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  • Walter Salvadore Pereira

ORDEAL OF A STRAY CAT: A FEW THINGS ABOUT STERILIZING I WISH I KNEW BEFOREHAND

Updated: Mar 5

I am sure that many of us have felt an overwhelming pity having seen 4 or 5 kittens or as many as 6 or 7 pups hanging on to the mother animal even as she desperately scampers for food offered by passers-by. In that moment, invariably, we experience a strong urge to have that pathetic animal sterilized. Well, if the urge grows to beyond containable proportions and you are on the verge of jumping headlong into that good deed, here are a few facts worth knowing to wisen you up about the nitty-gritty of the process, which may well save you considerable amount of money and time.


We have this 14-month majestic animal named Kitty and other aliases like Alex, Cutie, etc. living within the confines of the compound of the tower housing society located on Ghodbunder Road, Thane.

Kitty is the darling of the kids not only of the building but a few from the neighbourhood as well, who feed it regularly a few times a day. As oppose to that, some of the residents have been up in arms against stray cats because of several instances of ripping of the milk pouches and garbage bags kept outside their doors in the early morning hours. Some of them even have been strongly advocating that the cat be relocated at some place away from the society premises. As nature ordains, the cat delivered kittens, three of them, and that gave rise to an undisguised animosity in those complaining. That however, was more than adequately countered by the love and affection the felines received from the kids. The kids even began enquiring around for any prospective foster homes for those kittens and thanks to their efforts, soon all the three kittens had found foster homes.


A couple of months later, the cat delivered a fresh batch of kittens, this time around, four. Yet again, there was flare-up of hostility from those against the existence of the cat on the Society premises.


In this background, a few good-doers mooted the idea of sterilizing the cat. Mrs. P, a housewife with a golden heart, took the initiative for it. She has a grown-up daughter due to appear for her CBSE IX Board examinations at end of the current month and yet, generously consented to take on the responsibility. She looked for assistance in transporting the cat and yours truly, being familiar with the cat since its kitten days, willingly offered his services. Having enquired around, the estimated cost of the sterilization was quoted between three to six thousand rupees, with the cat needing an additional 2-3 days’ care before being fit to be released back at its natural habitat. There were the three kittens needing foster care too during the period their mother was under medical care. In the intervening period, one of the kittens went missing and it transpired that one of the maids had taken it.


Mrs. P knew a social worker of the locality, who was engaged in animal welfare. The latter recommended a veterinary surgeon, Dr. Chaudhari. Mrs. P having contacted him over the ‘phone, he offered to do the job for a price of three thousand rupees, which included taking care the cat for 2-3 days during the post-surgical period.


That left the foster care for the kittens during that period. The social worker mentioned that she ran a foster care shelter at a leased apartment round a kilometre and half away and offered to care for the kittens (of course, for a consideration, rupees four hundred per day to be precise, which upon driving the point that the kittens in question were stray and not pets, she agreed to reduce by half, with the proviso that we provide the food).


The ground work having been done, Mrs. P reverted to Dr. C. He, in turn, asked her to bring the cat the next day, a Friday. The next morning, we located the cat quite easily, but when it came to finding the kittens, we almost called it off. Two of the Society’s watchmen joined us as we peering into every nook and crevice within the large Society premises without finding any sign of the little ones. More than hour and half had been lost and we were in a bind because without the kittens in our custody, we couldn’t possibly proceed to the vet’s place with the cat. To make matters worse, Dr. C was calling every and now moaning that he was getting late for another surgery. Finally, we had a lucky break. During our incessant peering, one of us caught a fleeting glimpse of one of the kittens beneath the cover of the storm-water drain. After a lot of cajoling, with cat food sprinkling around, one of them hesitantly ventured out, followed by the other two. Each one of us grabbed a kitten, but alas, a slight laxity and the third one had slipped from the grasp and even as the man made a frantic effort, it sprinted away and disappeared among the cars parked around. Another half hour had ticked by, another call from the vet and still no trace of the kitten. It was a sight to behold as several of us on all fours peering beneath the cars. Finally, luck favoured us. A faint meow from the engine region of one of the vehicles, indicated the whereabouts of the little one. Getting the little devil out was an exhausting task. The same previous trick with cajoling with food finally worked. The kitten took its own time to emerge and once it was captured, we proceeded to the foster care to hand over the three kittens, stopping by a pet clinic to give them vaccines. Thence, we proceed the place of Dr. C. After a difficult start, I managed to soothe the cat and it went to sleep on my lap.


The address turned out to be a residential society some 3-4 km away. Dr. C met us and introduced himself. A man of few words, and also rather distant. He had with him a plastic basket, to which I transferred the cat. He secured the latch and led us to an apartment on one of the higher floors. It was his residence and he explained that he was operating from his home as his clinic was under renovation. When I enquired where he planned to house the cat, he coyly mentioned that he had a separate room for keeping it. He hastened to his kitchen and closed a window that was open, explaining that a cat had escaped via that route.


