Those of you who have followed along know that I volunteer with a TNR (trap/neuter/return) program. One or two weeks a month, we take in community cats and get them spayed or neutered and give them rabies and distemper vaccines. While we have them we also tend to minor, and sometimes major, medical issues. We don’t send anyone back outside sick, unless their is a colony caretaker with shelter and other care arrangements who can tend to the cat. If a cat is dying we can often place him or her in a cat sanctuary to live out the days or weeks or months. Occasionally one comes to live with one of us, as Annie did with me.
We are first and foremost a TNR program, and we have yet to make it through a single TNR week this year without at least one cat who needs medical attention. From kittens with coccidia or hookworm, to cats with lacerated eyes and bites out of their tails, to elderly cats with FIV, and the garden variety upper respiratory infections and eye infections, we seem to get it all.
And I am one of the nursing staff volunteers. Because I put in a little time at a vet’s office years ago, and because I have a houseful of special needs cats, and pet sit lots of special needs cats, it makes sense for me to care for many of the sick ones. This week it is a cat with an eye infection.
Give me anything else….I hate the eye stuff. Mostly I hate it because I know so much less about it than so many other problems. Give me a diabetic, or a dog with Cushings, or a hyperthyroid cat, even a respiratory infection, and I’m good to go. But for some unknown reason the universe seems to think it is time for me to learn about eye problems. I nursed Blackie, the cat with the lacerated eye, for months until she was stable and could go to the cat sanctuary to live in safety the rest of her days. Now there is this little guy, a 3 month old kitten, and believe it or not, this photo of his eye is a huge improvement over what it looked like a couple days ago.
Bless his little heart, he let the vet stain his eye Friday night and check for injury. No scratches or ulcers. Just an infection, and he is getting drops now, which he takes remarkably well for a feral kitten. Yesterday his eye took a turn for the worse and it was nearly closed, except for the inflamed third eyelid, and it was all crusty and icky-looking. (That’s a technical term: icky-looking.) Those kinds of things scare me. I don’t know what they mean and how serious they are so they leave me feeling helpless.
I am very thankful to have friends who are vet techs who answer my texts on Saturday night, and we figured out that the steroid in the eye drops was maybe a bit much for the guy. Backed the dosage down a little, and he is doing much better. He was the last of his siblings to start eating (and pooping) after surgery and he is now doing both, so I can breathe a sigh of relief. He should be good to go home in a couple of days, I think.
And with his recovery I hope the universe is satisfied with my knowledge about eyes and doesn’t plan any further education, but I suppose that’s not up to me. With the help of good vets and vet tech friends, I’ll muddle on through whatever else comes our way this season. That’s the job of the cat nurse position. As Clara Barton said: “You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”
Will do, Ms. Barton. But I’ll be glad for the end of our season at the end of October too. I do truly enjoy caring for the sick cats, and wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’m ready to hang up my nurse’s cap for just a little bit. Everyone needs a rest now and then.
P.S. Late breaking news…most or all of the colony we are doing next appear to have upper respiratory infections and maybe eye ickies…better make sure my nurse’s cap is clean. Hopefully I can get the current little guy home before the group starts arriving!