I dread this time of year almost as much as Brutus, our cat, does. But not quite. Brutus was due to have his annual booster vaccination; it’s something he hates for a variety of reasons.
Our gorgeous, cuddly boy was born in a barn. His parents, both ferals, were as wild as can be. When the kittens were born we took Brutus and his five siblings in, with the intention of finding homes for them once they were weaned.
Luckily for us, none of our friends showed the slightest interest in Brutus. Aside from being big and gangly, he was incredibly timid. So much so, that when anyone came to the house he’d hide in a corner, wide-eyed and terrified in case someone tried to touch him. Our friends declared him true a wild cat and unsuitable for living in a home. But Jack, my husband, and I knew better.
Gradually Brutus developed from a bat-eared kid into a gorgeous, green-eyed, adult. His richly coloured tabby coat shone with health, and he moved with the grace of a tiger.
Progressively his confidence began to build, but it was always only with us. Pretty much anyone else caused him instant panic, as did any kind of loud noise. Brutus has just turned seven now and is still the same.
With that background you can imagine how traumatic it is for the poor boy to be put in a carrier and taken by car to the vet. It absolutely terrifies him. Nevertheless, it has to be done. But there’s another, more practical, problem.
Brutus is almost the length of a double bed. He’s also a little bit overweight.
We have had endless battles trying to squash him into an ordinary car carrier, but he’s just too big. He never ever bites or scratches. Instead, he grows extra-long, stiff limbs and somehow manages to pin each of them to the frame of the carrier opening, making it nigh on impossible to shove him in. Equally, he can also morph into toothpaste. Just when we think we’ve got him trapped he’ll slither through our fingers and dart off to safety.
It’s got to such a state now that the moment I appear with the carrier he’ll do a disappearing act. I’ve even tried leaving one in his room with food inside for a few days prior to the vet visit, but he’s not stupid. He’ll eat anything you like, but not the food in that carrier!
Still, he had to go. He needed the booster.
I called the vet to make the appointment, taking the precaution to warn them we might not be able to catch him at all this time. They were very understanding and said I shouldn’t worry, I should just bring him in when I could.
Easier said than done.
We had finally come to the conclusion that the standard cat carrier wasn’t going to work anymore. Our only options were a large cardboard box and a dog cage (crate). In desperation I posted on my Facebook page for other ideas and had some great advice from my friends. One said, ‘put him in a pillow case, that works every time for my cat’. Others suggested ways of capturing and placing him securely into different types of cat carrier. Everyone sympathised with our plight. It seems we’re not the only ones who have this problem.
The night before Brutus’ appointment Jack and I had a conference. We decided the pillowcase technique, effective though it may be, probably wouldn’t work for Brutus. He’d bulge over the top. We dismissed the cat carrier idea completely, concluding that ours is just too small. The cardboard box we felt would be shredded in seconds, so it was the dog cage. One of my friends said her Siamese cats bent the metal bars. That was a worry. But we didn’t think our gentle Brutus would do that. And even if he did, it should hold for the journey.
Decision made, we were going with the cage.
Early in the morning, Jack erected the cage on our bed – next to Brutus’ lair. The TV volume had to be turned right up during this procedure. Any suspicious sounds would send the furry scamp scurrying under the bed. (And, by the way, pulling him out of inaccessible spaces is like stretching elastic.)
So far so good.
At the appointed hour Jack gently scooped up our sleepy feline and made his approach. A minor scuffle ensued as Brutus, eyes wide open now, saw through my expert efforts at camouflage, and made an impressive attempt at escape. But Jack hadn’t been called ‘safe-hands Haslam’ for nothing. His rugby skills came to the fore and Brutus was swiftly passed into the cage before he could unfurl his extensible limbs. Slam dunk! The door was closed.
My journey to the vet was a noisy one, and it had nothing to do with the radio. Our poor Brutus made it clear he was extremely unhappy and wailed pitifully all the way there. I felt terrible.
I enrolled the help of a veterinary nurse and we carried him into the waiting area. Here, he continued to howl horrifically loudly. This upset everyone including one poorly dog, which started to whine even louder.
Fortunately for all concerned, we didn’t have to wait long for Dr. Arnaud. He’s our vet here in France. He’s always been incredibly good with our animals, and is especially kind with Brutus. I knew we were in good hands.
I gently extracted our petrified bundle of fur and the examination began.
We solemnly agreed that, as well as being extremely long, Brutus is also a little weighty. The fact that it took quite a while to load all his limbs onto the cat scales bore testament to that. However, there had been no overall gain, which I considered a great result.
Brutus tried his best to become a very small thing and bore a hole in my tummy – small, he is not, and he was never going to disappear. Dr. Arnaud continued his check-up, and then it was time for the needle. By this stage I think our victimised kitty was past caring about piffling matters such as vaccinations, all he wanted to do was get back into the cage. The irony of it!
Finally it was all over. Brutus was pronounced bien en forme – very healthy. I sped home feeling racked with guilt at what I’d put him through. I released him to the sanctuary of his bedroom, worrying whether that was it for him. Would he ever forgive me this time? Well, it took a while.
At around 3 am the next morning I awoke to the sensation of something jumping on the bed. It was Brutus. He mewed gently and padded up the bedclothes. He nuzzled my face and settled down on the pillow next to me – his body a vibrating mass of purrs. Yes, I had been forgiven – I love my wonderful, cuddly wildcat.