Where did I go wrong? A veterinarian afraid of a little kitty?

Heavy armament needed to fend off this 24-pound bundle of meanness
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Jul 01, 2004

A large wooden cat carrier perched atop my exam table was boldly emblazoned with the name Sweetie. Hissing and growling noises emanated from somewhere deep within the recesses of this obviously homemade box.

Mrs. Hollonoggin was quick to explain. "Sweetie gets a little excited at the vet's office. That's why we're here. Our last vet was afraid of Sweetie. Can you believe that, a vet afraid of a little kitty?"

Based on the sounds coming from the carrier, I found it quite believable.

I analyzed the situation before me. It was obvious that getting the cat out to be examined would be quite a challenge. The door was narrow. There was no way to take the carrier apart without dynamite, and the critter was wedged behind multiple cat toys, a sweater, several handfuls of treats and a litter pan. I called for assistance and one of my technicians appeared with heavy gloves and a towel.

Sweetie's owner was horrified. "Oh those won't be necessary doctor. I can get him out; he'll behave for me."

I knew it was a lie. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hollonoggin opened the door, thrust her hand deep into the carrier and within seconds was bleeding on my nice clean, clinic floor. As she was escorted to another room to wash the wounds, she was quick to share her theory that Sweetie must behave that way because he was abused by someone when he was young.

In her absence, we got all the junk out of the carrier and piled it on the floor. It looked like Sweetie was about to hold a garage sale. Just when we got the 24-pound bundle of meanness restrained on the table, Mrs. Hollonoggin returned with another theory. "You wouldn't believe it doctor. He is not the same cat at home. He is the nicest cat I've ever owned. My husband and I think he misbehaves at the vet's office because something must have gone wrong when he was neutered." (We've all heard that one before.)

Fortunately, the reason for the visit became obvious as soon as I got a good look at the cat. There was a cyst on the side of his neck that was so big that it looked like he had two heads. It was hard to assess the extent of the lesion because Sweetie was thrashing, kicking, biting and generally going berserk. He was clearly criminally insane. Had he been born a human, I have no doubt that he would have been a serial killer.

Mrs. Hollonoggin helped by yelling. "Calm down! Calm down, Sweetie! Mommy won't let them hurt you."

Surprisingly, that didn't help the situation much. Luckily she had another suggestion. "Try handling him without gloves. I think they are scaring him."

When I ignored that brilliant proposal, she had another. "He likes to have his ears rubbed. Try rubbing his ears and he will probably hold still to be examined."

I preferred to go with my method, and had four people clamp him down until he was helpless. Then I explained that Sweetie would need preoperative blood tests, anesthesia, surgery and a biopsy. I think she was a little taken aback by the price she was quoted. She headed for home vowing to think about my recommendations.

Not an hour later, she was on the phone. "Doctor, when my husband saw the estimate for Sweetie's surgery, he just about had a conniption. He was furious. Now, he wants to know why we need those preoperative blood tests. Couldn't you do the surgery under a local? Then testing and general anesthesia wouldn't be necessary. Wouldn't that cut the costs?"

I was forced to explain that there was no chance of going that route.

"I just don't know what to do then doctor," she said. "Personally I don't mind the expense, but my husband is fit to be tied. Can't you come up with some other suggestion?"

Actually I could. "You say your husband is throwing a tantrum over this estimate," I said. "Try rubbing his ears."