Anya is scheduled for spay surgery in two weeks. It was the first available appointment with my regular vet. I could possibly had it done sooner if I’d have gone back through the shelter and used their choice of vet, but my bigger focus for the last two months has been making sure her eye issues were resolved, so I didn’t especially mind the delay. 

Now that we’re four days in to her first heat, let me be the very first to say that I wish I had been focused on both things simultaneously. She’s eight months old now, so this turn of events is not exactly unexpected. As we drew closer to her appointment, I mostly hoped that the natural course of things would just hold off a bit longer. It didn’t, of course, so I’ve been treated to a solid weekend of caterwauling and sweet Aud being an enormous pain in the ass.

All the other rescue animals who have made their way home with me have either arrived after neutering or had standing appointments to have the operation shortly after they got here. These last few days have certainly made the case in my mind for animals to be neutered before they’re placed in a home. For someone who was less tolerant of animal peculiarities or who doesn’t sleep quite as deeply as I do, I can see where the story might not end well.

At least with Anya there’s light at the end of the tunnel – or at the end of May, whichever comes first. I have to wonder, though, how many other intact animals the shelter has sent out into the world who will end up “unfixed” and contributing to the next wave of unwanted cats. I’m fully aware of the resource limitations they’re contending with, but I have to strongly recommend that Cecil County Animal Services revisit their policy of placing intact cats in the community. At some point it becomes a self-licking ice cream cone.

With Anya’s path more or less laid out, now I’m focused on getting Cordelia caught up with her vaccinations and on someone’s schedule for her own surgery. Whether that will be my regular vet or someone else, remains to be determined. Now that she has emerged from her reclusive, under bed period, I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll be able to get her contained and into a crate without tearing the entire house down in the process. Probably. Maybe.

I love them for it…

Every morning, beginning Monday of this week, between the time my alarm goes off and I flop over to turn on the lights, a certain gray kitten has taken it upon herself to jump up on the bed and give me a headbutt and demand about 45 seconds of ear scratches before she hops down and goes on about her day. Given the trials and tribulations of the last two months, it ranks well up on the list of best possible ways to start the morning.

On Wednesday evening, for the first time, Cordy found the courage to jump up on the recliner to join Anya, who was already well practiced at keeping my legs warm. Through my own twitching, and Jorah’s close quarters investigation, she stayed put until it was time for me to close down the house for the evening. It was a big day for a kitten who was so recently content to spend 95% of her waking hours holed up under my bed.

That this week, among the 51 other weeks of the year, is the one that’s most filled with utter bullshit, it’s been entirely fortuitous that they’ve decided to really make the effort to settle in as full members of the household. Unsurprisingly, they’ve made Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday bearable – and I love them for it.

On cats and making assumptions…

I’ll hold the major update on Anya until the end of the week, when we’ve met with the ophthalmologist for her follow-up visit and evaluation. Based on the feedback I’ve been getting from her temporary caretakers in Pennsylvania, her eye is looking good and most of the surgical trauma has resolved successfully. Thursday will, hopefully, release her from the daily regimen of a metric shit ton of drops and pills and leave us with something more manageable in terms of ongoing care. 

While Anya has been gone, I’ve had a fair amount of time to work individually with Cordelia. She’s been challenging in her own way and it’s been slow going. We’ve progressed, though, from her spending all daylight hours under the bed to at least some level of comfort in prowling about the house when Jorah and I are awake. If I plop down on the bedroom floor, she’s quick to break cover to come over for pets. In the last few days, she’s even taken to curling up on my lap. 

It’s a big improvement for a cat who six weeks ago was abjectly horrified if I so much as brushed against her. I’m cautiously optimistic that eventually I won’t have to sit on the bedroom floor if I want to interact with her. Getting this cat out of her shell is a real work in progress. I’d very much like to get her comfortable enough that I can reliably lure her in, if only so I can get her first vet visit in the books and get her scheduled for a spay. Even now she’s too likely to bolt to her favorite hiding place to guarantee delivering her up for a scheduled appointment.

Assuming Anya is, in all likelihood, coming home on Thursday, I’m mentally preparing to take a step backwards with both of them. Anya spent six months in the shelter, a month here, and then two weeks with the vet. Getting her reintegrated into the daily rhythm of the household, I’m sure, won’t be instantaneous. Having her back in the mix will be an adjustment for all of us – but I’m ready to get it started and finished. It feels like it’s about time to settle in and enjoy some time together that isn’t an ongoing low-grade medical crisis from day-to-day. Hopefully. 

