So I had to take Eli to the vet today. Actually I was supposed to take him on Wednesday, but luckily for him (or maybe for both of us), it was freezing and I was still recovering from the stomach flu so I decided to reschedule.
Of course that was simply delaying the inevitable.
It doesn’t matter whether he has to go to get his nails trimmed or whether it’s time for his annual shots. He does not like the vet. And, being a cat, he makes his feelings on the subject “purrfectly” clear.
Here’s what always happens: An hour or so before the appointment, I go down to the car and hit the control lever for the front passenger seat until the seat is flat and as far back as possible. Next I go into the basement, grab his carrier and stash it in the upstairs hallway. If I am lucky, I will then find my 15-and-a-half pound cat on my bed so I can easily apply a generous dose of herbal calming gel to his paws.
By this point, there’s usually about 30 minutes until the appointment. Assuming Eli has actually ingested some of the salmon-flavored calming gel (he should theoretically do so when he licks his paws) it is fairly easy to wrangle him into his large blue carrier. Of course the phrase, “fairly easy” is relative… after all, he is a cat.
Getting him into the carrier is one thing. Taking the carrier down a steep set of stairs without breaking my neck is another challenge altogether. By the time I finally get him situated in the car both of us are completely frazzled. By the time I start the engine, a pitiful mewing is sounding from his crate.
Fortunately the trip itself only takes five to ten minutes, depending on the traffic. I drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the crate, speaking softly the whole time. I know he’s upset and scared, and I want to offer all the comfort and reassurance I can. After all, I don’t like going to the doctor, either…
When we finally arrive, I wrestle the carrier into the lobby and put it on the floor while I sign in. By now, Eli knows where he is and makes his displeasure known — loudly. With paperwork completed, I take a seat, put the carrier on my lap and give Eli a pep talk — or a lecture, depending on how badly he’s behaving. I breathe a sigh of relief when the vet or vet tech finally takes him into the back room.
But the relief is short-lived. As the minutes tick by I glance between the wall-mounted TV and my cell phone, hoping that Eli is OK and praying that he’s being good. He’s a sweet boy — most of the time. But he has been known to bite, and he fought his old vet so much that she’d have to sedate him just to trim his nails.
Back in those days, Eli would emerge from the clinic looking miserable — and I would leave with a hefty bill.
I shared Eli’s history and my concerns about his behavior with his new vet when we moved back to Connecticut from Virginia. She said in her experience, cats seem to do better when they are not restrained during exams. She also asked whether Eli acts up more when I stay in the exam room — which he does.
Given that, we agreed that Eli would be treated in a separate area while I wait in the lobby. Because I haven’t witnessed any of the procedures, I can’t say exactly what transpires. Apparently it’s working though. To date he hasn’t been sedated and he hasn’t bitten anyone — that I know of. I’ve actually been told that he’s been a good boy.
Perhaps Eli (who just celebrated his 10th birthday) is mellowing in his old age. Or perhaps he’s simply decided to tolerate this new vet and her staff. I can’t say for sure.
I do know that there’s a growing trend towards making vet visits less stressful for pets. You can learn just how they’re doing so in a report on the subject that was recently published on abc.go.com.
Now if only they could do the same for people…