Sometimes my roommate and I suffer more than a few disagreements. I claim that her hair is all over the place. She thinks I work too much. I worry that she is getting sick. She thinks I hog all the best food. I think she has ruined our carpet. She wants to know why I have yet to empty the litterbox.
Cats, man. They are all kinds of trouble.
My boss asked me back in 2000 if I wanted a cat. He was in college, his roommate had acquired two cats (against their lease, naturally), and they were trying to get rid of them. I had a brother whose girlfriend was allergic, I worked a lot, and I had college. But I really like cats. Plus, those guys were corrupting her. Letting her lick up beer remnants I can understand, but naming her “Kinky Winky”? No. That is just cruel. (Oh, Teletubbies.)
(I find it completely and thoroughly horrifying that there is a channel on YouTube where you can watch entire episodes of this. Please no. That minute and a half was tragic enough. Also, the yellow guy is playing to the camera like a drama-fanatic and the green guy is totally copying yellow’s dance moves, but half a step later.)
I was assured she had been “seen to medically”, picked her up, and carried her home. And if Richard Gere can name his cat Italics in Runaway Bride, then a comic book nerd like me can certainly name his cat Mylar. Mylar, it is not just for balloons.
I introduced her to the apartment, told my brother his girlfriend would need to pop some allergy pills, and set up the litterbox. Within a few weeks, I found out that I had been misinformed. Mylar was still very much a “she”. A very frisky, attention-seeking, hormonal “she”. I like attention as much as the next guy, but Mylar was a bit too aggressive, thanks. Off to the vet she went.
Fast forward sixteen years. Mylar has always been healthy. She was a healthy eater who would scarf down any food I left around, even when I was trying to eat it. (That plate’s big enough for too. I’ll just nibble on this side while you use your fork on that side. Don’t mind me. Or my whiskers… chomp chomp.) She was an indoor cat, a simple cat; a cat that did not need to have a vet poke or prod her because there was nothing wrong with her.
Then came June. On Thursday I came home to a little puddle in front of the litter box. I thought it was strange, but not incredible, that she would miss the box by a matter of inches. She might place her poop on the carpet if a foul mood struck her, but urine? That was a first time offense. And oddly enough, she still had some cat food left. Mylar loves food. She scarves down food so quickly that she sometimes pukes it up. For her to go ten hours without finishing a bowl was cause for concern.
I came home the next day to find the same two quirks; urine on the floor, cat food untouched. Very un-Mylar-like activities. Got a little worried. Texted the best friend.
A piece of advice, if I may. If you are going to have a best friend, she really should work in the medical field. Say, as a pharmacist. And she really should have a husband who works as a vet.
The reply came back, “You should get her checked ASAP”.
There is no point in having a best friend if you do not listen to her, so I called up some vets near me. They told me that they were out of appointments, but recommended that I have her checked out immediately. So they sent me to an emergency, 24-hour vet.
Two thoughts ran around, vying for first place on the track that is my brain. Showing strong willpower, often in the lead, was the notion, “Boy, I sure am glad they have 24-hour vets. Mylar should be fine.” However, nipping at its heels and a very worthy opponent was the thought, “24-hour? Emergency? Uh, that sounds expensive.” Those dark horse contenders, I tell ya.
As soon as I walked in the clinic, I knew both thoughts were probably correct; certainly the second one. There was an actual lobby. The light fixture overhead, a metal-looking layered creation that attempted some sort of industrial-chic, gave the impression that it was fancy and knew it.
The reception desk was a wrap-around affair. The bottom half was wood, but the top half was glass. You know the type. The, “yes, it is made of glass. It does not actually need to be glass but we want to give a feeling of transparency because we are elite and stylish and here to wow you. Why would we hide our skills and artistry behind stained plywood?”
On subsequent visits, something else stood out to me. They had leather couches, but absolutely no evidence of claw marks or scratches. Someone was paying to upkeep those swanky digs. But they threw free Wi-Fi at you, hoping that you would not notice. Honestly, I felt like I was in an episode of Fringe, walking into Massive Dynamic.
(You think you’re sooo shiny.)
