Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 56

Fosfax_2002_205_Part1_056.tiff

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Title

Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 56

Subject

Science Fiction

Description

Fifty- Sixth page of Fosfax, Issue 205, Part One: The morality of taking care of cats

Creator

James S Dorr

Source

Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, July 2002

Date

Jul-02

Rights

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Language

English

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Text

ON THE MORTALITY OF CATS, OR,
WHY I DIDN’T GET TO WORLDCON (OR ANYTHING MUCH ELSE) THIS YEAR
by James S. Dorr



With condolences for Francesca and Sulla
Thanksgiving Day 2001
Resident cat Edgar passed on on All Hallows Day, 1999.
Some may remember him for having what turned out to be a bizarre case of dry scalp (neutered male pattern baldness?), curable finally with diet supplements consisting mainly of oil and garlic, and gaining him the temporary nickname of Ed- gardo the Italian Cat. What did him in though, quite unex¬pectedly, was cancer.
On Halloween, Sunday, I dug the grave and selected the grave goods: a favorite catnip toy, the traditional dime for the boat fare. And then, Monday evening, it was all over, I grateful at least we had had the weekend to be together; he joining Vanessa and Mao Hsiu-shih (also known as Fang) beneath the western cherry tree in my back yard.
Then, several weeks later, my middle niece called me from New Jersey. She collects stray cats and one, heretofore known primarily for spending most of her time out of sight underneath things, was dis¬covered to have a secret vice involving the attempted murder of her fellow cats (from a subsequent conversation with my youngest niece:
[Me] "Wasn’t there something about being found with some of
Kimberly’s fur between her teeth?"; [Youngest Niece] "Actually it was more like she was found with Kimberly between her teeth."). A feline sociopath!
So naturally my middle niece thought of me.
Thus, relocated to a new state and under a new identity, Carmilla became the household cat in early 2000. A millennium cat. Those who were here for the following New Year’s may recall talk of an unseen cat underneath the office couch (old habits die hard). Carmil¬la, allegedly, was about four years old when I got her (two years old when checked out by the vet when my niece acquired her plus two years under my niece’s ownership). Not too much mileage, to think in used car terms. Plenty of time left on her — my sister actually used arguments of that sort in helping my middle niece make her case; Carmilla is, however, to quote Marge Simon from the introduc¬tion of my book, Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance (now, is that the one just released by Dark Regions Press, cf. http: //darkregions.hypermart.net/ for further information? It is), a "gor¬geous tortoise shell cat" (well, actually, black tabby on-tortoise shell — Halloween colors — or, to note LeFanu's description of her name¬sake, "[her hair was] exquisitely fine and soft, and in colour a rich very dark brown, with something of gold"), which is to say I didn't need much convincing.
I quote, of her namesake: "Heavens! If I had but known all!" All adult stray cats checked out by vets, I have later theorized, as long as they’re not actually doddering in on little kitty walkers, are "about two years old." It has something to do with all their teeth (that is to say, fangs — another correspondence with her namesake!) being in by then, I understand. Carmilla in the book, however, turns out to be 150 or so years old (or, if those were cat years, roughly — 30 as best I make it) before finally eating the old stake sandwich.
Remember this.
Carmilla had been losing weight, not a terrible thing in a new lo-cation, with a new and less indulgent diet (she, charmer that she is, had at one time actually sometimes been scamming three dinners a night from resident carers [middle niece, sister who came in on wee¬kends, day nurse for my mother) who didn't compare notes in her old location — those times, that is, when she wasn't under things) with nervousness and all that. She also exercised at times, playing with her toys, in season catching mice. But she continued losing this summer, beginning to remind one somewhat of the film version of Stephen King's Thinner; so, meaning to take her to the vet anyway for a general checkup plus inspection of fangs for a possible cleaning (I do not have a copy at my side to quote from, but recall the passage from Brain Stoker’s Dracula where Jonathan Harker describes the breath of the three "young women" he meets in the Count's castle), he went in late August.
Blood tests. X rays. It turns out vets can also guess at cats’ ages from X rays — something to do with cartilage that joins the ribs in front turning over the years into bone, by which virtue Carmilla ap¬pears to be wearing a little suit of armor (or, more in character, per¬haps a corset?) — from which the vet estimated her to be "in her teens.” Possibly late teens.
She now eats little old grannv lady cat cat chow.

