Good evening, students. Tonight's lecture includes a visual aid that may be upsetting to the tender-hearted or weak-of-stomach, but the message is an important one, so do try to stick it out.
Last Saturday afternoon, our newest kitty, Sweetie, came home from his roaming with an injured paw. The injury seemed minor - we might not have even noticed it if he hadn't been limping. We agreed that we would call the vet if Sweetie was still limping on Monday. Then Sweetie disappeared until Monday evening, when Mr. P. found him in the garage, still limping and with a huge hole torn out of his face, right under his left eye. It was awful, but it wasn't dripping blood or pus. The vet's office was closed then, so I promised to call the vet first thing in the morning and take Sweetie to be checked out as soon as they could work us in. We theorized that Sweetie had been the loser in a cat fight because that dastardly orange feral cat keeps coming back to terrorize our cats, and Mr. P. is too soft-hearted to shoot it. Mr. P. told me, "Now, don't spend a lot of money on this cat. We can't afford all the animals we already have as it is, and I'm not spending hundreds of dollars to fix him up only to have him get in another cat fight."
I should have called the vet's emergency number that night, because the next morning Sweetie's face was truly horrific - red, swollen, pus forming in the wound, which seemed even larger than the night before - and he was still limping and his little body felt awfully hot when I picked him up. Bless his heart, he purred as I held him and let me put him in the cat carrier without a word of protest. As I drove into town, I had to fight back tears.
The vet's office was fantastic (as well they might be; after all the money we've spent there, Mr. P. says they should rename the animal hospital after us). The vet tech took Sweetie's temperature - it was 104.7 (cats' temps should be between 100-102). The vet said that Sweetie's facial injury probably started as a puncture wound received in the same fight as the leg injury, and over the weekend it got infected, formed an abscess which burst, and the bacteria began eating an even bigger hole in Sweetie's face. He said that the bacteria in cats' mouths are especially nasty and can cause tissue necrosis, just like snake venom. "We see this all the time, though usually on the hindquarters, not the face," he said. "I know it looks bad, but he'll be fine after we clean the wounds, get the dead tissue out of there, and start him on an antibiotic. We'll have to sedate him to do all that, so how about we go ahead and neuter him at the same time?" Since we'd been planning to neuter him next week anyway, I agreed.
"Once he's neutered, will he stop roaming around the neighborhood getting into fights?" I asked.
"Yes, he'll stay on your property," the vet said, "but if another cat comes on the property and attacks him, he's going to defend himself."
I thought, that's fair enough. So I left Sweetie there and went home. A few hours later, the vet's office called to tell me Sweetie's surgery went fine. Whew! After work today, I went to pick him up (and paid $134 for the whole thing - not small change, but it could've been a lot worse). His face looked much better, his leg was well bandaged, and this time he gave me an argument about getting into the cat carrier (but I'm still bigger and stronger than he is). When I got home, I gave him a dose of antibiotic liquid and a bowl of kibble. The other 2 cats sniffed at him and went off to play together (they won't let him join their clique). Sweetie ate voraciously, had a drink of water, and settled down to rest on an old sleeping bag.
Sweetie's story has a happy ending. He may never be "normal" looking again, because we put off calling the vet, but he's going to be OK and he still knows how to purr. The photo included in this post was taken today, and as gruesome as it is, the injury looked a lot worse yesterday.
The moral of this story: when in doubt, call the vet. Right away!