Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The body of Cat

Spring is on the verge of springing in New England (as it has been for the past two months, really) and the cat has celebrated by yowling, roaming the house, trying to escape, trying to mark and doing really inappropriate things to various household objects. This would be par for the course if I hadn’t ponied up the cash to have her spayed last summer.

So I called the vet’s office, where someone tried to tell me there had to be some other reason she was acting that way but who finally agreed to see her this morning. They informed me that if it was an “incomplete spay” they would cover the exam and resulting surgery costs but if the problem was “behavioral” I was on my own.

“Yeah, that behavioral menstruation’s a real pain in the butt,” I said dryly. “Maybe she’s got a stigmata.” 

So I loaded three kids and a yowling cat into the car and drove into the city where our vet is located and proceeded to hurry up and wait for a full half hour. Just as an FYI, when you are a last minute free appointment, your children are going to come of age in that waiting room. Fortunately, there was a basket of magazines and children’s books. Mary handed me one that featured a drawing of a cute black and white cat.

“I want the kitty story,” she said. I noted that gold letters on the front cover heralded the news that the Humane Society of the United States had sponsored the book and turned to the first page, where I found a twee, A/B/A/B four line poem about how Jasmine was a city cat, an indoor cat, a people cat…and I realized this was going nowhere good. I soldiered on for a few more pages until I leafed ahead realized that I was about to narrate to my rapt children that Jasmine’s owners were going to move out, lock her in their old apartment and NEVER COME BACK FOR HER. No lie, the book continued, in graphic imagery, to detail how she damn near starved to death. There was a particularly disturbing picture of an emaciated, terrified cat undergoing a vet exam once she was rescued. I slammed the book shut.

“No way,” I said. “Pick another one.” So Anna handed me one about a dog. The first page talked about how so-and-so was really a nice dog but his owners didn’t love him anymore and abandoned him by a telephone pole on the freeway. Seriously. A third started out, “My first owners had a baby and didn’t want me anymore. My second owners didn’t have time for me. My third owner died.” At that point I stuck the offending books behind the magazines and informed my kids story time was over. Mary grabbed the cat book.

“I want to read this one.”

“Honey, no way. You’ll get upset.” I put it back. She freaked out. She tried to tantrum. I held her on my lap. Lily objected and started squirming and fussing. I put Lily back in her carrier. Lily tried to squirm out of that. Mary tried to squirm out of my arms. Anna started rolling on the waiting room floor. The size two 18 year old with her teacup Yorkie across from me was probably mentally ordering up a lifetime supply of the Pill. Finally, she calmed down. We continued without major incident until the vet and vet tech came out for one miserable Pamina.

“We’re going to do a thorough examination in the back,” the vet said. “We have to look for a number of things, it’s better to do it that way.” Loathe to somehow wrangle baby, carrier, cat in carrier and two kids into an exam room, I agreed. The vet picked up the cat carrier. Mary’s eyes grew as big as saucers.

“They’re taking my kitty away!” she gasped and started wailing.

Oh God no.

“They. Will. Bring. Her. Back,” I said through clenched teeth, trying to sound like a good, soothing mother while every inch of me wanted to start crying myself. 


“THEY WILL BRING. HER. BACK,” I said, putting as much force behind my low decibel voice as possible. “We will not leave without her. Mommy couldn’t get that lucky.”

Someone walked by. 

“Three girls!” she cooed.

“WHICH ONE WOULD YOU LIKE?” I said, grinning like a rictus.

At this point Mary continued to cry and I acknowledged to myself that I had a cat in heat and a preschooler with PMS. The woman across from me with the overweight chihuahua started laughing. I guess I said that aloud. Oops. The vet tech came back out and let me know it would be a few more minutes.

“Oh, honey, don’t cry,” the tech said to Mary. “Your cat is going to be okay, she’s doing great. Here, why don’t you read this book about a kitty?”


“Okay,” Mary said, as I said, “No!” and intercepted the book. The tech looked at me like I had an extra head. I flipped open to Dr. Mengele’s Pet Exam. The tech’s eyes got wide.

“I never looked at it before,” she said. “Wow.” Yeah, wow.

Pamina was returned to us, looking none the worse for the wear. The vet came out and said the cat was, in fact, showing signs of heat and would need to come back for surgery the next day.
“You can drop her off and leave her in the morning,” she said. She took note of the kids. Mary was done crying. Lily was tolerant of her surroundings. Anna was still rolling on the floor and I was still trying very hard to pretend we weren’t in a waiting room full of dogs as she did so. 

“Can I drop the kids off, too?” I asked. 

She laughed. 

“They really are very good,” the vet informed me. “Very good girls.” Of course, she also informed me the cat had been “very good” so maybe she was just worried I was going to Safe Haven the lot of them on the way home.

Well, at least it’s not stigmata.


  1. I want to read those books. I bet they were donations.

  2. Okay. The "Dr. Mengele's Vet Exam" killed me.