The vibes that we were getting so far were rather unsettling. I was racking my brain for the slightest of the excuses to back down from the commitment. Suddenly, I remembered that the cat had been gaining weigh noticeably over the past 3-4 days. I mentioned it to Dr. C and asked him whether it indicated the cat was pregnant. If he answered in the affirmative, I would have certainly refused to have the cat sterilized. He nonchalantly opened the lid of the basket partially, enough to insert his hand. In a matter of a minute of so, he closed the lid, secured the latch and turned to face us. No, the cat wasn’t pregnant, was his firm verdict, a tad pat for my liking I must say. It was as though he had read my mind and blocked the retreat. I made a mental note to cross-check with someone knowledgeable about his feat.


Even as he was talking, he took a nylon string and tightly wrapped it around the basket. I had a terrible premonition that the poor cat would end up caged for the entire duration of its stay in that house.


He assured that he would do the job the next day and would inform us when it was done. He asked for the payment in advance and Mrs. P gave him the cash. With that we left, bidding a sad goodbye to the poor frightened cat.


Late in the evening the next day, Mrs. P received a video clipping of the cat, sprawled on old newspapers on Dr. C’s kitchen platform, presumably, as proof of the job done. On Sunday morning, he sent another email to Mrs. P that she could come and fetch the cat. Also sent was a bill for three thousand and six hundred rupees. Accordingly, we were at his apartment around 11 o’clock. While Mrs. P was paying him the additional six hundred rupees, I asked him what the additional charge was for? His reply was that it was for taking care of the cat for three days at two hundred rupees a day. I pointed out that we had brought the cat around one thirty in the afternoon on Friday and it was now Sunday morning! That arithmetic was lost on him and he looked at me quizzically; well Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is it really difficult to calculate?


Next, there was this important question that we posed: how long before the cat can be released? His answer shook profoundly. The cat may need up to 21 days to recuperate and so, we were to bring it after that period for inspection and removing the stitches. In other words, the cat couldn’t be released until it had healed. Now that his bill had been paid, it was now our responsibility and there was nothing more he could do.


All the while, the poor animal was growling non-stop, obviously due to pain. On Mrs. P’s request, Dr. C wrote a prescription. Mrs. P had purchased a new basket and after transferring the cat to it, we headed to the foster care place.

The owner of the foster care centre had a large metal cage, roughly 3.1/2 x 2 x 2.1/2 feet, and we transferred the cat to it in order to keep the kittens away during the recuperating period. The charges for the cat would be additional rupees two hundred a day.


For the remainder of that Sunday, the agonized cat was fiercely growling and had no appetite for food. Worried, later in the evening, we took it to a local vet, Dr. S. Our troubles, it seemed, had just begun. Dr. S took one look at the swollen belly of the cat and we were shattered by her reaction or rather, a torrent of reactions:


“I cannot believe it!”


“The incision is invariably made perpendicularly. He has made an angular incision!”


“My God, he has stitched the bandage over the incision as well! It greatly enhances the risk of infection of the wound! We will have to monitor and if deemed necessary, may have to open the outer stitches in order to remove the bandage.”


“Worse still, he hasn’t shaved the hairs in the area of the incision! Even a single strand of hair left at the location of the incision can lead to infection!”


“The outer stitches are of nylon, but I have no idea what sort of stitches he has done on the inner location. Normally, we use cat-gut both for the inner as well as the outer stitches, which are self-dissolving and thus, there is no necessity of removing them.”


She was engrossed in minute examination. More bad news!


“Out of the six stitches, only three are intact. Of the remaining, two are just about holding, while the one at the bottom has snapped, with formation of puss at that location.”


Mrs. P showed her the prescription given by Dr. C. On a perusal, Dr. S exclaimed:


“Oh my God! All of these medicines relate to the bygone years. No one prescripts them any longer. Leave it to me, I’ll take care of it.”


And at moment, I remembered about the cat’s pregnancy and asked about her opinion. After a prolong examination, she commented that offhand she would say that the cat was in its second or third week of pregnancy. However, she would have to carry out some tests to be precise. So much for Dr. C’s prognosis!


It seemed that everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, but no, there was something else.


“We normal use a special ‘cat-gut’ material for the stitches. It is a biological material, derived from a cat’s gut, as the name implies. It is self-dissolving, thus saves the job of undoing the stitches later. He has used nylon thread for the outer stitches, but I don’t know what he has used for the internal stitches!”


We couldn’t leave it hanging and so, Mrs. P pleaded with Dr. S to talk to Dr. C. Mrs. P dialled him and after a brief explanation, passed the cell phone to Dr. S. The conversation was brief, mostly one-sided by Dr. S.


