Friday, April 23, 2010

Making do, or "How to get arrested for animal abuse"

If we want to begin at the very beginning, then this story begins four years ago, when I lived in Philadelphia and found a kitten. The exact date was November 26, 2006, which I remember only because someone tried to scam me out of $400 in phony medical bills that were allegedly accrued on that date--as if medical bills in the US were ever that low, but that's another rant. Said kitten was a black kitten with a single white whisker, and I smuggled it onto the subway in my tote bag (which she then proceeded to piss and crap all over) and home to my apartment.

Meet Shadow:

Anyway, after spending $100 for the first vet check-up--during which she obligingly provided a perfectly fresh and stinky stool sample--I couldn't very well justify leaving her at the Humane Society or the SPCA or the Morris Animal Shelter. Therefore, I decided to keep her, and take on all of the responsibilities that a good cat owner takes on, which included adopting a second black cat.

Actually I hadn't wanted to adopt the Tweeb. At least, I didn't really want a second black cat, and one that was so stringy and mangy, not to mention completely broken and OLD (she was at least six), didn't exactly appeal to me. But the rescue assured me that she would get along quite well with a young and boisterous catten, and that she was a feisty old gal who could hold her own. After some thought, I decided to give the Tweeb a shot. So S brought her to my place, whereupon she immediately hid in my closet and refused to come out for two days. Three weeks later, the vet diagnosed the Tweeb with renal failure, but by that time the little girl had completely won me over so, in exchange for waiving the adoption fee, I got to spend the rest of the Tweeb's life footing her vet bills.

Meet the Tweeb:

So now we push the fast-forward button: Cats get shoved into carriers, driven to the airport, and we board airplanes for Copenhagen and Amsterdam. I get a new job, zip back and forth across the country between Nijmegen and Leiden, and pipette stuff. The Tweeb goes to the vet to get renal panels. And in 2009, I accept a new job in Maastricht.

My boyfriend, K, is a wonderful man. He is also very much a cat person. When I showed up in his apartment he had three massive bowls of chicken in the fridge. He loves the girls just as much as I do, and probably more. We joke about eating them when they scratch the couch, but it's only a joke, since the Tweeb is so scrawny there wouldn't be much to eat, anyway.

So when I got the job in Maastricht, it was assumed that I would take the cats with me. Both of them, since the Tweeb had to be with her mommy (me) and Shadow needed a constant companion to keep her little brain from atrophying. That would leave K WITHOUT A SINGLE KITTY to his name, so after some consideration we decided that we would adopt a third.

Meet FatBoy:

It turns out that life in Maastricht is completely unbearable without K, so I left the girls with K. This has its advantages--less trouble finding an apartment that would welcome cats--and its disadvantages: no kitties during the week for me. But it also means that we don't have to find a new vet for the Tweeb, who during this time has seen the vet three times to monitor the state of her kidneys, and has yowled every step of the way. And this brings us to the events of today:

Now, you, intelligent reader, have no doubt divined by my above paragraph that we don't have a car. A bike would ordinarily suffice to transport things like little kitties, but usually we walk. First of all, 1000 m isn't that far, and secondly, the chances of a disasterous crash are far less. Add to this the fact that K has never in his life been able to keep a bike for longer than 6 months without it being stolen, and that my bike currently resides in Maastricht, and you begin to understand the difficulties involved in transporting three kitties 1 km to see the vet: Shadow, because she needed her shots; the Tweeb, for her renal panel; and Leto, because K suspected he had arthritis and wanted the vet to look at it.

One kilometer isn't that far if you have one cat, but when you have three, you need to change tactics. To whit, build a Stargate, or bribe the vet to make a home visit, or procure the vaccines illegally off the Internet and hope they're more potent than salt water. Some way, in other words, to get these

1 km through urban Nijmegen to the vet.

After much pondering, we hit upon a brilliant idea: a kitty stroller! You might think the Dutch are too pragmatic for this kind of extravagance, and for the most part, you would be correct. But any culture which keeps cats for pets has its fair share of crazy cat people, and crazy cat people create a demand for this kind of thing, if only to take their cats to the vet.

So we set off to the Windmill, which I will treat as a proper noun because it is the only windmill in the whole of Nijmegen. Said Windmill has a pretty big, at least by Dutch standards, pet shop in front of it. I'd seen a kitty stroller before--I was sure they'd have one now, since, as I said before, the Dutch are too pragmatic to buy such a thing.

But oh woe woe, was I wrong! There was no kitty stroller. The Windmill offered to order one for us, but we needed one today. So with sad faces, we made our way home. K decided to stop by the Blokker, because he needed new ink for his inkjet...

And that was where we had the brilliant idea of buying a shopper. One of these:

The hallmark of little-old-lady-hood in the Netherlands. You will never see one in use by a man, nor by anybody less than 55 years of age. It is the demarcation of elderly woman--you might be 80 but if you don't use a shopper when you do your groceries you're not "old".

This, then, is what we ended up pushing to the vet's:


It was a good deal trickier than it might seem. Every little bump made the front wheels threaten to fold under, to the consternation of the kitties loaded up on it. And plus we live on the third floor of the complex, which means stairs to negotiate. It was definitely NOT a one-man job, getting the kitty tower to the vet, and back again.

And this is without the stress of hearing FatBoy scream--quite literally scream--with terror. I don't know what kind of experience he's had with carriers in his day, but I'm pretty sure that today's excursion didn't help his previous impressions any. After a little while he stopped screaming, but he did let out a choir of melancholy yowls--I am fairly certain that more than one person wanted to ask us what we were doing to those poor cats. Because, even though Shadow and the Tweeb were silent, he was making enough noise for five cats.

The vet visit was uneventful. FatBoy was, as his monniker suggests, pronounced fat. The Tweeb got her blood drawn, and Shadow was praised to the heavens for being such a perfect cat (she really is a perfect cat, calm, quiet, and pretty). All three cats had ear mites, so we got a vial of eardrops for them.

When we got home we let the kitties out and they promptly began sulking in earnest, except for FatBoy, who'd not only peed all over the cage but also laid down an impressive turd in the corner of his hated carrier. And then we all had a good stiff drink.

*I'm quite aware that there aren't any cats in the carriers. The reason for this is that when the cats were in it I didn't want to stop and take photos, owing to FatBoy's panic and the stress it was causing the girls. So after we got home (and after we cleaned out the turd) I reassembled the tower for this shot.

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