Abby is the first house cat we’ve had since my husband John and I moved from Salt Lake City to Cambria’s backcountry in 2004. All of our other cats over the years have been rescued ferals who live in their own private cat condo across the yard from our bedroom.
Almost two years ago when we found 11-year-old Abby at the shelter in San Luis Obispo, we were told she was an indoor/outdoor cat who was used to dogs.
For me, it was love at first sight. When we brought Abby home, she looked around, sniffed and made it perfectly clear she was appalled that we expected her to live in the cat condo. She definitely saw herself as a people cat, not a cat cat.
To say we were unprepared to have a cat living in our house with our very “enthusiastic” dogs is an understatement. But neither of us could endure her obvious horror at a life with only other cats, so after one night in the condo, she moved into our bedroom. It gave her a safe and quiet place to adjust to her new surroundings, away from the dogs, until we could see how she’d tolerate them.
Very quickly Abby showed what a charming member of the family she was prepared to be. Instead of hiding under the bed when visitors stopped by, she was always friendly with strangers. Even when our energetic Australian shepherd bounded into the house, she was unflappable. No hissing, no claws, only tolerance.
In all the time we’ve had her, she’s never clawed the furniture and only once climbed onto the kitchen table to see what she might be missing. She’s affectionate and engaging, and we love her to death. Perfect cat, right? Almost.
Soon, it was time for the inevitable trip to the vet. Living way out of town, as we do, a trip to the vet is like a cross-country trek down a bumpy, winding, steep, very long mountain road. Although Abby did fine on the ride to our ranch from the shelter, lulling us into a false sense of security, getting back into the truck for the trip to town brought out a side of her personality and physical expressions of displeasure and terror we had never seen before. We gently placed her in her beautiful new carrier, all cozied up with blankets for the trip, and carried her out the door to the truck.
From the get go, she was clearly not happy about leaving the house and very vocal about it. As we drove off, expecting her to adjust to the ride as our other cats always have, we started hearing a change in the tone of her meow, which we quickly realized was her version of what we now call her barf meow. With most of the 14 miles to town still to go, everything inside Abby ended up in her carrier — everything.
OPEN THE WINDOWS, PLEASE!
The staff members at our vet are the best. Not only did they clean up Abby, who is a bushy Persian, but they also cleaned up her carrier and gave us a new towel for the bottom of the carrier for what turned out, thankfully, to be an uneventful trip home. The vet also gave us some calming meds that she assured us would make our next visit a breeze.
When it was time for Abby to go to the vet the next time, the memory of that first trip was still pretty clear in my memory. I gave her the magic pill but thought it might calm her more if I held her on my lap for the trip down the mountain. I was wrong. It was worse. Everything that happened the first time in the carrier happened on my lap and down the legs of my jeans. Opening the windows didn’t help.
Did I mention that the staff members at our vet are the best? This time they cleaned up Abby and me. I don’t remember exactly what I said to the vet during that visit, but it was something along the lines of, “You will never see Abby again unless you are willing to make house calls. I’m done.”
Needless to say, Abby will not be able to go through the rest of her life without visiting the vet, but the visits will be less frequent than they would be if her “constitution” was different. When she needs cat shots, we will do the right thing, regardless. If she seems sick, we will endure the smelly, icky ride to the vet because we adore her.
Otherwise, she will stay home where she is always happy. No vacation travel for Abby.