What we’ve learned…

After three days with Anya closeted away under medical supervision, we’ve learned a couple of things:

My girl is a perfectly happy cat, doing normal cat stuff, right up until the point where it’s time to take her medicine. Drops, pills, or even just generally being held result in adverse consequences for those attempting to make her do what she doesn’t want to do. Otherwise, though, she’s happy to receive the attention of her temporary keepers.

She’s eating, and drinking, and pooping, and getting the meds she needs to get over the hump following her eye surgery. It’s as good a result as I could hope for a few days after surgery.

I’d be lying if I said part of me doesn’t feel just a little vindicated after claiming so many struggles trying to get her through the first 30 days of treatment. I honestly was starting to wonder if I was somehow gaslighting myself about how hard it was to get this animal to take her meds. The professionals, however, have confirmed that she can, indeed, get spicy.

I’m glad to have confirmation that it wasn’t just me somehow being ragingly incompetent. However, it raises other issues. Unless Anya learns a bit more tolerance to handling and being medicated as she gets older, it could be well near impossible for me to single handedly deliver any kind of even slightly involved or complex home care. Sooner or later, it feels like we’ll inevitably run into a situation where following the best possible medical advice simply isn’t feasible because the patient refuses to cooperate.

That’s not an ideal scenario in a cat with FHV who is likely to need some level of treatment periodically throughout her life. In my more pessimistic moments, I foresee a series of hard decisions where we have to weigh treating the illness versus treating the patient. At some point there has to be a compromise between the best possible treatment and what’s physically possible. Now that we’ve addressed what I hope will be her biggest medical problem, I think we’ll be making future decisions based on quality of life overall versus the often simpler calculus of what’s medically possible.

When the time comes, someone please remind me that sometimes the best action is no action at all. I always find that hard to remember when I’m in the moment.

A good report…

Anya got a good report from her surgeon. They were able to break down all of the adhesions and resect “a lot” of conjunctive material that has been hooding her eye for months. They laid in dissolvable stitches in a few spots to, hopefully, keep everything retracted as it heals. 

There’s a chance, they say, that the issue could reoccur over time. The ophthalmologist recommends this be a “one and done” shot at correcting it. If it reoccurs, the chances that it will continue to do so is apparently high no matter how many times we go after it. At that point, the course of action is to leave well enough alone since it’s not life threatening. I don’t think he or I have the appetite to chase diminishing returns.

Doc says the eye will probably end up looking “a little wonky” because of how much material they cut out. We’ll see how things look when the swelling comes down. Not that it matters. We may also have to revisit her third eyelid. He’s optimistic it will retract more on its own when the swelling goes down, but if it doesn’t, we’ll figure out what the right approach is – somewhere between do nothing and a follow-up surgery.

Our girl checked out with a bag of pills and drops to administer over the next few weeks. I’m (mostly) happy to be leaving that part of the recovery process in the hands of professionals. I’ll hate not having her here, but that’s entirely outweighed by the benefit of making sure she’s getting her meds in a more timely and less traumatic way than I could possibly manage on my own. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to have a proper medical staff watching for infection or any other potential post-operative issues… and I’m obviously thrilled that I’m not going to be the bad guy chasing her down and forcing meds on her for this stage of things. 

For now, Anya is a temporary resident of Pennsylvania. How long that lasts remains to be determined. I’m satisfied that the surgery went well and we’ve hopefully improved her quality of life in spite of whatever short term trauma we might have caused… I’ll be happier, tough, when she’s back home bouncing off every wall and flat surface in the place.

Not for the faint of heart…

Anya is scheduled for eye surgery next Tuesday. The plan is to remove some of the conjunctive material currently obstructing her left eye as a result of the repeated eye infections she went through early in life. The underlying eye is mostly undamaged and this operation is intended to remove the existing trouble areas in order to prevent them from eventually adhering to the eye itself. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s work that needs done that should improve both her long term health and her ongoing quality of life.

She’s expected to be discharged Tuesday afternoon with a new round of oral medication and eye drops. Some of these could need to be given as often as every six hours for the first several weeks as she recovers. How a normal person who has a job or any other commitments can arrange to do such a thing is entirely beyond me. I get that the discharge instructions present the optimal course of action, but expecting an owner to be able to pin down a cat and deliver these meds on 16 separate occasions every 24 hours strikes me as perfectly absurd. Each drop, after all, should be followed by a 5-10 minute waiting period, so it’s not as if you could grab her up just 4 times a day and apply everything in a single go. I’m not embarrassed to say that I may have hit the panic button when I caught wind of what the coming weeks could look like. There’s simply no way I could sustain that level of post-operative care for any length of time.

