July 26, 2013
THE blood test was a mistake – my fault, I walked straight into the vet’s trap – but you could say it helped to bond me and my cat, Mouse.
Not before time. Mouse and I have been together for about six months but we lead very separate lives. She shares my home but she’s old and deaf and it’s been difficult to find common ground. She sleeps a lot and when she’s not sleeping she’s usually complaining, about the food or the house or the temperature or the company. It’s hard to tell. She complains in a hideous yowl. I guess, being deaf, she doesn’t know how bad she sounds.
I took her on because her owner had gone into a nursing home and she was going to be put down. It took me a couple of weeks to work out that she was deaf, which explains a lot of her behaviour. She’s always on guard. The first time she saw my share dog Charlie, she flew at him screeching and arms flailing like a kung fu fighter. He took off and hid under the house. To this day they have a wary relationship, although she has at last stopped attacking him. I sometimes catch her frowning at me, as if wondering why I act so oddly.
I took her on with the understanding that she was on borrowed time. I would feed her and house her but I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on veterinary care to keep her going. I had watched as unscrupulous vets ripped off my trusting mother for years. So I was on my guard when I had to take Mouse to the vet this week. She started peeing blood and was in obvious discomfort. We were staying in the city at the time. I managed to get an appointment with an inner city vet, which I knew would mean big bucks.
The vet is capable, experienced. I explain that Mouse is deaf. “Really?” the vet says sceptically. She claps her hands to test. Mouse doesn’t react at all but I jump back because her clap catches the tip of my long nose. “Sorry,” says the vet. “I’ve never done that before.”
She takes Mouse’s details then pokes and prods her to check for swelling. Mouse yowls, but not too badly, then pees on the examination table, which is good because it means a test sample. The vet says it’s probably cystitis, brought on by stress. She’ll give her a long-lasting antibiotic and that should clear it up. She checks Mouse’s mouth and says she needs some dental work. I say that while she’s anaesthetised I’d like to get her very long nails clipped as I think they’re hampering her walking.
"No need to anaesthetise her for that," the vet says. “I can clip her nails today." I’m impressed.
A nurse comes in with the urine test result. There’s blood in it and a high level of protein. The vet looks concerned. It could mean Mouse has an underlying kidney disease, she says. They’ll need to do a blood test to find out, then they can decide what to do next. It’ll mean changing her to a low-protein diet: Hills Kidney Diet and Royal Canine Renal Food. They stock it here. But let’s get the blood test done first.
“So,” she tots it up, “consultation, urine test, antibiotic, blood test. About $330 today. Are you comfortable with that?”
I nod unenthusiastically and immediately think “You idiot, Catherine. Not the blood test!”
The vet continues: I’ll need to book Mouse in to get her teeth done. That’ll be $700-800, including a night in hospital. If they need to do some extractions it’ll be around $1000.
I smile back as if to say, “$800, $1000, $6000 … it’s only money”. What I’m really thinking is I’ll take her to my vet at home, the only vet I trust. He diagnoses on the basis of observation and most likely cause first before ordering blood tests for obscure diseases such as elephantiasis, thereby saving his clients lots of angst and dollars. (I can’t tell you his name because there’s only one of him and lots of us.)*
The vet gives Mouse an antibiotic jab for the cystitis and then calls in a nurse to hold the cat while she clips her nails. The nurse wraps Mouse tight in a towel, leaving one paw poking out. “Good luck,” I say. They smile confidently. The vet grabs the loose paw and lines the scissors up with a claw. All hell breaks loose. Mouse writhes and screams. The vet puts the towel over Mouse’s face so she can’t see. Mouse shrieks more loudly. The nurse loses her grip. The vet glares at me. “This must be upsetting for you,” she says. “Would you like to wait in the waiting room?”
“No,” I say. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
The nurse tries to grab Mouse by the scruff of the neck but Mouse is so tense there’s nothing to grab. She wraps her in the towel and they try again. But Mouse is a hissing, shrieking, wriggling ball of sinew and she’s soon free. “OK,” the vet says. “Perhaps not today.”
Mouse 1-0, I think.
The vet says she’ll take the blood sample now but she’d rather I went out of the room. This time she calls in two nurses. I can hear a bit of yowling from the surgery but I’m not paying too much attention. It just sounds like the noise Mouse makes when she attacks the dog or wakes up feeling grumpy. I read the labels on the very expensive cat food. The renal diet’s the most expensive of all.
“Mum, what’s that noise?” says a young boy waiting with his dog. I zone back in. Blood-curdling cries are coming from the surgery. The boy looks ashen. The receptionist tries to comfort me. “It’s probably worse than it sounds,” she says doubtfully. It sounds like a mob of blood-crazed lions ripping apart a herd of panicking zebras.
At last the noise subsides. I see the vet and nurses heading out the back. One of the nurses is cradling Mouse in the towel. I’m amazed to see her looking so peaceful. It’s wonderful the way trained people can calm an animal.
The vet comes back in to me. “Now there’s nothing to worry about,” she says. “Mouse got a bit over-excited. We’re giving her oxygen.”
“You mean she fainted?”
“She might have a weak heart,” she says. “We’d have to do more tests …” She’s fiddling with a blood vial. “I don’t know if we got enough blood. I wouldn’t take blood again unless she was sedated.”
So consultation, urine test, antibiotic, one nail, half a blood test. All up $330. “I won’t charge you for the oxygen,” she says, magnanimously.
I manage to stop myself thanking her. I’m surprised she’s not charging me for the one clipped nail. She gives me a pamphlet for Feliway, a cat-calming pheromone, cost $40.56, and strongly advises me to buy some.
Mouse is back in her cage and looking quite perky. Maybe it was the oxygen. Mouse: 2-0, I think. It’s hard not to feel a faint thrill of pride in my cat. Perhaps Mouse and I are beginning to bond at last.
* Oh all right then, I’ll give you a clue. His first name is Hugh and his surgery is in Inverloch.
A short note to say that I just loved your story about your old cat - a lovely tale and so well written! We live in Coronet Bay and travel to Inverloch for Hugh to treat our animals and have done so for the past eight years. In fact, we lost our 18-year-old Silky Terrier, Meg, on Wednesday, and Hugh was just fantastic and helped us to let her go. A lovely man and a great vet who just does not over-treat. Loved your cat, she is a feisty lady and all cats allow you to live with them, they do not live and adjust to others’ lives!
Thank you also for Bass Coast Post - just love it. If you have spare time you would do well in holding writing classes as you most definitely have the talent and you would have heaps to offer.
Best wishes with the Bass Coast Post.
Joy, Coronet Bay
Ah, Catherine, I think you’ll find the tally is Mouse 3-0 ... you forgot to count yourself as one of her conquests!
Mouse has suffered enuff at the hands of that thieving bloody vet!
We are in Melbourne with my 96-year- old mother-in-law. I've been for my walk, done my tai chi, read my book; I thought I should amuse myself with internet stuff and came across your The Mouse that Roared story. It was just what was needed. I laughed for at least 10 minutes with tears of joy running down my cheeks and my husband and mother-in-law looking at me with suspicion. I am happy you have bonded with your Mouse. May your relationship be rewarding.
Thank you sincerely for your stories and the Bass Coast Post.