Thursday, October 16, 2008


My little cat, Pips, decided on Saturday to start puking her guts out. No fever, hadn't been anywhere as she is a house cat, other cat is fine, so I figure - hairball. Leave her alone. Just keep an eye on her.

Sunday she is still puking but still no fever. Belly doesn't appear tender when I palpate it (and yes, I know how to do that as years ago I was a vet's assistant, plus now I am a humans' nurse), bladder is not distended and bowels not constipated. Still pink, still purrs when I pick her up, just doesn't look all that great. So off to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner with the family and leave her to rest.

Monday, she is still sick. Now she's looking a fair bit dehydrated. Still pink, still no fever, but now she's puking up green - bile - and nothing else. I have syringed water into her on numerous occasions and it all comes up again in a little while.

((big sigh)) Call the vet. It is a holiday. I am going to pay $$$$ bigtime for this. But.... the cat is in distress and looking worse all the time, so I bundle her in a towel and off we go.

Vet checks her over, decides she needs xrays (her gut felt 'bunchy' to the vet so thoughts of a foreign object came up), bloodwork, an IV for rehydration and a vehicle for the meds she would need: something to stop the puking, something for pain, and an antibiotic 'just in case'.

Since I was only six days' post-op, I relinquished the cat into the capable hands of the vet (she a lovely person and a wonderful vet) and went home to rest and wait by the phone.

Got a call that evening (about 2 hours later). Xrays show the bunchy-ness of her small intestine but nothing else shows up except a bit of gas and some poop in her bowel. Blood work is great, especially considering how dehydrated the little thing was. No sign of kidney problems, or anything else, so the plan was to keep the IV going overnight and reevaluate her in the morning. Sometimes just doing that can get the FB to move on through.

Morning comes and I talk to the vet around 10:00. No vomiting overnight, she's much better hydrated now, took another small xray and the bunchy-ness is still there. So.... give her barium, redo the xrays to see if there is something there? Or go straight to surgery and do an exploratory laparotomy. I opt for the surgery right off the hop, cuz if they do the barium first and then have to do surgery, it gets way too messy and there is a good chance of the cat getting peritonitis - which would mean lots of antibiotics, possibly more surgery to clean it out and lots more $$$$$!

Later that day, I get a call from the vet. Surgery went really well, cat is doing fine and guess what she found? A piece of grey and yellow sponge. Oh shit... I know what that is.... it is from this:

I found these cool snap-together foam mats for under my weights in the basement, to protect the carpet. I had noticed that one was getting ratty, but thought the cat was clawing at it as she wrestled and played. Well..... no. Turns out the little beggar has been chewing on it and managed to bite a piece off and swallow it.

Now a cat's small intestine probably isn't even as big around as my little finger. The vet said this thing was wedged into the duodenum, which is the bit just past the stomach. But it was now out and the mats went out in the garbage today. I am NOT taking any chances that she'll decide to chomp on them again.

So on Wednesday, I go and pick the cat up. She is sooooo ready to come home. The vet tells me the girls there are tired of cleaning her kennel, as she trashes it constantly. They had to take out her IV the night before because she was so wound up in the tubing, it wasn't running anyway. They don't know how she didn't strangle herself.

This is the 'souvenir' they gave me to take home:

When I went back to get her, carrying kennel in hand, she was flipping around in the kennel, with the litter pan on it's side, the water dish dumped and the blanket piled in one corner. She was very happy to see me and started purring immediately. So we got her out and I put her in the carrying kennel, where she continued to flip and wiggle and just not hold still. The vet says working with Pips is like trying to handle an octopus - legs everywhere that never quit moving!

Post-op instructions are to keep her quiet, don't let her run up and down the stairs or jump all over the place. So I set up a little area for her in my office, where I spend a good bit of time anyway when I am on the computer. She's got a nice cozy bed, some food and water, a litter box, the radio is on quietly and she can climb up (boxes stacked like steps) to look out the window. What more could a little cat ask for?

I needed to go out and do some errands, so I left her in the room, closed the door and off I went. Two hours later, I come home.

And no cat.

Just this:

I call her and she answers me - from in the freaking heat duct!!!! O M G!!! I can hear her scrabbling away in there, and meowing. I get a small mirror and a flashlight and look down the duct. I can see the toes on one paw - that is it!

So now I start calling to find someone who might have one of those snares on a pole, to get her out. I call the city Animal Services. They say call the Humane Society. Who says call an exterminator. Who says they could send someone by on Saturday. Are you F*CKING NUTS!!! The cat would be dead by then, you idiot!! So they say try a heating and ventilation guy. Who says all they would do is try and lure the cat out. So I call the vet. A different one comes to the phone. He tells me to call a heating and ventilation guy. Did that. So never mind.

So, I have been calling the cat and looking down the duct in between phone calls to make sure she is still there. I try my brother, who doesn't answer either phone. My niece and her hubby aren't home. Ditto for my sister and her hubby. As is my friend who lives nearby who is still off work after knee surgery. Not sure what I thought he could do, but as long as it didn't require kneeling, I am sure he could have done something!