Dr. S obviously was embarrassed. She said that the response from the other side was rather non-committal. Dr. C hedged around and wouldn’t say clearly whether or not he had used ‘cat-gut’ for the inner stitches. Etiquette forbade further probing, he being senior in the hierarchy. That meant that use of nylon thread for the inner stitches as well couldn’t be ruled out. We asked about its ramifications.


Dr. S explained that the body mechanism gradually deposited fat and coated the nylon thread and eventually, after a period of two years or so, it no longer posed a hazard. So, there was nothing that could be done except allowing nature to take its course.


Three jabs and two different types of sprays over the incision, left Kitty growling ferociously and struggling fiercely. We were to bring her back the next evening for further examination.


Back at the foster care shelter, Mrs. P explained the bitter facts to the social worker. The latter had built a reputation as a person who cared for stray dogs and cats and flared up at the mention of the slightest of injustices to an animal. Oddly though, on that occasion, the fire was missing. Instead, there was the semblance of a wry smile on her face as if to convey “Well, such things do occur sometimes, you know.” In the tussle between one’s conscience and self-interest, the former generally capitulates.


The woes of the poor cat were heart-rending. It refused to eat, and declined to drink water even. It was the same the next morning and afternoon. Despite that, it passed an abnormal amount of urine. Its belly was swollen and it was growling obviously on account of the unbearable pain. Around seven p.m. we were back at Dr. S’s clinic with the cat. At the mention of the huge volume of urine, Dr. S explained that before the surgery, the surgeon normally checked the bladder for the urine content and emptied it, if deemed necessary. Obviously, Dr. C had overlooked to do it! Yet another addition to the lengthy list of his grave shortcomings. So, the poor animal had to undergo unnecessary additional suffering because of someone’s else carelessness!


Three jabs and the disinfectant and analgesic sprays continued from Monday through Friday. Dr. S had also begun feeding it multi-vitamin syrup through syringe as well. It was heartening to see Kitty slowly regaining its appetite. Its growling had been steadily diminishing. The spot of bother where the puss had formed, also showed improvement. At that juncture, Dr. S suggested removing the outer stitches. She offered to undertake the job herself, but we preferred a surgeon to do it. There were a couple of professionals (a husband and wife team) attending her clinic on demand and so, she arranged for a visit by them. That visit was delayed for one reason or other and finally, materialized on Wednesday (13th day). After a thorough inspection, the outer proportions of the external stitches were cut off. The visiting doctors declared Kitty to be fit to be released two days later, i.e. on Friday, (exactly two weeks after the first visit to Dr. C). In the meanwhile, the total cost had escalated from the initial estimate of three thousand rupees to around twelve thousand, including the daily charges for the foster care, food thrice a day for the cat and kittens, the daily charges of Dr. S and those of the visiting specialists, and of course, the initial payment made to Dr. C (where it all began). That however, did not include the time and money spent on travelling to and from the foster care shelter thrice daily, throughout those two weeks.


For a professional, the quality of his work is of paramount importance. A celebrity is on record saying that he would prefer death rather than compromising on the quality of his work. And that brings us to the question concerning the highly objectionable practices indulged in by Dr. C. If he has substituted the nylon thread for cat-gut to save money, that is understandable, although by no means condonable, but how does one explain the shoddy work in stitching the bandage over the incision and that too an unshaven one at that!! There is no money to be saved in that and certainly, even a quack would shy away from it. So, why would a man jeopardize his reputation of over twenty years by such shoddy work. Was there is a psychological angle to it? Maybe misothery, which is hatred towards animal. Unless, of course, the point of the sordid exercise was to prolong the treatment of the cat and thereby, fleece the unwary pet lover! The latter seems the logical answer.


For the same reason, it does not seem to be a one-off instance and we don’t for long this racket has been going on. One shudders to think that this ‘butcher’ may have gotten away with similar devilish deeds on other stray animals. If anyone among the readers has had a similar distressing experience either with this particular vet, or somebody else even, here is the opportunity to come forward with your story, in order to nail the culprit. If the faint and painful cry of Kitty has reached your heart, please respond in numbers. I also appeal to the members of the medical fraternity as well as those engaged in the sphere of animal welfare, to step in and institute an immediate investigation into the highly questionable conduct of Dr. C, with a view of debarring him from practicing and order legal proceedings against him.


The good part of the story is that Kitty is now back at its natural habitat. It is showing signs of recovery and hogs the attention and affection of the kids of the complex as usual. All the three kittens have found foster homes, with the eldest one – now named Hazel – turning to be the luckiest one among them, having won over the heart of Mrs. P and of course, her family, and is now one happy kitten if there was one ever.

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