It’s a Hard Job

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

I was finishing up in the surgery room when Sandy entered the room. 

“You have Pat in the exam room,” Sandy said. “She is worried that her new kittens are dying.”

“Tell her I will be just a couple of minutes,” I said. “I just have to clean up a bit.”

“I think you should come now,” Sandy said. “She was crying when she came through the door.”

So with my surgery gown, hood, and mask, I enter the exam room. Pat is seated in the chair, holding her two kittens and sobbing. The kittens look fine. I untied the top of my mask, so it hung from my neck.

“Oh, Doctor,” Pat said. “I’m so embarrassed. I thought these two were dying. My father cautioned me about distemper shots, and when I came home from shopping, these two were lying on the rug in the family room. They looked dead to me. I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t want the girls to come home and find them. I just scooped them up into the carrier and ran down here. Then I sat down to wait, and they were up, wanting out of the kennel. I guess there is nothing wrong with them.”

“Well, there is no need to be embarrassed,” I said. “Let me get a look at them and make sure everything is okay. Then if they are fine, we can make this visit a vaccination visit. Your father was good to caution you.”

The kittens played and wrestled with each other and my hand while I looked them over.

“It looks like you have a couple of normal kittens,” I said. “Have they had any vaccinations yet?”

“No, I guess I didn’t know they needed any vaccinations,” Pat said. “Dad said if they get distemper, there isn’t much to do for them. He said he would see all the kittens in the barn wiped out from distemper when he was a kid.”

“It sounds like he grew up a lot like I did,” I said. “Barn cats were never vaccinated, and only the strong or the lucky survived. And even today, once a kitten this age gets distemper, there is often no saving them. It is not uncommon for a kitten to go from normal in the morning to dead in the evening. Their only defense is vaccinations.”

“Can you vaccinate them today?” Pat asked.

“Yes, I will give them their initial vaccines and deworm them,” I said. “Dixie and Sandy can talk to you about what you need to keep your fleas under control. Then we will look at them in 4 weeks for boosters, and we can talk about spaying or neutering them then.”

“We haven’t decided about neutering these two yet,” Pat said. “We think the girls would really enjoy raising a litter of kittens.”

“That’s fine, in my opinion, but I work with a couple of groups who deal with finding homes for many kittens every year,” I said. “They would shudder at your thoughts. Just make sure you have homes for all the kittens before you go down that path.”

We vaccinated the kittens with a combination vaccine for distemper and respiratory viruses. We also used a separate vaccine for the leukemia virus. Then I popped a worm pill down each kitten.

Have you got names for these two yet?” I asked.

“No, the girls are still arguing about the names,” Pat said. “We have only had for three days now, and I guess we are not really sure about who is the boy or the girl.”

I glanced at each kitten. They were both girls.

“They are both girls,” I said. “They are both calicoes. That is the first clue.”

“Oh, that might mean we could have a lot of kittens,” Pat said.

“Yes, a lot of kittens,” I said. “Sometimes you get lucky with a small litter, but I guess we see litters of 4 kittens most of the time. I have seen litters of seven or eight before. That could mean you would go from a population of two cats in the house to a bunch of ten to fifteen overnight. And that doesn’t even mention the hassle of a bunch of tomcats on your doorstep when these two come into heat.”

“Okay, we will take that into consideration,” Pat said. “And I promise you I won’t rush in here and disrupt your day again.”

“You don’t worry about this morning,” I said. “We all learn as we go along in this life. If you have an emergency, call if you can, but come in if you can’t. If you have any questions, we are here to help you out.”

“So then, just what was I seeing when I came home this morning?” Pat asked. “I mean, they really looked dead, or almost dead.”

“It’s a hard job, you know, being a kitten,” I said. “Kittens play hard, and then they sort of collapse and sleep however they hit the floor. You will likely see that again during the next few weeks. But next time, you will be prepared.”

Photo by Yayuk Lestari on 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.

One thought on “It’s a Hard Job

  1. Kittens like humans use the sleep time to transfer what they have learned into the “knowledge” part of their “library”. That is also why they twitch so much while sleeping. Their body getting to terms with what does what. Like little children, who you can carry around while they sleep, they have a very deep sleep. They are a bit like little humans. A bit!

    Liked by 1 person

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