family affair here, typically a 2 human/1 cat ratio. We've used pill plungers (see sarah's hilarious comment above) and have even resorted to putting a cat in a pillow case with nothing but its head poking out. Nothing like having to wrench those jaws open!

    It does make you wonder who the crazies are.

  15. Sarah: Haha! Remind me to just say no when the vet suggests a Pill Plunger. And the only thing worse than the cat spitting out a pill is having him puke it up an hour later.

    Lisa: With your seven cats, you could hold tournaments, invite the neighbors and give out prizes! I'd call it "cheap entertainment," but that would be a misnomer.

  16. Did you hear me laughing??? I just leave my cat puke it up, and the dog eats it. That's okay it works both ways, I've seen the cat do the same to the dog. Lately, I fill the dishes up, and leave the house for a few hours, so I don't have to watch. It's not a pretty. This pet parent just gets out of the way.


  17. Anna: Yes, apparently I am a helicopter pet-parent. But if I let this group fend for itself, Ringo would weigh 200 pounds and be addicted to thyroid pills.

  18. But dear dear Pawn, what would you do without your Masters??? Can I just say, I stopped into Petco this weekend and they were having Cat Adoption Day --- it was very hard to walk by those cages and sweet faces and not take one (or 3!) home with me. I hope they all found their forever homes.

    Don't even get me started on the $$. My new puppy --- whom I adore completely as I chase her around my sofa saying in my highest pitch, "I'm gonna get cha! I'm gonna get cha!" --- she is already our most expensive dog ever. And she's not even 5 mos old. Bladder infections, vaginitis, coccydia, 'tender' stomach, etc... And that's not even counting her variuos shots and puppy kindergarten! We have been at the vet's office at least once a week for 3 months, 3x to the ER vet.

    Even those of us with dogs are pawns in this game. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

  19. Teri: I can't allow myself to even walk in the store when they're having those Adoption Days. Those volunteers sense I'm a sucker four aisles away... And you are a saint for everything you've done for that puppy. You may be her pawn in the pet game, but every time you look at her sweet face, I'll bet you realize you've come away winning too.

  20. My husband often says, "if it's between me and Teri's dogs ...". It's safe to say it was love at first sight with this puppy.

    I need to stay away from Cat Adoption Day.

  21. I have an American Bobtail. She would follow me through the gates of hell if she could be with me. Sweetest kitty ever. The vet loves her because she's so passive. You might hear a little squeak when she gets a shot, but that's it. When I flew with her to Finland she howled until I took her out of her kennel in the airport. Then she sat next to me on the chair and let me haul her around on my arm. The customs guy couldn't believe how cool she was. But forget it if you're another cat. Or a hedgehog. Or bird. Or bunny. (you get the idea) She'll rip you to shreds.

  22. Teri: No, you need get yourself to one immediately, if you want to keep up with the Joneses (or the Sherrys and Lisas).

    Deb: Sounds like she not only is a queen, but she's the Red Queen... but a lovable Red Queen, right?

  23. I've had to medicate one of the cats twice in the 1.5 years we've had him. Fortunately, he is the less intelligent of the two, so while it's uncomfortable and of course results in some drawn blood, it's possible.

    The other cat, though? Oh my god, I hope I never have to give her anything. When we try to trim her toenails she can find a way to get out of it while simultaneously disemboweling us in 2 seconds flat. That's probably why we only try to cut their nails oh, every 8 months or so. God love a cat.

  24. Laura: You've given me another justification for declawing my cats. And it's a good thing God loves a cat, because the rest of us are a bit ambivalent.