Monday, January 12, 2009

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Cat

You remember Tubby and Stupid, right?

The long haired Idiot Brothers were ‘free’ kittens. A neighbor gave them to us when we lived in California.

Free cats. One gray, one white. Cute little kittens.


Evil little bastards.

Of course, there’s nothing free about pets, especially cats. Right from the first moment they start costing you money. They need shots, and deworming, and ‘fixing.’ Cats need litter boxes. Yep you get to spend money on dirt for the cat to crap in so you can throw it out and go buy more – I tell you, it would be a whole lot more efficient if the cat just learned to wipe its ass on my wallet. Cats need special scratchin’ posts where they sharpen their claws so that they may more easily shred your furniture. Cats need special cat food, specially formulated to permanently stain your carpet when they yak all over the floor for no apparent reason.

In our case those free cats cost us money for full physicals and special certification because we were driving through Canada with them on the way to Alaska. That trip was a little over 10,000 miles (We drove to Alaska from Southern California via Arizona, Florida, and Michigan – What? How would you do it?) which meant we needed cat carriers and methods to feed, water, and do waste removal on the road. And it is in travelling that dogs clearly have the advantage as pets. Dogs understand travelling. A dogs will sleep in the back of the truck for hours without complaint. Need to entertain a dog on the road, open the window. Dogs understand priorities. Stop, open the door, dogs get right out and immediately take care of business; a dog understand the concept of a piss break. Stop, fill a disposable tinfoil pan with litter, put it in the back of the truck, put the cats in the pan – and watch them do everything but pee. You can sit there for an hour, and the cat will play with a little piece of fuzz and sniff the air and not use the litter pan. Put the cat back in the carrier and get back on the road, and the cat will start hollering - “Hey, I gotta go here!”

We did pretty well on that trip, but there were times I seriously considered snapping both their necks and tossing their fuzzy butts out the window. In the middle of the Yukon, for example, when despite offering them frequent opportunities for a potty break, both refused to go – seriously, after nearly a month on the road and 8,000 miles you’d think they would grasp the basic concept. Suddenly the cab was filled with the most foul stench imaginable, obviously at least one of them had let go in their travel container (both were smaller then, and they liked to be in the same travel kennel). We cranked down the windows and I found a spot to pull over. Now if you’ve never driven the Alcan (the Alaska Canadian ‘highway’), especially into the far Yukon, you probably aren’t understanding the situation. It’s not like I can pull into a gas station, dunk them in a tub of windshield washer fluid next to the pumps and rinse them off with the hose. We were at least a hundred and fifty miles from the nearest human habitation of any kind. We hadn’t even seen another vehicle in an hour, if not longer. We had just spent an hour negotiating our way through a herd of bison blocking the road. We were in the middle of a valley, surrounded by a weird dark forest – the kind inhabited by Sasquatch or the Blair Witch. We found a spot to pull over and I parked the truck. I took the cat carrier around back while my wife fished out a big container of wetnaps (best travel item ever invented, especially in the jumbo container) and a roll of paper towels. My son took the dog for a walk (I want to point out that the dog immediately found a spot and did her business, just saying). Now, you need to visualize this, I am standing in the middle of the Yukon, about to open a box with two shit covered, highly irate cats who are now making deep growling noises like demented Tasmanian Devils and clawing with very sharp claws at my hand on top of the carrier. I’m serious when I say that I would have rather have walked into a wolverine den wearing nothing but a raw hamburger jockstrap than reach into that cat carrier at that very moment.

My wife held up an old towel to prevent the cats from getting away, and I opened the cage and carefully reached in. They both lunged straight at me, and I deftly grabbed the clumsy Tubby by his neck, but Stupid managed to evade both my wife and myself and dashed across the road into the woods. I stood there unable to pursue because I was holding a shit covered cat by the scruff of its neck, a cat that was doing everything in its power to get away from me, biting and scratching and making hissing noises like the granddaddy of all pythons. I believe my swearing violated at least seven different Canadian laws, and at least two international sanctions. Good thing the Mounties weren’t around. I carefully handed Tubby to my wife, who wrapped him in the towel, and started across the road.

Picture it, me looking for a shit covered white cat deep in the dark dank spruce forest of the the Yukon. This is what my life had come down to. If a pack of wolves or a grizzly bear had shown up then, I probably would have lain down and let them kill me. Eventually I found the filthy stinking cat under a log a hundred yard back into the woods and managed though stealth and guile to snare the damned thing. He fought me every inch of the way back to the truck, and he was none to pleased with his subsequent wetnap bath. We locked both cats in the back of the truck while I cleaned the carrier with wetnaps and paper towels and bottled water. Both, working together obviously, had deposited enough crap in the carrier to equal their combined body weight. Christ, what a mess, from the looks of it they’d been saving it up since Edmonton. Then I had to bag up the paper towels and such in two layers of garbage bags and strap that stinking bundle under the cargo rack on the roof – I’m an American true, but I wasn’t going to leave a pile of used wetnaps for the Canadians to clean up.

