I am happy to be a country vet. Not too many people in the world have experiences like the one I had this past weekend, so I am happy to share mine with you.
My veterinary hospital, as you may know from my previous articles (like this one), is right behind my house. Over the weekend, we hosted a very large engagement party for my son and future daughter-in-law. Friends. Relatives. New friends. New relatives. My entire life before my eyes. Verklempt moments. Huge success.
Sunday AM. Morning after the party. We’re having everyone back for breakfast. Throwing them some bagels, a little French toast, you get it.
Young couple drives up unexpectedly. They haven’t called. Not clients. My husband goes out to the driveway. No head’s up on an emergency coming in. (Most people call ahead.)
My husband says, “Deb, you need to help them.”
It’s a four-week-old kitten. The young woman, distraught in my driveway, says, “There was a dog at the house and then, I don’t know, but the Mom cat turned on her kitten and I think almost killed it.”
Indeed, the queen had attacked the kitten viciously. The rest of the litter was fine. We’re not sure what happened. I’m so happy these young owners were right there to intervene.
The kitty appears comatose. On her side. There appears to be severe head trauma, with the Mom cat puncturing the kitty’s cervical area. I find another wound to her throat. Blood from her nose.
I take the kitty into the hospital. Treat the shock, the hypothermia, the head and neck trauma. Try to do all this without doing more stress to the little creature.
We get her warm. We get her rehydrated. We give her medications to try and take down the brain swelling. After she is stabilized in the hospital, I bring her back to the house and use my kitchen as her ICU. My guests understand. She is swaddled in baby reception blankets in a very large bowl, with additional warmth when needed.
Not One But Three Doctors
My best friend is here, in the kitchen, godmother to the son who just got engaged. She’s what we call a human doctor (physician!). She is very, very smart. She married another physician. He is also very, very smart. We all debate about what will be the best for the kitten, the treatment needed to deal with the head trauma, etc.
I feel pretty lucky to have some major brains weighing in on the kitten brain situation, to make a very bad pun. We all agree: The medication I have already given, the supportive and nursing care, keeping head elevated, etc., is the mainstay for treatment right now.
The kitten’s progress through the day is very slow but progressive. Four hours after her life-threatening incident, she almost holds her head up straight for the first time. I name her Summer. If she makes it, this will indeed be a summer to remember.
“I’ll Be Okay”
Meanwhile, the guests have left, presents packed, all out-of-towners at their airports. Goodbye guests. Summer sleeps, peacefully, for many hours. She is responsive when I put drops of water on her tongue. Her cranial nerve signs are all improving.
By 3 AM, Summer and I have gotten a few hours of sleep. Guests are long gone. House quiet with a breeze on the last days of July in New England that beckons fall. She takes some drip-drops of food and water in her little basket in my bed. And sleeps. Her neck is getting stronger.
Next morning. Now 6 AM. Twenty-eight hours after Summer’s mom did the bad thing. She meows. Not a big one, but a healthy one. A meow that says she’s probably going to make it. After my long years in practice, I can tell a little something from the quality of a meow. I think the kitty was saying, “I know my Mom got a bit confused and tried to bite my head off (literally), but I’ll be okay.”
I let one of my own very gentle cats nudge her, lick her calmly. Summer responds. With that little stimulation, she pees and poops. This is good. Very good.
If my instincts are correct, and all the vital signs stay stable, this kitty should be normal.
Small World for a Country Vet
The owners are coming by later in the morning, to learn how to syringe-feed — and if all is well, they will take Summer home.
The young woman brought my staff some wonderful baked goods from the best bakery/deli in our town, the Black Sheep, where she works.
After they had visited the kitten, my husband said, “Remember when I picked up all the food for our party at the Black Sheep yesterday? Summer’s owner waited on me.” What a small world.
It’s nice to be a country vet. Summer’s going home.