This story follows my journey towards embracing Feline Friendly Care and becoming a CatAdvocaT. To start at the beginning, I invite you to read the prequel first.
I had one guardianship while a student veterinarian.
A little Silkie Terrier puppy with a rare genetic disease (Gaucher’s disease) which the Neuro guys were interested in finding out about. They lost sight of the wood for the trees, and the little dog was starving to death – she shook so hard she could not get her mouth to a plate of food.
I took her home, and my then-fiancée put out huge bowls of chicken and held her so she could eat. The Shaker grew and shook and bounced.
Life was pretty hard for her – she vibrated every waking moment. From her I learned the value of every waking moment – tough or not, you’re in it, experience it to the full.
I then fell in love with elephants, and there have been interesting detours to accommodate that fascination. After graduation, and accompanied by my patient, hero husband, I made a side trip to work in Zimbabwe that taught me about wildlife ecology and which was reinforced by an expedition to the Galapagos in 1999.
As part of the veterinary experience on Cape Cod (USA), we ‘adopted’ a whale and got winter postcards from the Caribbean. We traveled the world for 12 years, acquiring 10,000 photos and millions of memories, before settling back in the hometown of Sydney in 1994.
The cat god brings us back to Sydney
Along the way, I had refreshed and upgraded my veterinary expertise by acquiring a Membership to the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (MANZCVS) in cat medicine, and honed the science and the art on UK kitties, as well as the domestic cats (and dogs) of Zimbabwe and Cape Cod.
The East Chatswood Cat Clinic had arrived.
The genesis of feline friendly care
What had triggered the fascination with felines was there seemed to be little veterinary information and almost no interest in the specific medical problems of the little fur purrsons brought to me by their dedi-CAT-ed owners.
If the cat was not broken by a trauma, there was not much to offer. “Vets can just bury their cat mistakes” was (and is) a common solution.
Incurable is easy to say (but VERY hard to hear). Or “Cats always do that (don’t they?)”.
Purrsistence is my strength and weakness, and I could not accept such an inconclusive approach. So I watched and I studied and talked to cat-oriented vets, breeders, owners. And I tried (and failed) and tried something else, and while I was on my private mission, the veterinary world discovered cat medicine and information proliferated.
Knowledge, experience and – purrhaps wisdom – followed, so now pet cats are healthier than ever. Parasites, kitten illnesses and viral problems, food and hygiene issues can be controlled if not conquered.
I learned more about cat behaviour and personality from the cats who boarded and those who were ‘homed out’ through the clinic – 4,500 in total.
I believe I was the only vet in the world who had a ‘cradle to grave’ service for so many cats and kittens, and gained insights from each of them. The insights were either about cat behaviour and illness or about cat owner behaviour and expectations.
And learned more about fleas than I ever wanted to know.
How the cats found and captivated me
A cat is for life, not just for Christmas, so there was no room in our lives for a feline friend – until a Somali snuck in. From him I learned that you cannot take the HUNT out of the HUNTER – CATch is what cats do.
We lived 3 storey’s up in a unit, and he pined for ground level and to go hunting. He’d been an outdoor cat, and at 18 months old he was not prepared to give up his dreams. He sprayed in distress and desperation – so the quandary was – permanent medication, or rehoming to somewhere with outdoor access.
I knew the risks of rehoming – a life likely to be shortened by trauma – balanced against a life of constant frustration.
He found a new home, had a fabulous time, and lasted about 12 months before being run over