A week later outside of Tok, Alaska, it happened again – only this time it was in the middle of a forest fire. Yay. Cats.

Life since then has been one feline adventure after another.

And you know what happened later, Stupid cost us a serious amount of money. We’d hoped, after the eagle incident, that we would still have enough money to send our son to at least a second rate college.

But alas, it is not to be.

Two days ago Stupid started barfing up his dinner. I figured it was hairballs and wasn’t particularly concerned, it’s not like the carpet isn’t already ruined anyway. But he was still barfing the next day, and making an unearthly moaning noise. He was in obvious pain even though we couldn’t tell what was wrong with him.

Becky took him to the Vet yesterday morning. He’s still there.

He’s got a bladder infection, which blocked his urinary track. He hadn’t peed in a couple of days, apparently. He needed to be catheterized and given intravenous antibiotics. Cat intensive care, want to take a guess at what that costs? Looks like community college and living at home until he’s twenty-five for my son – unless he manages to knock up the Governor’s other daughter, mmm, there’s an idea.

So far, this ‘free’ cat has cost me thousands and the counter is still ticking. I just got off the phone with the vet, they’ve got him drugged, he appears to be responding to the antibiotics, but he’s still peeing through a straw and there’s still some blood in his urine. The Vet indicated that this might happen again, so I should probably look around for a second job.

Free cats.

I suggested they use a couple of wetnaps – perhaps hold a wad of them over his nose and smother him in his sleep.


  1. Poor Stupid.

    As the owner of a high-maintenance dog (kidney disease, sensitive skin, broken toes, etc.) nick-named "The Delicate Flower," I feel your pain. And Boogie was not free.

    But they're your pet, so you do what's necessary.

  2. Hope the cat's okay, Jim.

    I took Elvis to the vet last week because he'd gone two or three days without eating and had been throwing up a little. Well, actually that's why I called the vet to schedule a visit; within a couple of hours of my scheduling it, Elvis abruptly went from "sick" to "look at me, I'm one of those competitive eaters you see shoving things in their mouths on SpikeTV or wherever."

    $170 later, I learn he's put on about a pound-and-a-half since the vet noted on his chart that he was concerned the Elf-cat was a little overweight. Malingering little fucker. But I guess the credit card lived up to the ads: "vet bill, $170; peace-of-mind, priceless."

    So, anyway, I can relate. And I hope your little fucker makes a total recovery and is home soon. Good luck, Jim.

  3. My family's dogs have turned out to be more expensive than the cats, in general. My mom's dog is prone to seizures - that was made worse by the nurological elements in the flea and tick medication she was putting on him. My sister's dog had hock problems that had to be treated with surgury. My mom's cats? Void thier bowels outside and scratch outside. They have to be careful because of coyotes and mountain lions, but they're definitely outdoor cats.

    Me thinks you are biased.

    Hope you find a good solution to your cat's problem.

  4. That is the funniest thing I've read in weeks. And after the week I've had, much needed.

    Hope Stupid is better soon. Have you looked into pet insurance?


  5. Well, you've heard my theory before.

    If you have to spend more than your initial investment in the animal in vet care, declare it totaled and have it towed to the nearest dump.

    Because, yeah, I'm gonna do that with my little fluffy-butt dogs every time! ;) Of course, the purebred cost a fortune so the threshold is pretty high there.

    BTW, purebreds are overrated. They lick their butts, shed on the furniture and refuse to fetch just like any other dog.

    Anyway, hilarious story. Go eagles!

  6. From a scientific point of view, cats are amazing, you put money in one of this furry little device that is armed with teeth and claws, and shit comes out the other, with little or no return. You would figure with around 10000 years of breeding, something worthwhile would come of them. (I feel free to say this, as I pay to support three of the damned things, and I like them anyway)

  7. Jim, I'm sorry Stupid is driving you to the poor house.

    And I'm glad Stupid has both your wife and son to be sympathetic.

    I'd say I'm surprised about your cats inability travel, but one of them *is* named Stupid.

    My cats travel extremely well. We started when they were kittens: put them in a harness and leash. (If they don't want to come, you just drag them. Their fur slides pretty easily on concrete.)

    Also, we don't use a carrier. We put a covered litter box in the trunk, put food and water in the back seat or trunk, drop half the back seat, and we're good to go for however long the trip is.

    Of course, we also trained the cats from the start to STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM THE DRIVER. So although they'll crawl into the passenger's lap, the won't go near the driver.

    Summary: You're doing it wrong.

    Only problem we ever had was when we had to take my M-i-L back to Charleston on our way to visit friends. The large primary cat managed to both throw up and poop right beneath her in a five minute period.