And her problem turned out to be a little old granny lady cat problem: hyperthyroidism (imagine her cat-
thermostat turned up too high so she burns up calories — taking her fuel not only from catfood, which she was still eating in normal sized portions [she is, in fact, free fed on crunchies and so can have all the dry food she wants, being regulated only on canned food], but fat and muscle — without any extra exercise on her part). So, for a month or so she was getting pills, one quarter of one kind in the morning, one quarter at might; half of a second kind as well at night; these (to her delight!) smuggled into her in extra canned food (that is for the morning pill — but sometimes "seconds" at night as well if the pills didn’t all go down [Yuk! That meant picking up her little plate and inspecting the detritus, picking out any little white bits, and burying them in a new glob of liver/offal, or whatever — I soon learned to use the pill cutter to subdivide these even further into fragments too small to spit out]).
Then more blood tests at (roughly) $100 a pop. The veterinarian’s children are being sent through vet school by Carmilla!
Perhaps they'll name a wing in her honor.
Then around the beginning of October, radiation therapy being out for several reasons (key up "woo woo" music, fading into "Science Fiction" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), The Operation. ("What did you do with your income tax rebate?" "I paid a man to take my cat and slit its throat open and pull out steaming, still throb¬bing organs." Well, actually not. My income tax rebate didn’t begin to cover the cost by now. . . .) A series of sticky notes on the calen¬dar where I work, explaining which afternoons I would not be on call for working late ("Cat to Vet" "Cat Back from Vet" "Cat Resched¬uled for Vet"; these accompanied by modified smiley faces with ears and fangs). Explaining to one of our work study students that, no, the cat hospital does not consist of a row of cats in little kitty beds (but, I told her, it does resemble TV show hospitals in that the patient gener¬ally will have at least one tube sticking in her arm, leading up to a machine that has lights and beeps).
("Visit Cat at Vet" [fanged "smiley" — actually the smiles them-selves were modified into more dubious expressions, occasional "wor-ries", and even mild "frownies"].)
To Carmilla's credit she put up well with this all, crying loudly all the way to and from the vet (people turning to stare as I walk by lug¬ging her carrier — one or two people getting the idea, "Cat doesn't like to go to the vet?" "Cat going to the vet?” "I had a cat once, who didn't like going to the vet!"), but a little princess, once in the vet's office. Well, there was the incident with "Wiggles" the Siamese. But other than that (on one occasion the vet came out, praising Carmilla on her demeanor, then mentioning he’d already been bitten four times that morning by other patient; perhaps Carmilla just wanted her meat fresh). The vet's assistant gave her a "Purrrfect Patient!" sticker for her cat carrier (note the three Rs in "Purrrfect" — actually the assis¬tant stuck it on herself when I wasn't looking). The vet became rich.
Then the Removing Of The Stitches (picture a somewhat badly laced football — that was Camilla’s throat!). Then, at the beginning of November, another blood test — I try to combine as many things as I can in a visit because Camilla’s behavior after she gets back home is sometimes less admirable; however, this time, it just didn’t work out. The stitches come out when they have to come out; the re¬test can’t be too soon if we're to learn more than we knew the last time. However, I have found out she loves the cat candy the vet has out in a bowl for owners to take, and so have learned how to portion it best for bribes.
And, as for Carmilla — well, the vet took out both thyroid glands at once, something not normally done except that both were very swollen (usually it’s just one, with — you guessed it! — more tests to determine when/if it’s time for the other to be nipped out to join it), thus giving rise to the possibility that her system won’t re-regulate it¬self and she’ll go into hypothyroidism, an opposite condition in which, presumably without eating overly much more to account for it, her "kitty thermostat" is set so low that she keeps adding bulk (her normal caloric intake having no place else to go, you see) until she becomes a Giant Fur Covered Blob (bring up original version of the Roger Corman movie, perhaps the scene where The Blob oozes out into the theatre from the projection booth — key in title song), or, through weight alone, becomes a black hole and sucks the rest of the universe in with her.

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