Of Mice and Cats and Vets (with apologies to John Steinbeck)
Just recently, I spent a good part of my evening chasing a mouse around my house. "Why?" you may ask, "did your pet mouse escape?" No, that’s not it. My tiny, waif of a kitty (more on this in future posts) morphed into Victoria, huntress extraordinaire. She was obviously proud of herself, bringing her furry prize in from the backyard and then letting it go so that she could display her prowess to me, my husband Richard, and daughter Renée.
I can hear the shrieks of outrage. "What? You’re a vet and you let your cat outside?" I know, I know. I regularly council my clients about the dangers of outdoor living for our feline friends and the annual massacre of songbirds, but honestly, I just can’t keep my cats inside. At four, my daughter is adept at opening the sliding glass door into our backyard but can’t quite seem to master closing it behind her. We also just rescued a 9-month-old puppy with, shall we say, a "sensitive stomach." His doggy-door into the backyard has prevented many a household accident, and I’m not willing to give up the convenience of that.
Anyway, back to the sitcom that was my Wednesday night. When we finally got a hold of the little varmint (the mouse, not the cat), I gave it a quick once-over (terrified but essentially unharmed) and released it into the backyard — not my smartest decision of the day. Victoria was watching and flew through the door, grabbed the poor creature again, and dove back into the house. I stood slack-jawed on the patio while Richard muttered a few off-color remarks and Renée almost fell off the couch in hysterics.
Eventually, I cornered the mouse again and got it back outside, into the front yard this time. The whole experience did make me question, briefly, my decision to let our cats go outside, but in all honesty we haven’t had too many negative ramifications. Oh sure, my husband could recount his experience in court-ordered mediation with a neighbor who didn’t appreciate that the neighborhood cats were attracted to the mouse colony living in her compost heap, but our cats themselves seem to thrive. Victoria is 12 years old, and the first cat I ever owned is still going strong at 17. Granted, his idea of a good time is a long nap on the recliner, but he does wander outside at times. Sadly, I had to euthanize my husband’s long-time feline friend just a few months ago at age 18, but for reasons that had nothing to do with his love of the great outdoors.
So why would you want to read a blog written by a veterinarian who doesn’t always follow her own advice? Because I understand how complicated life can get. No guilt trips here. Every week, my goal will be to provide you with information about cats that you will find useful (or at least entertaining), but I’ll also do my best to keep it real. Feel free to call me out if I ever seem to lose touch with what living with cats can actually involve. A simple, "Dr. Coates, would you really do that yourself?" should do the trick.
I hope to see you next week!
Dr. Jennifer Coates