Hospital high anxiety: kitten season angst in vet-ville
It’s been a tough week and not least because it’s early kitten season around these parts.
I’d probably delight in kitten season (kittens are, after all, supremely delightful creatures) were it not for the obvious: disease and death of the oft-unhealthy foundlings. As if that wasn’t enough to bring on nightmares, vet hospitals get an extra dose of stress in the guise of in-house kitten accommodation and protracted placement periods.
Just last week we got three new ones: six-weekers, cute as a button in three shades of dark—and perfectly placeable. Problem is, as home-worthy as they are, who knows if they’ll all find a spot within their month-long “I’m-so-cute-you-can’t-resist-me” time window?
We have two other kittens in hospital. Both are long past their prime adoption ages. One has a chronic diarrhea issue (hence the delay) and another lacks a lung (that’s not exactly a selling point).
Both will probably stay with us indefinitely, as has our “blood donor,” a kitty named Grumpy. Grumpy is a misnomer; she’s a raging b----! Really. I can’t even get close to her without some injectable heavies. Why she wasn’t homed-out is as clear as the claw-marks she’ll leave behind should you come too close. But we all “love” her—well, sort of.
So now we have three cats in-house who will likely remain with us forever and another three who—God willing!—will be healthy enough and lucky enough to find homes within the next thirty days.
In the meantime, we suffer. While it might be cute to see three little kitties staring you down each time you head back to the wards, they’re far more problematic than you might think. No, it’s not the mess they make. No, it’s not the extra stress of sussing out clients for homeability. No, it’s not the expense of vaccinating, testing and deworming.
No—it’s the added health risk of their collective biomass.
Think about it: We have six extra cats in hospital, five of which have less-than-ideal immune systems. Hospitalize a client’s sick kitty and—guess what? You subject that patient to the others’ potential health concerns. And vice versa. With each additional cat comes a disproportionate increase in the spread of disease.
It’s a recipe for disaster, epidemiologically speaking. Horrible as it sounds, were it up to me I’d refuse to bring any new cat in house and I’d find everyone here a home—even if it means homing them with a local shelter.
We can’t afford to take the risk. We’re a hospital—not a boarding kennel (thank God!) and certainly not a shelter.
Much as I love kitties (the only reason I don’t have any is because my son has the asthma every cat-loving mom fears), a hospital is no place for kittens or other foundlings. Period.
Unfortunately, our clients don’t feel the same way. “Can’t you just leave him here a few days? I’m sure he’ll find a home this way.” “But what am I supposed to do with her?” And then we cave.
As if their kitten problem is any worse than ours! And, what’s worse, often these are the same people who keep outdoor cats and/or “feed” strays without any regard for their spay and neuter status. But somehow it’s more our problem than theirs because we’re perceived to be in a better position to solve it. Perhaps that’s true but…
Newsflash! We will never solve the kitten problem unless our society stands up and fixes it—and that means each individual with the power to make a change (i.e., the kitten-finders). And we will certainly never solve it by [counterproductively] exposing our clients’ population of hospitalized cats to our own.
I do my part by educating (my clients, school children, this blog’s readers) and spaying and neutering (often at no cost or reduced cost). I’m certainly not the one who deserves the deluge of kittens this time of year.
And let me be frank: Every hospital does it. We’re not the only suckers in town, I promise you. Vets adore kittens more than most people, as you might expect. And we often feel a responsibility to help anyone in need. I don’t believe there’s one vet hospital anywhere in the US that doesn’t share in our misfortune.
But it’s about time all vet hospitals demanded that their clients take responsibility for their own kittens—for the sake of all our patients.