I call the cat again and..... no answer. No sound..... nothing. Now I am frantic! Is she dead? The phone line runs through this duct. Is she hung up in it? Hanging by a leg? Is it around her neck? How the hell would I know! I can't see her!

So I decide I have to do this all myself and haul out the ladder. I hammer a hole in the wall of my livingroom where the ducts run down. The ducts are on the other side of the bulkhead, so I have to cut another hole. There are two ducts. I don't know which one is which so I cut open one. Wrong one - no phone line. Still no sounds from the cat. Cut open the other one. Call her and she answers. Gak! She's alive! The phone cord wiggles as she scrambles about. I stuff newspaper in the hole so she won't fall down the duct. I cut the cord and run upstairs, hoping I can reel her back into the office that way. Pull the cord up - no cat. Damn!

When I was pounding on the wall to break through the drywall, she must have been scared and fell down the vertical drop of the duct. So I dash down to the basement. There is a dropped ceiling in there that was probably put in 25 years ago. It is homemade - not a commercial one. Great sheets of that pressed paperboard crap that someone slapped a horrible pointy fake stucco finish on. I can't take the giant 'tile' out, as the frame work was put up after the 'tile' was put in place. So I got my hatchet and pried the 1x2 boards off the wall. The 'tile' still wouldn't come down so I said to hell with this and broke it to get it out.

Then I was faced with the two ducts. But at least I knew which one to open cuz the phone line exited the duct right in that corner. I took out the screw holding the duct together at the elbow. It took all my strength, which was flagging horribly by this time because I had been running on adrenalin for about 2 hours already, to get the thing apart. I honestly didn't think I would be able to and was on the verge of tears several times. But I couldn't give up because I was the only hope Pips had. So I did get it apart and I could just feel her nose when I stuck my arm in. She was kind of stuck midway. The length of duct had one of those internal flaps so you can cut the airflow to that room if you wanted to. Pips couldn't get past that. So I wrestled with the other end of the duct, disconnected it and stuck my arm in that way. I could feel her back legs and tail. I tried to pull her out but she started screaming - she was stuck on that damn flap!

Well, I told her she's on her own now and will have to find a way out. I made sure I help the flap in the open position and called her name. With much scrabbling and wiggling, this is what emerged from the duct. She was so happy to see me, she yelled a huge meow and started purring loudly.

Which lead to this right after I determined she had suffered no injuries in her escapade. Don't forget, she is one day post-op (and I am now eight). So much for keeping her quiet....

She spent a lot of time sleeping today, especially in the sun that was streaming in the livingroom window midday. She snuggled up to her bud Zoe, who watched over her as she rested.

BB, the old man, could not have cared less. He's probably thinking she's used up more than two of those nine lives already, the silly git....


  1. Wow! Quite the adventure! It sure does seem funny now, but man that was quite stressful.

    You're definitely good in a crisis! You were looking at various ways to solve the problem and find a good resolution, and you didn't let your emotions take over. Great job.

    I guess there's a grain of truth in that curiosity and the cat saying. The cat is really lucky to have you!

  2. You are an Angel because I would have strangled it with my bare hands once I finally got it out!


    Between the repairs and surgery how much did that little bastard cost you that day?

    I know, I know, you love it...
    but what's wrong with Goldfish?

  3. Eros: For some reason, I have always been able to keep my wits about me in a crisis and do what needs to be done.

    And with this cat, yes, curiousity almost DID kill her!

    Donn: Believe, I DID want to strangle her with my bare hands when I got her out! But in all reality, I was just glad she was not hurt.

    The repairs to the cat cost $1200 - the repairs to the house are not done yet. But a friend has some drywall she's going to give me so I will be doing it myself for the cost of the drywall screws and mud.

    Would have been lots more $$ if someone actually had come to help!

    Fish are way too boring... been there, done that. This, however, was even beyond MY level of excitement with a pet!

  4. Who cares what the cost was.....that is one CUTEa$$ cat! But being the big dog lover that I am, I'd stick with dogs from now on. BIG dogs. Dogs that don't fit into the air vents. Could save a buck or two down the line, ya know?

  5. Hello.
    What a story! Sponge Bob's revenge so to say.

  6. Queen: I have the very large dog as well. 100lbs in fact. She does nothing wrong (other than drool) and has never even entertained the idea of squeezing into the heat duct.

    It does not matter who I have as an animal companion - they all get something outrageously expensive wrong with them at some point in their lives and I pay to get it fixed. Been that way since I started working fulltime after high school over 30 years ago (wow... that's a long time...). I must be a magnet for animal casualities or something...

    Mago: Sponge Bob! Hahahaha! I like that! Except I think he's dead or an amputee now.... she got him good by chewing off parts.

  7. Oh no, oh no, no no no....

    Oh no.

  8. PamOz: Unfortunately.... yes. But she is pretty much recovered now and has started ripping around the house again - only one week post-op.

    The ordeal in the duct was actually a blessing - it tuckered her out so badly she kept herself quite for six days!

    This better be it for the rest of her life - she's used up her whole healthcare account!



thoughts floated through the ether...