The Great Escape

D. E. Larsen, DVM

“Doctor Larsen, why is it so expensive to neuter a tomcat?” Vivian asked.

“So expensive?” I said. “I thought my fee was one of the most reasonable around.”

“Oh, I’m not questioning your fee. You are one of the most reasonable. But it just seems like a lot of money for a procedure that my father used to do out in the barn with his pocket knife.”

“Things have come a long way from when cats were neutered with a pocket knife,” I said. “I had an uncle who would neuter all the barn cats for the family. I was raised with a large extended family, and there were six family farms in a small area. Uncle Robert neutered all the barn cats.”

“So, if he could do it with a pocket knife, why does it cost thirty dollars for you to do it now?” Vivian asked again.

“After I got out of vet school, I was curious about just how he managed to do all those cats,” I said. “When I asked him, he said that his knife was always sharp. He would just pick up a cat, and with one stroke, cut off everything. The scrotum and testicles all at once, then toss the cat to let him runoff.”

“Oh, that sounds sort of gruesome,” Vivian said. “Those poor cats.”

“Yes, that is why I do a complete exam on the cat before surgery. And why I use anesthesia and pain medication, and I require cats have distemper and rabies vaccinations before surgery,” I said.

“That makes me feel a little better,” Vivian said. “I guess one gets what one pays for in most cases. Is your procedure safe?”

“Uncle Robert said that he never lost one of those cats,” I said. “At least not that he knew about. Of course, most of the dairy barns would have a dozen or more cats in those days. A young tomcat would not be missed in most cases. Here, we recover the cat from anesthesia and make sure everything is okay before sending him home. We have very few complications. But no procedure is without a possible problem. People make mistakes, cats have undetected problems, there is always a slim chance that there will be an issue with the surgery.”

“I am just so worried about Rocky,” Vivian said. “I just don’t know what I would do if I lost him.”

“One thing to think about is that tomcats that are left intact have a rough life,” I said. “And most of them don’t live very long. By their second year, they are out looking for the ladies, often at all hours. Cats like your Rocky, who have been pampered their entire life, are suddenly out fighting with the meanest old tomcat in the neighborhood. They are at high risk of getting diseases like the feline leukemia virus, and abscesses become common. When they are out prowling the neighborhood, they are thinking about that girl kitty across the street, and they forget to look for cars. Many get squashed on the street. Moneywise, you end up spending far more treating abscesses and wounds than you will ever spend on a neuter.”

“Okay, you don’t need to tell me all the bad things that will happen,” Vivian said. “I will schedule a neuter, but you just make sure you take special care of Rocky.”

“We try to take special care of all our patients,” I said. “You just schedule a morning to bring him in for surgery, and he will be ready to go home in the afternoon.”

“I don’t do mornings very well,” Vivian said. “Maybe I can bring him in the day before. Would that work out okay?”

“That should work out just fine,” I said. “We can work Rocky into our schedule on any day that you want to bring him down in the afternoon.”

“That is great. My daughter is taking me out shopping and having dinner for my birthday. We could bring Rocky in when we leave town tomorrow. That way, she could pay the bill. It is my birthday present.”

“Rocky will appreciate your daughter’s thoughtfulness,” I said. “We will look forward to seeing you tomorrow afternoon.”


Tuesday was shaping up to be a warm day. Wanting to get a jump keeping this clinic cool, we opened the garage door in the back and started the sprinkler on the roof right after lunch. The water coming off the roof was already running hot.

Vivian, with Emily following, came through the door carrying Rocky in her arms. Vivian took a seat and tried to console Rocky. Rocky could already smell a rat. This was not normal behavior for anyone.

“Hi, I would like to pay Vivian’s bill in advance if that is possible,” Emily said as she stood at the front counter talking with Sandy.

Sandy took care of the transaction, and she could see that Rocky was getting anxious.

“I’ll get one of the girls to take Rocky back to his kennel,” Sandy said.

“That will be nice,” Vivian said. “We need to get on the road if we are going to get any shopping done before dinner.