    After we dropped her off, he was golden the rest of the trip. So, you tell me...

  8. We had a dog that developed an autoimmune anemia, had a transfusion reaction after a transfusion, then required erythropoeitin at $200/week for a bit. But we all adored her. Now my husband is owned by two cats, who grudgingly share the house with me and the kid. Humph to them.

  9. Argh! The cat will remain at the vet for at least another day. The vet said his urine was still coming out "chunky."


    Fine keep the damned cat and his chunky urine for another day. Goddamn, I'm going to have to sell a kidney.

    I'm telling you, the next time this thing gets so much as a sniffle, I'm going to take it out back and put a bullet in it. Argh!

  10. Heheh. Great travel story. ;) Although I've heard that you can just put clean towels into the carrier with them, and then just change those out during pit stops. And they can learn to poo when you've stopped at a hotel for the night.

  11. That, MWT, is an urban legend, a myth. Cats cannot be trained, they can be threatened, but they cannot be trained.

    However, threatening a cat has consequences - chunky urine, for example...

  12. I read this aloud to Mrs. Dr. Phil, but had to keep re-reading parts because I was laughing so hard the words were just gibberish.


    My theory is that the Yukon adventure was your rookie training so you wouldn't panic when they did their field shit test in the forest fire...

    So what kind of load do you use on a cat with sniffles? (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  13. Chunky urine? Ewww.

    Sounds like a shotgun might not be necessary - the combination of bacteria and native stupidity might do it for you. ;)

    I've never heard of a trained cat. Besides the estimable Michelle's. My sister tried to get her cat to use a leash - she used to say "I'm taking the cat out for a drag." She gave up quickly.

  14. A friend of mine emailed me and said:

    So what kind of load do you use on a cat with sniffles? S'not a .44 .


    I feel better for sharing.

    Dr. Phil

  15. Well, my cats come in when I call or whistle and they understand that they're part of the food chain when they step outside (there have been some Smokey and the Bandit moments). Haven't had any injuries to speak of, really, but they sure can recycle money into used litter.

    I hope Stupid makes it home all right, or makes the last watch in peace. :| (ear scratch)

    I'm still trying to bleach my eyes of the raw hamburger image... Aaaaaa!

  16. .22 short. About 9 cents a round.

    .44 about .90 cents a round, $1.50 if it's a magnum bear round.

    It's a matter of economics, Dr. Phil, this of course is entirely a academic comment, as has been mentioned elsewhere Stationkettle Station is not a democracy and even if it was I wouldn't get a vote.

    If it comes down to it, I will be selling a kidney - or so I'm told.

  17. karl, I wondered when somebody was going to comment on that. Thanks, Buddy. O.o

    And I reassembled the RAS today - it glides like new. Tomorrow I'll drop it into its new position, install the new table top and do the alignment. I'm going to end up spending more on a high end quality blade than I did on the saw. Amazing.

  18. I once lived in a house with very well-trained cats. The one would come when called, do jumping tricks on command, knew it was okay to be on the bed EXCEPT if someone was sitting on it with food, stayed off the counters, etc. He also knew when his owner was sick and who to pester for help if so. And also how to imitate the movements of the other cat well enough to trick the other cat's owner into pulling him under her covers at night (if his own owner was unavailable).

    These were Siamese, however, and they're smarter than the average cat. Their loyalty to their chosen owners is amazing.

  19. Yeah - eyes are still stinging, thanks...

    Ooooooo... Ginormous, high-powered cutting tools... I lucked out and got one of those high-speed Dewalt carbide tipped, 72 tooth blades at an AIH clearance last fall - $25 :) The Freuds were too spendy. Mine could stand a new table - soon as I find some lonely 1" MDF laying around.

    Make sure you can still count to ten after testing it ;)

  20. As it happens I have a 4x8 sheet of 1" thick MDF in the sheet goods rack. The damned thing weighs a ton, it's too heavy for me to manage on the table saw by myself. I'll wrestle it over onto the multifuntion table tomorrow and cut a piece to exact dimension using the FESTOOL plunge saw and the guide rails.

  21. And that's why I'll never own a cat. Give me a dog or give me nothing.

    I hope Stupid is better soon.

  22. i figure a month without spending $1000 on one of our cats is a good month.

  23. We have two "free" cats of our own now. Although, I have to say, our first free cat was wonderful. Wish she would have accepted the company of other cats so she could have trained them.

    One of the new cats just discovered she can climb the drapes and the other has taken to demanding food every time we stand up. Both are learning to live with disappointment.

    And sell part of your liver. You can get more out of it and it eventually grows back. With kidneys you can only sell one (if you do two contracts, then it costs more down the line). And kidneys don't regrow. Half a liver could go to three people.

  24. Jeri, you have to put 'em on leashes when their kittens AND you have to recognize that walking a cat means you go where they want and not vice versa.

