Vale, Owen

Typical, really.

You pay over AU$2500 to ship your cat from Australia to the UK. Within three weeks (i.e., early May), he’s suffering from “water works problems” and several expensive trips to the vet later and with an alarmingly large amount of hand-waving and “probablies” from the vet in question, we settle on a diagnosis of cystitis: he gets a couple of antibiotic injections and some tablets to mash in his food. Problem apparently solved.

And then last Monday, he began hissing and growling for no apparent reason (which is most unlike him), and he starts walking really slowly, slightly tentatively and with a sort-of hunched back. He is immediately taken to the emergency vet who, in similarly vague manner, suggests maybe he fell off something when jumping and has hurt his back. He gets an anti-inflammatory injection and is let go with an injunction to return the next day.

Next morning, he is clearly no better. Indeed, if anything, he looks rather worse. And it is noted that despite making five visits to the litter tray, nothing of any sort is coming out. Back to the emergency vet.

Now it is possible you’ve never heard a cat scream. I mean, literally, scream. But when that vet decided to have a good old squeeze of Owen’s nether regions, that is indeed what I heard. We joked that there’d be no other animals in her waiting room, but by God there was really nothing to joke about. The emergency vet’s efforts did, however, result in the ejection of three drops of feline urine… and a tiny, almost invisible ‘pellet’ of “stuff” that she (having more skin in the game than I would have!) squidged on the table top with her finger-tip …and declared this was a “plug” from a blocked urethra and we’d have to take him immediately to her ‘head office’ practice, 15 minutes up the road.

Poor Owen therefore gets re-boxed, put into the car boot, and taken to this other vet. A wetter blanket I have yet to meet, however. He started by saying that Owen would have to be hospitalized, anaesthetized and have his ‘bits’ forcibly catheterized and cleaned out. Fine: how much? Er, er, well, er, hang on… and he disappeared. For about 10 minutes. Oh, well, er, yeah, maybe £1000. To start with. Could well be more. How much more? Er, Well, Dunno, It Depends.

Well, ToH and I look at each other and say, we simply don’t want to pay that much. We love him dearly, but he’s already cost us about £1250 (allowing for variable AU->GBP conversion rates). Isn’t there something cheaper we could try? Er, well, er, let me ask my boss. And he disappears. For another 15 minutes or so. No, he says on his return: there isn’t. Fine, we say: in that case, how much to euthanase the little fellow. Oh, er, well… hand waving aplenty… let me just type some stuff in the computer. About five minutes elapse: he must be the world’s worst keyboard user. Er, well… let me ask my boss. And he disappears for another five minutes.

It’s at this point I say to ToH, even if he comes back and tells us we can have three cats euthanased for free, I’m not letting that bloke put my cat down. So we pack him back into his carrier box… and he’s clearly feeling even worse than he was first thing in the morning. With what I fear was a fairly curt dismissal, I informed the vet when he finally returned that we’d be going elsewhere for a second opinion (though we didn’t want a second opinion: we knew what was coming. We just wanted someone with empathy -and competence- to do it).

So, another trip in the boot to a completely different vet, who is female and going off duty. Hopes weren’t high when I explained the situation and she said a little abruptly, ‘yeah, £1000 sounds about right’, but she swiftly moved on from that to explain why there were no shortcuts available -and that even if we paid our £1000, a couple of days after coming out of being catheterized, there was absolutely nothing to stop Owen blocking up again a few days later. Indeed, it’s common for cats to do so. The prognosis was negative, as they say… but at least I had a half-decent communicator explaining it to me now. When I asked her about euthanasia, she also didn’t skip a beat: three seconds of typing and a quote was instantly provided.

Well, you get the drift: even if we’d paid a fortune, nothing was guaranteed that Owen wouldn’t be screaming in agony shortly afterwards, repeatedly. Putting him to sleep was clearly the kindest option, never mind the finances -and, at the point we were discussing this, the poor guy was lying down in the bottom of his carry-box and punting himself around with his rear legs, trying to find some position that wasn’t agony. And here was a kindly, empathetic person able to do the deed.

So it was done, and they did it beautifully and we stroked him throughout the procedure and it was as sad as you’d imagine it to be.

We only knew him a short time: he was a rescue cat and we saved him from imminent destruction. But he was a real, big, fluffy personality, and I will miss him. And, of course, there’s the thought that if we hadn’t treated him like baggage and carted him half-way around the world as a personal possession, he’d still be alive and happily squeaking, as was his wont. (Apparently, stress does this to male cats. Travelling by Qantas to the UK is stressful even for humans, as I well know; God knows what it is like for a cat). So there’s some guilt.

Harper, his feline friend and tumbling partner is, thankfully, doing well. Indeed, he seems to be relishing being the one and only king of this particular all-new domain. Which is nice and a bonus. But nothing takes away the two hours of pointless agony we put Owen through.

Sometimes, I hate having cats.

Mostly, however, I don’t. 🙂

Harper and Owen

Somewhat against my better judgment, we spent Saturday visiting a local (translation: an hour up the freeway!) rescued animal shelter. What a miserable place it was! The constant howling from the dog section was quite troubling (I really don’t understand people who keep dogs. They are quite the most anti-social statement a neighbour could make, I think). But the palpable sense of doom experienced in the cat section was worse.

Don’t get me wrong: Renbury Farm is a fine place doing excellent work, and the people there seemed incredibly caring and knowledgeable. But so many of the cats were hiding at the back of their cages, scared out of their wits; some were practicaly feral and accordingly hissing and spitting at passers-by. All are under imminent sentence of death, basically: they have a week to be claimed or ‘adopted’ and then their time is up. Hence all the “Save by 3pm Monday” messages on the cat pages of their website (update: site now replaced by a Facebook page that isn’t quite as time-alarming!).

Their resources are limited, of course, so they have no choice but to take them in, ship ’em out and cull the ones that can’t make the journey in time. But it’s sad. And made all the worse, because apparently clueless humans are the cause of all the grief in the first place.

Anyway, much as we’d have liked to be able to save a good four or five of them, we decided we could only realistically adopt two of them. Both males, both about 2 years old. One is to be called Owen:

Owen is named after Owen Wingrave, the eponymous hero of Benjamin Britten’s 1971 opera. He’s also named after Wilfrid Owen, since his official birthday is listed as August 4th and in the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, it seemed sort-of appropriate. Anyway, I like the name!

The other is Harper:

My sister tells me that people will think we named Harper after David Beckham’s daughter, someone of whose existence I was not previously aware. Folks that know me better will realise it’s an obvious allusion to the fact that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird (or to be unkind to cats). Which is apparently where David got the name from, too, so we’re cool.

Both are currently at Renbury’s vets being de-wormed, vaccinated and (sorry, boys!) de-sexed. We pick them up tomorrow. I am unsure whether it is wise to replace long-time companion pets so soon after their demise, but I am looking forward to bringing them home nonetheless. Time will tell if the boys prove worthy successors to Lucretia and Gracie.