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Pets Large & Small

The Cat People

Dr. Kimberly Brokaw, DVM

(10/2014) This was the fifth or sixth year I had come to this clientís house to vaccinate their cats. I come every fall for annual vaccines as they have too many cats to easily bring to the clinic. I remember the first time I went to their house. As I pulled in the driveway my thoughts went to scenes from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. I called the clinic and jokingly told them that if I didnít come back for afternoon appointments they were to come search the basement and woods for my body. Once inside, the vaccinations went smoothly, as the couple shared their views on politics and why the country is going downhill.

While one could argue that the these people are cat hoarders, they continue to provide more than adequate food, water, and veterinary care for the cats. All the cats are spayed or neutered and receive routine vaccinations. The cats are all loved and every injury or illness is attended to promptly. While cats kept by hoarders typically have eye disease and respiratory illness, these cats did not. In fact I think the owners take better care of their cats than they do of themselves.

As the years have gone by, I've come to enjoy the quirkiness of the family and even sort of missed the off-color and slightly inappropriate comments and behavior of the now deceased husband. My third year going to the house was one of my more memorable. I knew what to expect. I knew to quickly organize a system so there was no chance that, in the chaos of grabbing cats, we would vaccinate one cat twice and leave another unvaccinated. The similarity between all of the cat appearances and names no longer frustrated me when I was recording the vaccines for the cat health records. I came prepared to listen to their unique political opinions and for the elderly man to flirt with me while his wife chastised him saying "the vetís not here for you. Sheís here for the cats." It happened that this year, I had a veterinary student with me for my annual visit to the house. As we drove there, I tried to prepare her for what to expect. There will be multiple cars in various states of decay in the yard as well as tires, a freezer, and various other furniture throughout the backyard. While she should expect to see around 50 cats in the yard, we would be vaccinating about a dozen of them. All of the cat are named Chipmunk, Little Chipmunk, Chipmunk Jr, Chipmunk 2, Munk-munk, Chippy, etc.

Despite my attempt at preparing the student for what she was about to see, I think she was a little taken aback. I pulled into the driveway and noted that they had cleaned the place up since last time. She looked at me in disbelief. There were still multiple trash heaps and run down vehicles in the yard and easily several dozen cats. When we stepped into the house, you could barely see to the back of the room as the cigarette smoke was so thick. The elderly couple chased the cats about the place while cursing at each other and smoking. When they caught a cat they would hold him or her on the table for me to vaccinate, with their cigarette hanging out of their mouth. One of the cats was particularly wiggly so we were a little slower administering the vaccine. The slight delay resulted in the ash on the cigarette getting longer and my student and I hoped we would finish vaccinating before the ash fell on the cat. As we were catching cats, the elderly gentleman decided that he liked my student and started getting closer and closer to her as his wife, daughter, and I caught and vaccinated cats. By the time I was on cat number eight he had his arm around my student's shoulder and she looked at me with that deer in the headlights type expression. Unfortunately for my student, his wife wasnít going to chastise him the way she had for me the previous year.

As we got in the car and drove out of the driveway, I turned and looked at my student and joked, "Now wasnít that fun?" She just glared at me with that "I hate you" look. "I guess I owe you lunch?", I said.

I have noticed that my thoughts on people are directly influenced by how well they take care of their animals. While it has taken a few years, my former student no longer recalls that as one of her worst days with me. I've, however, come to appreciate people who will sacrifice personal comforts to ensure their pets are well taken care of.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw