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Cat takes a trip to the dentist |

Pet Life

Cat takes a trip to the dentist

EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT - Jessica Zafra - The Philippine Star

My cat Saffy is 12 years old and eats her weight in kibble every week so when she seemed a little lighter I took notice. I thought she’d lost weight from her habit of patrolling our house every night, walking the same route over and over for hours. If I block her path she just climbs or walks around the obstacle and continues her circuit. This must be her exercise program.

I thought she could use some vitamins so I tried to give her syrup for children. Unfortunately my time-tested method — hold cat by scruff of neck, put medicine dropper in cat’s mouth, squeeze — does not work on Saffy, who twists and wriggles out of my grasp. 

Then, last week, I saw something sticking out of her mouth, and her breath smelled bad. Of course, cats have fishy breath, but this was different. The piece that I thought was sticking out was actually a bit of her lower gum, which was strangely exposed. (Imagine a micro-version of the scary half of Two-Face in Batman.)

Finally, I noticed that while she ate with her usual appetite, she chewed slowly, as if she had a pain in her mouth. I made an appointment with our veterinarian, a.k.a. The Most Hated Creature in our household. She’s an excellent vet, very patient and kind to the critters, but the cats associate her with needles, spaying and neutering. My youngest cat Mat hasn’t forgiven her for cutting off his balls, which are preserved in a little vial behind the Gollum figurine on the shelf (I know this is weird).

It turned out our timing was great. The night before her veterinary appointment, Saffy slept on my pillow curled up in the fetal position. She doesn’t do that. In the morning she was unusually subdued and allowed me to put her in the carrier without resisting. She let out a few token meows of protest, but not her usual threats to rip everyone’s eyes out of their sockets.

 The biggest surprise was that she allowed the vet to look in her mouth. This meant Saffy was really in pain. The diagnosis was swift: Saffy had a rotten tooth. Did you know that cats can get tooth decay? I didn’t. My cats eat hard kibble, which is supposed to be better for their teeth. Then again, if you don’t brush your teeth for 12 years, what can you expect?

Option A was to wait for the tooth to fall out by itself; Option B was to extract it. I didn’t want the cat’s toothache to continue indefinitely — bad enough that she may have been in pain for weeks without my noticing. So the dental procedure was scheduled.

Tooth extraction requires anaesthesia, and the vet wanted to be sure that Saffy’s systems could handle the sedative. So the cat had to have a blood test, which requires fasting for several hours. The vet knew from experience that she would need three people to restrain this cat so she could draw a blood sample. We agreed that I should leave Saffy at the clinic. The dental surgery would be performed the next day.

As I left the clinic, Saffy shot me a look that was part “How can you abandon me, you wicked mother?” and part “I’ll get you for this.” According to the vet, Saffy snubbed everyone at the clinic — literally turned her back on them. She drank water but ate almost nothing, as if she expected to be drugged.

Her blood work was normal, the operation went on as scheduled. The vet extracted not one but four rotten teeth. Then she gave Saffy’s teeth a thorough cleaning, and as long as the cat was sedated, trimmed her nails.

Post-surgery, the vet prescribed antibiotics and soft food. Saffy disdained the soft food and insisted on hard kibble. I gave her kibble softened in milk, but she still went for the hard stuff. 

As for the antibiotics, we’re lucky if she swallows half the dose. Giving her the meds requires a five-minute wrestling match which I win, just barely, thanks to the size difference. However, the cat proceeds to spit out the meds all over the house. Some of the strawberry-flavored antibiotic suspension gets on her fur — she hates it so much she won’t even lick it off. She grooms around it. As it dries and hardens, Saffy looks more and more like the bassist of an unrepentant punk band.

In short, my cat is back to normal, and if you didn’t know there were four teeth in a little vial behind the Gollum figurine, you wouldn’t guess she’d had the surgery. It’s her human who’s exhausted from giving her the meds then cleaning up the sticky gunk on the floor. There are claw marks on my arms so I look like I’ve been trying to kill myself. The cats are all fine, it’s their human who’s having a nervous breakdown. Life goes on as usual.

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