Adjusting to a new roommate is always tricky business. It doesn’t matter whether that roommate is human, feline or some other species. Every creature in the home has to learn each other’s habits and quirky behavior. Some take longer than others to adjust to new surroundings. When we brought home our cat, Sam, he marched out of his carrier and went straight for the basket of toys. He inspected them and looked back at us with a “this will do,” expression and settled in. When we adopted our cat, Linus, he dove under the nearest blanket the moment he was free from his carrier. We knew that his adjustment period would take a bit longer than Sam’s. With patience and love, Linus has learned that the world on the other side of the blankets isn’t as scary as it had been before he moved in with us.
When Linus first emerged from his hiding place, he kept a watchful eye on us from a safe distance. We wanted to hug and comfort this frightened kitty, but we let Linus dictate how much interaction he could tolerate. As each day passed, he learned that he was safe and got a bit braver. Within a month of his arrival, he was hopping into our laps for on-demand snuggles. It was then that we noticed a problem. Linus had breath that could peel wallpaper.
It was like his breath was an entity all to itself and it usually entered the room just ahead of him.We were thrilled that he was approaching us and didn’t want to discourage his friendly advances, but now that we were getting up close and personal, there was no way to avoid his horrendous halitosis.To compound the problem, Linus is a talker. He loves to sit in our laps and meow, giving us an earful and a noseful. It is difficult to fully express your love while holding your nose.
We tried to explain away his malodorous breath. Perhaps his body was adjusting to his new food. Perhaps he needed a date with a dentist. I checked his scant medical records and saw that he had seen a veterinary dentist and had a teeth cleaning shortly before he came to live with us. Breath that bad could be an indicator of a serious health condition. Rather than trying to force feed Tic Tacs to our cat, Oregano and I decided that Linus needed to visit the vet. That’s when our troubles began.
In order to take the cat to the vet, we would need to pick up said cat. While Linus had gotten braver, all of our interactions were on his terms. Whenever we moved towards him, he would run in the opposite direction. Everyone knows the jokes about giving a cat a pill, but little is said about having to catch the cat to go to the vet to get those pills. We tried using Linus’s favorite toy to lure him into the bathroom and into his waiting carrier. Very quickly, he became suspicious of our behavior and hid from us. Since he was completely unreachable and because we didn’t want to terrorize him, we canceled our vet appointment and rescheduled for another day. Oregano and I formulated a plan and after much meowing and scrambling, we got Linus to the vet.
The vet examined him and said the bad breath and a few other health issues were caused either by allergies or a virus that he was probably exposed to while living in a shelter with 200 other cats. She recommended giving him allergy medication for a week to see if the symptoms cleared up. In addition to the allergy medication, the vet gave us teeny, tiny tranquilizers to give to Linus before we attempted to bring him back for his next visit.
How on Earth were we going to give this cat medication when we couldn’t hold him? Even under the best circumstances, giving a cat a pill is an exercise in patience, endurance and agility, but a prerequisite to accomplishing that task is actually holding onto the cat. If our experience getting Linus to the vet was any indication, this was not going to be an easy process for any of the participants. A blow dart with a tip laced in medication seemed like the best choice, but that option wasn’t available to us. We tried all sorts of tricks, but nothing was working. After numerous failed attempts, we called the vet for advice. She found us a pharmacy half way across the country that could make the medication into a tuna-flavored treat. Of course, Linus wouldn’t eat the very expensive medicinal treats. When we crushed up the treat and disguised it in the smelliest cat food money could buy, he finally ate it. After a month, we had managed to get a week’s worth of medication into Linus. Now, we just had to catch him to take him back to the vet for his recheck.
Armed with pharmaceutical assistance, Oregano and I were optimistic about our chances of successfully making it to the next vet appointment. As directed by the doctor, 45 minutes before our appointment we crushed up the tranquilizer and hid it in Linus’s favorite stinky food. He was leery of a mid day snack, so he avoided our offering. We walked away thinking that he might come back and eat without us hovering over him. As I left the kitchen, I asked Oregano to keep an eye on the food bowl. When I emerged from the laundry room five minutes later, I saw Sam walking away from the empty bowl licking his lips. Not only did we fail to slow Linus down so that we’d be able to catch him, the wrong cat had eaten the tranquilizer!
As the time for our appointment neared, we talked about our plan for wrangling an untranquilized Linus. Oregano thought he’d be able to sneak up on Linus and take him into the bathroom where he would eventually walk happily into his carrier. Oregano was sure this would work. I didn’t share his confidence, but I didn’t want to interfere with his game plan. As a furry gray and white blur streaked past me and dove behind the TV, Oregano asked for my assistance. He thought that if we each surrounded the TV, Linus would run out and one of us would be able to catch him. Let me just say this; it is not a good combination to have a cat that is smart and athletic. Smart and slow-moving is fine. Not too bright and agile also works in our favor, but a cat that is smart and athletic is a recipe for failure on our part. Linus launched himself over me and the chase was on.
Linus ran from room to room with us following in hot pursuit. I ran in one direction. Oregano ran in a different direction. Linus used evasive maneuvers to avoid us. At one point, I’m not sure who was chasing who. It quickly became obvious that two middle-aged humans did not have the speed or reflexes required to capture a very determined four-year old cat. Realizing we’d never be able to catch him on our own, we shifted our strategy. Since lunging and diving wasn’t working, we decided our best option was to continue running around the downstairs with him. Hopefully, we could wear him out so that he would slow down enough for us to get him into his carrier.
Oregano and I were laughing at how ridiculous we must have looked trotting in circles through our house. All that laughing made running even more difficult. Linus would run several laps then dive under the couch. Oregano and I would lift it up and Linus would shoot out from underneath. He ran a few more laps with us on his tail then hid under the couch again. We followed this pattern for 15 minutes. It was quite a thorough workout; cardio and weight lifting. Eventually, Linus changed the path he was running. I think he was secretly hoping that Oregano and I would crash into each other, but Linus made a tactical error; he jumped onto the kitchen counter and cornered himself behind the mixer. Oregano put the carrier in front of him and he reluctantly surrendered. The house looked like a tornado had blown through it. All the while, Sam slept his peaceful, drug-induced sleep completely undisturbed by our antics.
The three of us were panting and covered in fur, but we made it to the appointment on time. The allergy medication had not caused a noticeable change in his symptoms. Linus stood still while the vet examined his mouth and recommended that we brush his teeth twice a day every day. I turned and looked at Oregano wondering how we were going to accomplish that feat on a daily basis. As the blood drained from our faces, the vet began to laugh, “Just kidding!” she said then handed us an additive to put in the cats’ drinking water.
Thankfully, now the only thing that announces Linus’s arrival in a room is the jangle of his favorite toy and his sweet meow. Recently, we’ve discovered a new problem. What do you do when you have two lap cats and only one lap?