They were nice people. They were quick people. They were efficient people. But my skepticism was not entirely abated. After all, they did put us in a room with a four-foot picture of a dog. And the assistant made a show of putting down a yoga mat. Countertop, yoga mat, then a towel; what the sam hill? Mylar and I do not live a pampered life. A yoga mat? My fear of cost was instantly reaffirmed. No one offers a yoga mat to a cat for free.
They took her to get tested and I was introduced to the prison-like side of the establishment. Visitors were only to stay in the room. There was a keypad on the door and only staff had access. Other inmates resided past those doors and it was best not to rile them up. They might see me as a distraction for an altercation or hope for being released. It was best to let the prisoners embrace their routine. A guard would supervise visits between the inmate and me. All staff could be identified by their identical attire. This was a high-technology installation. Any attempt to remove the inmates without authorization would result in hefty fines.
But ya know what? I wanted my cat to eat and drink and pee again. So I let it be.
She was in the “hospital” for four days. They encouraged visiting. I did. Regardless, it was an interesting experience “returning to my routine afterwards. Every day I would come home and there would not be a ball of fur running to meet me at the door and demanding to be fed. There was no one looking at me, half-asleep at four a.m., wondering when I was going to get up. Our Sunday nap/ couch-fest was not the same. It was a rather empty apartment.
With each visit, Mylar seemed to reclaim a little more of her personality, but a little less dignity. By the time I got her out of there, all four of her limbs had a column of fur shaved up. She looked like a cat from the waist up, and a poodle from the leg down. Poor little furball.
They did not send me home with a vial of pills. Oh no, they sent me home with a whole bag. After several, “Let’s try keeping her one more day just to see…”, she was mine again. And with her came more prescription drugs than I have had in my life. A pill to take twice a day, a quarter of a pill to take at night, prescription cat food, a liquid with a syringe. It was all a bit much. They mentioned that I might want to do subcutaneous fluids. I had no idea what that meant. I promised to check up with a regular, (i.e., cheaper and closer) vet and reasoned that I would handle subcu-whatever at a later date.
All I had to do was get her home, hope she was okay, and figure out how I was going to pay for a bill that cost about what I make in two months.
She still is not quite herself. It took her the better part of a week to start meowing again. I still think her attitude and alertness is a bit subdued. But come on, she is sixteen. Let her be elderly.
My new-local-vet took more blood, (which I am quite sure Mylar loved) and sent me home with an IV. The assistant was quick to tell me that it was painless and there were plenty of YouTube videos for instruction. I had visions of The Matrix going through my head. They were more or less incorrect.
(Kung-Fu not included. But no one is trying to fight my cat in a train station, so it balances out.)
Happily, it wis a simple procedure. Well, “simple” in that I had to distract my cat, prep the needle, warm the bag, insert the needle, start the fluid, and make sure Mylar did not unplug everything.
Sigh. “Simple” for the medical world. “Simple” like giving a two-year old a bath. “Simple” like trying to teach high school kids in Home-Ec how to make dinner.
I had to explain the whole situation to myself and then later to my parents. Yes, several thousand dollars is a rather large chunk to take out of my savings. (I am decidedly middle-class. I do not live paycheck to paycheck, but my bus pass is well-loved and eating out is a luxury.) Pair that with receiving my own medical bill from an appointment from six months ago. Oh, and let us have the rent go up an extra fifty dollars starting this month. Hey, guess when the price of internet will leap up fifty dollars? Yeah, that would be this month.
Look, I know there are other things one could have done with the money. I know I could have given it to charity or fed homeless people or bought a new car. But guess what? My cat makes me a better person. She calms me down. She gives me a responsibility (and TV buddy) to come home to. I can be nice to people in the real world because I have a stress-relief at home. My lifestyle lacks drugs, drinking, or smoking. My “quick fix” is my cat.
I am not sadist. If I thought she was in pain, of course I would have let her go. But for as long as she wants, she stays with me. And the cost of having her fixed is nothing compared to the pile of bills sixteen years of therapy would have set me back.
So yes, I will go buy tablets and crush them into little pills and shove them down her mouth as she tries to bite me. And yes, I would hang an IV in my bathroom and try to keep from poking myself with needles. I will not speak for other people and their pets, but mine is worth it.
What other domicile-occupier do you know that goes out of their way not to step on your things? Every time I put this test before her, she passes.
My kinda roommate.