One of the high school girls working that summer scooped Rocky out of Vivian’s arms and held him as Vivian said her goodbyes. When Vivian and Emily left, The girl started to the kennel room in the back with Rocky in her arms.

As they approached the kennel room, Rocky heard a couple of dogs, and he had no interest in going through that door. At first, he struggled, then he exploded. With the open garage door right there, he was gone in a flash. 

The girl thought her career was over. We checked to see if, by chance, Vivian was still in the parking lot. No such luck. A crew of us went out back to try to retrieve Rocky. He was not interested in being returned to that house of horrors. I last saw him trucking down the railroad tracks. There was no chance for recapture.

I called Vivian’s home phone, no answer. We had no contact information for Emily. I would have to wait until morning to talk with Vivian. I was not looking forward to making that phone call.


“Good morning, Vivian,” I said when she answered the phone. “This is Doctor Larsen. We had a problem yesterday. When the girl who took Rocky from you got back to the kennel room, Rocky sort of exploded and got away from her and escaped out the back door. We tried to retrieve him, but he would have nothing to do with us.”

“So I am not going crazy after all,” Vivian said. “I thought that was Rocky at the food dish on the back patio. I was trying to tell myself that I was seeing things.”

“If you still want us to neuter him, I will send Sandy and one of the girls up to your place with a kennel to pick him up. We will do the surgery and return him in the afternoon, along with the money your daughter paid. I couldn’t charge you a fee in good conscience, not after yesterday’s events.”

“That would be fine, doctor,” Vivian said. “I appreciate your honesty, and I am sure my daughter will be pleased to get her money back.”

“If Rocky is at the food dish this morning, we will pick him up now, schedule the surgery for this afternoon and bring him home this evening.”

“Will he be awake enough to come home this evening?” Vivian asked.

“With the anesthesia we use, these guys wake right up,” I said. “He should be fine by this evening. And he will be happier at home than sharing the kennel room with a couple of dogs.”

“That is for sure, I will get him in the house now, and Sandy can come anytime.”


The surgery went well, and the trip to and from the clinic in a kennel was a snap. Rocky was the only patient to escape from the clinic in our forty years of practice. We got lucky that he was an outside cat that knew the town well.

Photo by Levent Simsek from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

7 thoughts on “The Great Escape

  1. I’ve seen a number of feral tomcats around our area, fighting, peeing everywhere. They’ve tended to look like they just got out of a concentration camp, wounded and diseased – a short, brutal life. Neutering and vaccinating is always a good thing, worth the risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are those who think that neutering robs the tomcat of his sexual life. It does, but in exchange for an additional dozen years (or more) of life. I have even seen tomcats that people were trying to make into house cats. Cannot imagine living in a house with a tomcat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In freilaufenden Katzenpopulationen ohne menschliche Zuwendung und medizinische Betreuung liegt die Lebenserwartung einer Katze zwischen 1,4 und 3,2 Jahren (männliche Tiere) bzw. 3,3 und 4,2 Jahren (weibliche Tiere).
        In free roaming cat populations without human interaction (ferals) and medical attention the life expectancy of a cat is between 1,4 to 3,2 (males) and 3,3 to 4,2 for females.
        Part of that is that cancer of the genitals is excluded …
        The numbers are from 1980 and 1983

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Those numbers from 1980 and 1983 are probably influenced because those years were before the feline leukemia vaccine was available. Even though the feral population would not be vaccinated, they benefited from the vaccination of the owned cats. So I think today they live a little longer. They also serve as the main reservoir of the feline leukemia virus.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I doubt if they live half as long as indoor cats. Maybe the females, (who die pregnant), but not the tomcats.


      4. We had indoor/outdoor tomcats when I was growing up. Guess someone thought it would upset my father to neuter them. They did alright inside, but my mother and I took one down to the vet to get him taken care of because of the injuries from fighting. That upset a different relative. Dad got over it pretty quickly.

        You fixed a feral tom for us, Nano. I thought for sure he would head for the hills on release, but the food was too good and he came back within a day. He was a good-natured cat and went on to become an upstanding member of the indoor community.

        Liked by 2 people

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