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A Cat-Only Vet Turned My Cat from Tortured to Curious

Thomas once was a "terrified trembler" at the vet's office, but now he's an "extroverted explorer."

 |  Oct 10th 2013  |   26 Contributions


My cat, Thomas, is a classic "Terrified Trembler." When he goes to the vet, he's the picture of utter misery: He crouches on the exam table with his tail between his legs, rigid with tension and his eyes agape in terror. His heart races a mile a minute, and his shivering eclipses the sound of even the slightest comforting purr that might struggle to escape his tortured body.

The Trembler himself: Thomas T. Bombadil.

I hate watching him suffer, but he has to have his regular checkup.

When I went with my friend Adrianna to her favorite cat-only clinic, I began to nurse a tiny glimmer of hope that things might be different for Thomas if I took him there.

Last week it was time for Thomas’s semiannual senior wellness exam, so I booked an appointment with Dr. Sarah Brandon at Cats Exclusive, a vet clinic on the outskirts of Seattle, and hoped for the best.

Our trip began with the usual wails of dismay. By the time we arrived about half an hour later, he was resigned to his fate.

A tech led us to the exam room where Thomas would meet the sum of all his fears: the veterinarian!

I was ready to comfort my poor, miserable kitty as we waited, but as I opened his carrier, something amazing happened: He popped his head out and looked around ... and promptly began exploring the room.

Thomas popped his head out of his carrier ...

... and began to explore his surroundings.

He checked out everything in sight. He hopped on the exam table to survey his surroundings. He wasn’t the least bit interested in huddling in my lap with his head buried between my arm and my body to block out the terror. He didn’t even come near me except to head-butt my hand once in a while.

"No, Mama, I don't need you. I'm as happy -- and curious -- as can be!"

Then Dr. Brandon arrived. Instead of running for cover, he greeted her with an enthusiastic sniff and began weaving himself between her legs.

She sat down on the floor with Thomas. He hopped into her lap and head-bonked her from top to bottom, purring like crazy the entire time.

Dr. Brandon introduces herself to Thomas

Hellos and loving petties are exchanged.

I’d never seen anything like it.

Even in the safety of his own home, Thomas is pretty shy about meeting guests, and here he was loving on this veterinarian like she was a long-lost friend.

Dr. Brandon cooed sweet nothings at him. She knew every kind of pet and skritch that would put Thomas at ease and make him happy to be there. She stayed on the floor petting him as she asked me questions about his health history and diet, and lavished him with compliments about his beautiful fur coat and friendly demeanor.

"Oh, yes, under-the-necklace rubs! I loooooove you, Dr. Brandon!"

Oh, and by the way, she was giving him a physical while doing this: A little listen to the heart (which she could actually hear through all his purring), a quick check of the teeth and paws.

Dr. Brandon checks Thomas's teeth and gums between pettings.

“I can’t believe this!” I said. “Thomas has never been so happy to be at the vet! You must be pumping Feliway through the air conditioning system or something.”

“Or maybe it’s the catnip perfume I wear,” she said with a smile.

We talked a little bit about my other cats as Thomas wriggled and purred with rapture at her tender ministrations. She was particularly intrigued about Bella, who is, I think, the youngest diabetic cat she has ever known.

By this point, Thomas was more than willing to follow Dr. Brandon to the exam table. In fact, I was pretty sure he'd follow her to the ends of the earth after all that delightful petting.

Eventually she had to stand up because Thomas needed to get weighed. He enthusiastically followed her to the exam table for more love and petties.

Oh, and by the way, a thorough palpation of his internal organs.

Oh, don't worry, Thomas: this is just a special, firm kind of petting known as an abdominal palpation!

“I’m just ... flabbergasted,” I said. “Usually Thomas just crouches miserably and waits for the exam to be over. I’m still in shock that he loves you so much.”

“His kidneys feel great,” she reported. “And judging from the lab tests he got this spring, his kidney function is good, too. We should do some blood work on him because he is a senior, but because his tests were so good last time, we can do it the next time he comes in if you want.”

Elevator butt! What a happy kitty!

Oh, and by the way, just one more little "extra firm pettie" in the tummy.

“He’s having such an awesome experience this time that I’d like to keep it this good by holding off on the blood test till next time," I said.

When it was time to go home, I actually had to convince Thomas to get back into his carrier. He wanted to stay!

Was I stunned? Oh, hell yeah.

Was I delighted? Oh, hell yeah.

Will I be bringing Thomas and my other cats back there? Oh, hell to the YEAH!

"Hey, wait! Don't go, Dr. Brandon! I need you to pet me some more!"

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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