    Mostly the harnesses are in case the cat bolts: you can stomp on the leash and stop 'em before they get away.

  25. Second the motion on liver over kidneys. It's hard to get to kidneys. Indeed, the surgery is worse on donors than on recipients, because the latter don't have to get the kidneys located where the OEM kidneys were.

    Perhaps the RAS needs to donate a kidney -- after all it's also costing you money. (ducks)

    Dr. Phil

  26. I love the fact that you all are giving me advice on which organ to sell.

    You guys are the best.


  27. Actually, Doctor Phil, your information is not up to date. The kidney donation operation is now laparoscopic, and the donor is back on his / her feet within a day or two with a scar only about 4 inches long.

    I've been in the operating theater when both renal donation and transplantation operations have been performed, and talked to both patients the next day. It's amazing.

    The liver partial removal operation is much more involved because they are taking only part of a large organ, and the scar is much larger. And you can only donate once - the scar tissue that forms precludes a second donation.

    Of course I think you'd get more money for being a heart donor.

    Jim - hope this helps. o.O

  28. I believe at this point I have decided to donate a couple of my commenters...

  29. This is where the other cats would get stripped for spare parts. Just sayin'...

  30. Notice how I've stayed out of the organ donation discussion. It's not like you can transplant a brain.

  31. No, but Einstein's brain used to tour the U.S. in a Tupperware brain keeper.

    And I'd forgotten about the new kidney procedure -- a friend of mine was on a kidney list years ago and he'd explained what the procedure back then was, so I was channeling that.

    Dr. Phil

  32. Nobody would want my brain anyway...

    Igor "mmmm...Abby Someone"
    Dr. F ""Abby someone? Abby who?"
    Igor: "Abby Normal."
    Dr. F "Abby Normal?"
    Igor "I'm almost sure that was the name."
    Dr. F "Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA? IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE TELLING ME?

  33. That's what I love about this group. Sooner or later it all comes down to the right movie quotes.

    Dr. Phil

  34. I believe dogs may be superior beings. And not just compared to cats. I've learned my lesson with cats--polydactyls are the way to go. My 6-toe is a freaking genius compared to most cats. He pretty much thinks he's a dog. He comes when called, goes in and out with the dogs, and behaves as if he actually thinks we might be worth more than a free meal and a warm lap.
    Give me dogs and polydactyls any day.

  35. I'm a veterinary technician by trade, and urinary blockages are kind of normal (not common, but not abnormal) for neutered male cats- hell, my OWN cat developed urinary crystals 3 weeks ago, so the WHOLE HOUSE had to be switched to a VERY EXPENSIVE urinary food that i can only get from work (granted, i only pay cost... for everyone else it's about $30 for 7 POUNDS OF FOOD. yeah. effing cats)... there is a surgical procedure (read: VERY EXPENSIVE)that can be done to prevent future blockages called a PU (penile urethrostomy) surgery- essentially, they make 'him' a 'her' (they chop off his man junk and make a HUGE urethral opening so the can't block again). expensive, but if he keeps blocking, it's worth it. i assume your vet is putting Stupid on special diet food? DO NOT GO OFF THIS FOOD. it could send him RIGHT BACK IN with the SAME THING. this is why I am the dog person- my husband is the cat guy.

  36. I've driven the Alcan by myself, except for the company of dogs, twice. The first time with my big Labrador style rescue mutts, in my Jeep in the winter time. The only thing I would change is having the satellite radio hooked up. We had a fantastic trip. (Except hotels in Fort Nelson-a troop of peg legged elephants was disco dancing in the room next door and the Internet didn't work)
    The second time, I drove my son's 1978 Bronco up with his pit bull mix in the summer. That trip was plagued with forest fires and people. The fires were a bit close (the road was briefly closed shortly after we passed through) I thought the drive was more fun on the icy road with almost no traffic than it was with old RVs and mini vans.
    The least remarkable thing about both trips, and there was plenty to remark about, was the dogs. Best traveling companions ever. They never complain about anything, they do what needs to be done without hesitation, and they are a fairly effective security detail. I slept well at night, I was comfortable in rest stops and never worried about my car being broken into or stolen.
    I'm thinking about getting a cat, but my son has moved in with me, and insists his dog is a good mouser. If I do get one, I'm going to look for a wiry female. No fancy indoor kitties for this house. You reminded me again why I have dogs.

  37. The 'I cried' button was perfect ~ since tears were streaming down my face from laughing so hard. I dearly love your cat tales!

  38. Have just piddled my panties. Totally insane mom of three (at the same time) rescued female cats. Wonderful tale! There were four but the male succumbed to heart failure from living with three women.

  39. Going by the title of your article, are you, by chance, also a Spider Robinson fan? If so, hubby is definitely getting kicked to the curb! ;->


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