A Christmas Cat-astrophe


Illustration by Jenny Lamont

In which DD comes to terms with her kitty’s confinement for Christmas

With only a few days to go until the Christmas break, which our little family was so looking forward to, our darling Arty Cat proved just how unpredictable life can be when you have fur kids…

After a lazy evening of watching TV, we were just getting ready to go to bed when Arty sauntered in. To our utter horror (with thanks to my son Aaron, who had thankfully noticed), he had literally sliced his somewhat baggy belly open. We were galvanised into action like a family electrocuted. Never before were two people (that would me and The Dad) out of their pyjamas, into shloomfy (but fairly decent) clothes, into the car and off to the vet with a very disgruntled kitty in a cat box as quickly as we were.

Keep calm and carry on

Sitting in an emergency vet at 22h00 is never a pleasant experience for anyone. Trying to keep my panic under control to remain calm for Arty (although he seemed a whole lot less anxious than his parents), was not easy.

To cut a distressing story short, our blue-eyed boy was not a well kitty. He was sporting a horrible gash of about 10cm along his tummy, which had to be flushed out immediately AND he had to stay overnight (he’s never slept out!). He’d literally been saved by this fat – had he been leaner, he would have been sliced through his internal organs.

But the “fun” doesn’t stop there: the wound would need further flushing and stitches… and two weeks of confinement – what?! Arty is semi-feral; he doesn’t do indoors! And all of this was topped off with a fee much more than even our meagre Christmas budget was. OMW!

There goes Christmas

Needless to say, we departed the vet’s practice and drove home in stunned silence, each pondering our own thoughts. I suspect the general gist might have been different. For me it was: “I’ll have to take a loan” and “How on earth are we going to keep Arty inside!”. For The Dad – and I’m guessing here – “This wouldn’t have happened if we’d just stuck with a hamster”, or “There goes our Christmas budget AND more!”.

But, mainly, we were both well aware that our long looked-forward-to Christmas break had just gone tits-up in a blink of an eye. Thank goodness we hadn’t had plans to go away (I would have cancelled them, of course!).

Where’s Arty?

And so our kitty confinement began – a challenge of note for everyone, but mostly me, who, sans any family vote, was the chosen one to be on Arty Cat duty 24/7. His first day and night home was possibly the worst. He was more drugged than Alice Cooper after a good gig and, despite being barely able to walk in a straight line, was most unhappy that he couldn’t go outside. But there was worse – much, much worse – in store for Arty: the dreaded “cone of shame”. And he absolutely hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

Determined to keep our eyes on our impatient patient, my son, Aaron, and I wandered around behind Arty looking like two distressed rabbits caught in headlights. By the time The Dad arrived home, the stress level in the cottage was tangible.

I took to sleeping downstairs with Arty so that he would never feel alone. Which meant that I wouldn’t get a full night’s sleep for 16 days. My nights were spent tossing and turning on the single (and very uncomfortable) bed whilst keeping a constant check on Arty and my days double-checking with the boys that the doors were shut and the windows were closed (during a hot Cape Town December).

Over the dark days that followed, my most often said phrase became: “Where’s Arty?”

Rather than appreciating all the care and consideration (and cost!) that was going into keeping him happy and safe, the patient in question took to sulking under beds with a sour look on his face. So, a good deal of my time was spent on my hands and knees looking for him, heart in throat at the fear that he might have slipped out. Not the easiest of positions to get into or out of when you’re a nearing-53-year-old woman.

Grumpy cat on drugs

The week between Christmas and New Year (the only week we had off from work in the entire year) was spent taking Arty, strapped into Sammy’s little harness, for a “stand” in the garden several times a day, being woken at four in the morning to clear the sandbox (which was in the bedroom where we holed up) of the smelliest poop ever, and spending more sleeping hours trying to console a very unhappy cat.

“Drugs” were needed. The natural calming meds I used on Arty Cat worked effectively, keeping him from going completely bonkers; there were times when I was very tempted to down a capsule or two myself! It felt like having a newborn baby in the house, only worse – at least when I’d battled with infant Aaron during the night, I could hand him over to James. And he hadn’t had a set of razor-sharp claws. This was not the case with Arty – no sirree!

As the days slowly and painfully passed, we got into a routine. Being in charge of a grumpy cat every moment of the day and night became the new norm for me.

Poop scoop

The worst of it was Christmas Day. Arty hadn’t had a poop for four days by then and, on instruction from the vet, I’d dosed him up with a quarter teaspoon of Psyllium Husks. And, boy, oh boy, it worked!

At five AM on Christmas morning, Arty let loose (literally) in his sandbox, out of his sandbox… and then he proceeded to scoot like a dog across our white carpet!

The moment was bittersweet – I was so relieved that he’d finally pooped but less than enchanted at finding myself on all fours scrubbing cat poop off carpets, when I really would rather have slept in, and woken at leisure to inhale a Lindt Christmas Bear and open gifts.

All’s well that ends well

BUT we made it like the troopers we are, Arty and I. One would think that we’d have grown closer, what with all the one-on-one attention, the daily trips to the vet for check-ups and new staples, the wistful and silent “stands” together in the garden, the being the only two wide awake in the dead of night when the rest of the world was sound asleep… But, alas, not.

Arty ditched his stitches and his “cone of shame” and never looked back. He was out into the garden like a bear was chasing him. Every day I ask him (from afar as he now trusts me even less) if he doesn’t miss me as I do him, but clearly not!

He thankfully does stay a little closer to home, either in the garden or on his favourite chair tucked under the dining room table; on the odd occasion he even deigns to allow me stroke him (as he runs away). And, with enormous thanks to a few good friends for their kind donations towards his scary vet bill, we have only just finished paying it off and we’re ever so grateful that all’s well that ended well.

Oh, Arty… here, kitty, kitty… fancy a Mommy Cuddle?