By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
I did something new last week: I took my kittens to the veterinarian!
Since my father was a veterinarian, he cared for my childhood pets and, of course, I and my colleagues at The Animal Medical Center have taken care of my recent pets. Consequently, I have never made an appointment or sat in the waiting room of a veterinary clinic other than to chat with a pet owner.
Foster care kittens
Last week things changed. You may remember my last foray into fostering.
My family and I temporarily adopted a pregnant cat, helped her deliver her kittens, and subsequently cared for her babies until it was time to let them go. This time, I am fostering two kittens already weaned from their mother. They are both underweight and under socialized. They came to me for a bit of TLC to spiff them up before getting a forever home. The female turned the corner the previous weekend when she started asking for attention and food. Her renaissance made the little orange male look even more malnourished and he retreated into a scruffy ball of fur with no appetite, even for delicately poached chicken breast or the most expensive kitten food from my local pet store.
Had the orange boy been my personal kitten, he would have come to work with me and undergone a full battery of tests. But, my foster care agreement specifies sick kittens come back to the rescue organization for medical care. So, I contacted them first thing in the morning and arranged for an appointment late in the day.
A day of worry
I spent the entire time, from making the appointment until leaving for the clinic, worrying about what was going to happen. Was the kitten so sick it couldn’t be helped? Could the whole problem be the healthy kitten spent all day pouncing on the little one, hoping for a playmate, preventing the little one from eating? The worst worry: what if the healthy kitten was ready for a forever home, the sick kitten required hospitalization, and I had to go home with an empty kitten carrier to an empty kitten palace because both kittens had to stay at the clinic?
The clinic visit
Luckily one of my friends at work drives past the rescue organization on her way home so the kittens and I got a ride, supplemented by a comforting conversation during the trip; the familiar face of the foster care coordinator was reassuring as well. The veterinarian, who might have been young enough to be my son, kindly thanked me for my participation in the foster care program, but when he said the kitten had lost 6 ounces, my pleasure melted away. Because the young veterinarian sees foster kittens daily and kittens are definitely not my core patient base, he gently explained foundling kittens frequently just stop eating for no apparent medical reason. The fix for the problem is simple: force feeding the kitten in the clinic for a few days to jump start their appetite and get them back on track. He also listened to my concern about the disparity in the size and energy level of the kittens. Together we decided the kittens should be separated and I would keep the healthy one while the poor-doer would stay in the hospital.
The moral of the story
I know from experience, it is impossible not to worry about your sick pet. And I also know your veterinarian wants your sick pet to get better almost as much as you do! But a kind word, an open ear, and a treatment plan that took my input about the kittens into consideration put my mind at ease and got the sickly kitten back on the road to good health.