Clinic Stories

Do Not Mix Contents

Mrs. K collects feral cats. There are other people who care for ferals, but Mrs. K is in a class by herself. She invites them into her house to eat, occasionally corrals them and has me come over to vaccinate them. The first visit to her house was out of necessity. For 10 years, Mrs. K kept two unneutered, unvaccinated tom cats in her house. Although there were brothers, they hated each other and were each locked in separate rooms. Out of sight, they hissed, spit and growled at each other just knowing they shared the same roof. One day one dashed out and into the other’s room and a violent fight ensued. Mrs. K unwisely intervened and was repeatedly bitten and scratched, requiring medical care. Because neither cat had ever been vaccinated for rabies, both had to be examined then rechecked 10 days later and vaccinated. The job fell to me and although not easy, it got done. Less than a year later the cats got together again and one brother was killed.

Her home was no palace. The floors had been stripped to plywood years earlier, stained, splintered and soaked with tom cat urine. For the uninitiated, tom cat urine simultaneously burns your nostrils and causes nausea. Ten years of marking by competing cats penetrates your hair and clothes and causes your eyes to tear. To maintain the peace in her humble home, Mrs. K slept in the dining room with a suspended sheet for privacy, surrendering the bedrooms to the cats.

Some feral cats get friendlier with age. Mrs. K’s cat population is not so inclined. When my son was 17 he moaned and complained loudly when I forced him to join me on a trip to Mrs. K’s cat house. He got the full flavor of catching wild cats with a rabies pole, wrapping them in a towel and vaccinating them before releasing them, accompanied by howling, biting, scratching and urinating. Mrs. K also put on quite a show. In a friendly way, she never stopped lamenting her condition and wondering how this could happen to her. When we reached fresh air my son’s first words were, “If you ever go any place worse, take me along.”

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