There are a number of feral cats living around our workshop area and about two weeks ago we noticed cat footprints making their way up the road towards our house, up to the gate. We have also caught a few African Wild Cats in the spotlight while out at night, keeping elephants out of the crops. Kits (as she is now called) is about 6 months old, so approaching sexual maturity and probably attracting all the toms in the area. We certainly don’t want more cats (where would we re-home them?) so we took the decision to have her spayed.
I booked the appointment for Monday, and she couldn’t believe it when we put her back in the cupboard (where I had kept her when she first arrived, to keep the dogs away from her) on Sunday night. It’s the only room in the house where she cannot escape and we had to make sure she had nothing to eat or drink after 20.00hrs.
For the trip into town I put her into Tikkie’s travelling box – the one he arrived in on the plane from Johannesburg – but her cries of protest were too distracting so a couple of kilometers down the road I pulled over to let her out. Within minutes, after a quick inspection of the entire vehicle, she curled up on my lap, purring for the rest of the journey. I dropped her off at the vet’s, having waited until he had sedated her and she was quite dozy and then went to treat myself with a mocha coffee milkshake at our town’s only café while I waited for his call to come and collect her.
When I collected her she was still completely anaesthetised, her head lolling about and her tongue hanging out. I was a little apprehensive and asked if I shouldn’t wait a bit longer for her to return to consciousness. The vet assured me she would be fine, so off we went back home, where I laid her out on a few blankets on the floor in the cupboard. She seemed to take hours and hours to wake up and when she finally stood up and tried to walk around she appeared blind! She kept walking into the wall, my legs, anything that was in her way, and when I waved my fingers around in front of her eyes she did not blink or react at all.
I tried to call the vet to ask if this was normal but his phone was off so I turned to Google where I learned that blindness after anaesthetic is quite common in cats and that sometimes it can be permanent. Of course I was distraught and when Piet got home that evening after his day’s work on the farm he found me almost in tears. Being the calm, level-headed person that he is he managed to calm me down (a bit) and suggested we wait until the morning to see how she was then. In my Google research I had also read that cats are more sensitive to anaesthetic than dogs are and that they can take longer to recover, so I took his advice to heart and tried to settle down and wait for the morning.
We woke before dawn to the sound of plaintive mewing coming from the cupboard and when Piet opened the door Kits came bounding out, purring like a diesel engine and set about on her usual morning ritual of pouncing on Tikkie to wake him up, something he hates (he is not a morning dog). What a relief! Although she was still a little shaky and unsteady on her feet, her eyesight was back to normal and that was the end of that drama.
Kits is very hyperactive and it proved very difficult for me to check on the progress of her wound – a couple of furtive glances didn’t really show me much, so on Sunday I decided to hold her down and have a really good look, to try to see how close we were to removing the stitches. I was horrified by what I saw – a great, red, inflamed, gaping hole; all her gymnastic antics must have torn the stitches out some days ago. She had probably also pulled some out, with help from Tikkie who I had to reprimand a few times as he had shown a lot of interest in her tummy lately. I felt dreadful that I hadn’t noticed sooner.
So first thing Monday morning we were back at the vet. This time he only sedated her and I had to stay to help, his assistant having come down with a bug and unable to work that day.
After the removing uterus and ovaries during a spaying three layers of stitches are inserted: one layer to close up the abdominal wall, one to close the subcutaneous fat layer and one closing the skin layer. Luckily in Kits’ case the abdominal wall layer had held and healed, so there was no chance of peritonitis, which would have probably killed her. The last two layers of stitches had come out though, so these were re-done. I was impressed at the vet’s skill with the needle, inserting those tiny stitches in such a small space. Towards the end of the procedure the sedation medication had started to wear off so there was a bit of wriggling and crying as the needle went in. My poor little kitty! We bandaged her tummy and placed a cone over her head (which I had fashioned earlier out of a 2 litre Coke bottle – there being no such thing available here); the bandage to keep the wound clean and Tikkie away from it, and the cone to stop her chewing at the stitches again.
I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to walk with the bandage around her middle. Tying anything around a cat’s torso upsets their balance and they usually fall over when they try to walk. Or they just lie there doing nothing until you take it off (I tried it. Once. When I was young and didn’t know better). However, once she had fully recovered from the sedation she was soon back on her feet, albeit a little clumsily. And she has hardly reacted to the cone at all.
I am keeping her in the cupboard most of the time now. Until she is fully healed I need to stop her tearing around like a mad thing, climbing trees, catching frogs and terrorising the dogs – but I let her out in the evenings when we are at home and can keep a close eye on her. I had a good look at her wound this morning, it looks like it is healing properly this time, so it shouldn’t be long before she can get back to being a real cat again.