Over the last four or five days, Anya has gotten increasingly combative and has started running away any time I walk into a room. She’s actively avoiding me, cowering, and essentially seeing me as an enemy. With most shelter cats, the advice and expectation is that they’re going to have some amount of time – weeks or months – to decompress and acclimate themselves into their new home. Anya never got that time. Three days after her arrival, I had to start holding her down and pouring meds into and onto her. It’s little wonder she’s losing whatever little bit of trust we may have developed.

Mercifully, I’ve got a friend who helps run a large veterinary practice outside Philadelphia. She’s going to arrange medical boarding for this poor gray fur ball for the duration of multi-time a day treatment. There, the techs will be doing the heavy lifting of keeping up with the schedule seven days a week and the on-staff vets will be around should something need to be addressed immediately. So, as soon as she’s released from surgery, we’ll be taking a short road trip through southeastern Pennsylvania to her temporary home.

Since Anya’s particular flavor of eye infection is often triggered by increased stress, boarding isn’t entirely ideal. It does, however, feel like a better option than having this poor animal at home with me stressing her out and inevitably missing doses of the medication she needs to recover from the surgery in a timely manner. It’s a real devil’s bargain.

I asked the doc yesterday if waiting until Anya was more settled here at home and more comfortable being handled was a reasonable option. He was of the opinion that although the eye isn’t currently an emergency, addressing it was something better done sooner rather than later as it created less overall risk to her sight in that eye.

I absolutely hate the thought of her being gone for two weeks or more, but I hate the thought of irreparably damaging what needs to be a trusting relationship with her even more. I’ve never shied away from getting my animals the best possible medical treatment I could find, but damnit, this one is hard because I don’t have the skills, nor the ability to learn them fast enough, to even be a part of the recovery process. Even if I did, Anya isn’t in the right headspace with me yet to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I know she’s going to be in good hands. The friend who’s helping me by arranging all this for Anya was also responsible for bottle raising Hershel before he came to live with Winston, Maggie, and I. I couldn’t possibly trust anyone more to keep a proverbial eye on my girl and make sure she’s getting everything she needs to get well. Still. The next weeks are going to be tough in a whole different way than the last month was hard. There’s a mile of difference between knowing what’s best and actually wanting to do it. It’s one of those times when the best interests of the animal have to be pressed well above my own selfish desires.

When all this is over, I’ll be putting on a masterclass about the hazards of taking on “project animals” from the shelter. She’s mine now. I’ll see it through. But Jesus, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Lack of supervision…

Today was the kitten’s first full day at home unsupervised. I was pleased to arrive home to find things more or less in one piece. I was almost expecting furniture to be destroyed, shelves emptied, and every exposed wire in the house chewed through, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. A few things are askew and that seems to be the limit of their adventures today.

Based on the film, I’d guess they spent most of the day loitering under my bed since they didn’t turn up in any of the camera-friendly rooms for large swaths of the day. That’s almost assuredly a harbinger that sometime around 7:30 tonight, one or more cats will go batshit crazy and race through the house periodically with little or no notice.

It occurs to me that living with these girls is a lot like having a new dog in that a tired critter is often a good critter. Since I wasn’t available to make them tired, I’ll pay the price overnight while they entertain themselves. It is, of course, also hard to tire out a cat who isn’t particularly interested in doing anything much beyond laying under the bed keeping an eye out for any unwelcome approaches.

I’m not at all sure I did the right thing by giving them the run of the house. Between Cordy’s determined hiding and Anya’s increasingly determined resistance to being caught when it’s time for her medicine, I wonder if it would have been better to leave them confined in the bathroom. At least there they were easier to corral and handle as necessary. While they’ve proven, so far, to be non-destructive, having the freedom of the house has simply made working with their various needs much more challenging.

As an animal person, I’ve often found myself challenged by making decisions of what, really, is the right thing to do – both in terms of their best interests and my own. Experience informs a lot of those decisions, but sometimes it too is deep, echoey silence.

