Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cat's Eye

When my neighbors gave me one of their orange tiger kittens, I could only think of Cat, the poor feline temporarily abandoned by Audrey Hepburn in Blake Edward’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (until George Peppard comes to the rescue). Thinking also of Mickey Rooney’s role as Holly Golightly’s Japanese upstairs neighbor, I named my new addition “Neko,” Japanese for “cat.”

Neko was a wonderful cat (he died a few years ago), but he was prone to eye infections. Further, although he was generally sweet, he hated being treated, hated going to the vet, hated riding in the car on the way to the vet, and was large enough and strong enough to make his feelings clear.

The vet can’t simply prescribe eye ointment, since first the eye must be stained to rule out a scratch (in which case steroid ointments are contraindicated). So, the routine starts with stuffing said cat into a carrier, driving the 15 minutes to the vet with the cat yowling, probably vomiting, certainly drooling enough to rival any dog. An hour later, the vet hands over the medication, with helpful instructions.

“First, wrap the cat in a towel” to keep it still and preserve your flesh. Uh-huh. See, vets have a practical joker side. They’re in the office, laughing right now at all those poor souls striving to wrap a cat in a towel. Cats have no collarbone, allowing them to move in ways unthinkable to you and me. Further, they’re quick and stressed under the circumstances. You can’t call in a vet tech to help you. Towel indeed.

So, move on to more direct means. I like to sit cross-legged, wrapped carefully around the cat, trying to control it with one hand while manipulating the medication with the other. Does this method work well? No. But it’s all I have.

Once the cat is secured and calm—well, OK, relatively secured and calm—proceed with the directions on the ointment tube: hold open the cat’s eyelids with one hand and squeeze out a small line of ointment, dropping it into the cat’s eye. No, really. They’re apparently serious.

What they don’t say is “repeat multiple times.” First, “calmness” in a trapped cat lasts a few seconds at best. Yeah yeah yeah, calmly talk to your cat in a soothing voice, but your cat still knows it’s trapped, and doesn’t like it. Imagine.

Well, still, this IS your cat, and like me, probably, after repeated tries, you’ll successfully squeeze out a line of ointment as it slowly stretches from the tube to the surface of the eye.

Then, just as the ointment is about to touch the eye, the cat jerks away (at the last possible second).

Go back and repeat these steps multiple times. Monitor your blood pressure. [Incidentally, if small children are about, remove them from the scene, since you’re bound to spout profanity sooner or later, given the growing number of deep scratches from your cat’s claws.]

Eventually, just when you think the exercise pointless, a small amount of ointment will reach your cat’s eye. Yes, the cat will still jerk away, but at this point, you’ll think, “Close enough, damn it!” and proceed to massage the ointment over the eye by closing the eyelids. Continue this until your cat escapes again and you exclaim, “Fine. Go then.” Use the remaining ointment (which contains antibiotics) to treat your many wounds.

Repeat the next day. Sound like fun?

Seriously, I shared the idea for this post with one of my vets, Dr. Kolb, who, aside from a wonderful sense of humor (and asking me to send it), suggested I include the following. I think you’ll appreciate it, as did I.

While visiting a client with an equine patient, this eye ointment issue came up. “When I approach the horse with a tube,” Dr. Kolb’s client explained, “he freaks out and jumps away. So I just put some ointment on my finger and treat him that way—he’s used to me.” This set off a light bulb for Dr. Kolb, and he approved. I tried it with Neko. Success!

By the way, Dr. Kolb was wonderful during the last few difficult months of Neko’s life. Thank you Doctor.