Slow progress with a scaredy cat…

For obvious reasons, I haven’t been giving equal time to the two new additions. Where Anya has required multiple daily rounds of medication and came out of her shell fairly quickly, Cordy has remained largely reluctant and uncertain. Technically, she’s largely remained firmly tucked into the cardboard base of their inclined scratching platform.

If the paperwork is to be believed, Cordy went from living in a park to being trapped and hauled in to the shelter and then moved onward to my house all in a span of four or five days. For a three-month-old kitten brain, that’s got to be just about as much new experience as anyone would want to deal with. I’m not at all surprised she was mostly shut down for the first two weeks I had her.

She’s making slow progress – coming out at meal times and grudgingly playing with the business end of a feather wand, if only briefly before beating a hasty retreat back to the safety of her box.

For the last three nights, somewhat unexpectedly, Cordy has emerged from her safe space while I’m checking in with them before “lights out.” She’ll pad cautiously across the room, rub against my leg, and stand still for a few pets from ear to tail before losing her courage and jumping away. This morning, while I was doing a last check before leaving for the office, she did it again.

Even as I’m sitting here typing it out, it doesn’t sound like much… but it’s leaps and bounds of progress for a cat who was more or less shut down for the first two weeks she was here. It’s progress and I’ll take it. I’ll take as much progress as we can muster between now and the first week of April, when Anya’s scheduled for eye surgery. I’m fully expecting that to be a giant step backwards for all of us.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 25 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. I’m sure someone could make the case that there’s enough blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 25 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing to deliver for their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) and for continuing to stand in the way like some bloody great, utterly misguided roadblock. No one’s interest is served by their continued intransigence. The elected “leaders” of AFGE Local 1904 should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

2. Introductions. I’ve been doing my best to make introductions between Jorah and Anya this week (Cordy is distinctly uninterested and mostly remains hunkered down in her box). I don’t remember the level of heartburn I feel about this process being quite so strong last time. That’s one of the problems with new pets, I suppose. It’s one of those things that happens so infrequently it’s entirely possible to forget the chaos and angst when the time between making new additions stretches into years. I desperately want to be able to give them the run of the house and restore some semblance of ongoing normalcy. The biggest threats to that at the moment seem to be a) Figuring out how to keep up Anya’s two-a-day eye drops without needing to chase her through the entire house and b) How best to continue encouraging Cordy to be just a bit more social. 

3. Republican “leadership.” If I see one more Republican “leader” say some goofy bullshit like “weaponized prosecution” it’s entirely possible that I’ll just lose my ever-loving mind. As usual, members of my former party seem determined to conflate being persecuted with something happening that they happen to personally not like. If anything has been weaponized, it’s the rump shell of the Republican Party who have raised incompetence, hypocrisy, and outright deceit to breathtaking new levels.

Overthinking the process…

I’m an over thinker. I’ve been that way since I was a kid, when I’d regularly worry myself sick about whatever issue my dumb brain chose to fixate on that day. I tend not to make myself sick anymore… although my blood pressure range might indicate that’s not entirely true. Still, I tend to dwell a lot on things that other people might tend to breeze through.

Now that I’ve at least gotten Anya to roam the house for a few days while I’ve been working, the next obvious step is trying to make a decent introduction between her and Jorah. In the olden days – or as I remember it from the early 1980s, when someone who came home with a new cat would just turn them loose in the house and let nature take its course as the newcomer sorts out the household routine, resident animals, and the dos and don’ts. 

Now, deep in the kinder, gentler 21st century, we have a thousand websites and experts with their own 47 step process for introducing new animals in the home. They seem well intentioned, to be sure. Maybe they’re even advocating the Best Possible Way™ to do things. The thing is, as much of an animal lover as I am, I’m not in a position to dedicate every hour of every day to catering to their every need. I’m happy to provide fresh food and water, unconditional affection, a safe environment, and if needed, specialized medical attention… but at some point, I need them all to simply exist together, even if it’s not a love match.

Much like I had to resort to old country vet methods of getting medicine into Anya, I’m beginning to think I’ll need to adopt the old ways to get these introductions over the hump. I don’t mind keeping a few gates up so the new felines have clear lines of retreat, but continuing to cycle between loose dog and loose cats every couple of hours feels like a ridiculous way to keep going indefinitely. Of course, all of this is only true for Anya, as Cordy continues to steadfastly refuse to abandon the comfort of their safe room… so we’ll need to do this all again if and when she decides to emerge into the broader household.

I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for one more big effort here – and I’m tired just thinking about it.