Disasters!

Feb 13, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

The Northeastern US has certainly received the brunt of natural disasters recently! Blinding blizzards, a horrific hurricane just a few months before that….and an untold number of animals displaced or forever lost because of a natural disaster.

Lost cats! A very scary situation. Dr. Colleran described her experience and what to look for in a previous felinedocs. com blog last month

Four months ago my own CAT Stanley became lost due to my own carelessness, and it’s taken me a long time to be able to write about it. It was postcard-worthy late afternoon in Annapolis. Autumn was approaching and the air was crisp and clear, snapping the halyards and other lines on the sailboats still in their slips. The sun warming the water made the waves slap the bulkhead, gently rocking the boats back and forth. A perfect time for a boat ride, and a perfect day for CAT Stanley to get further acclimated to travel. Instead of a perfect day, it turned into a perfectly horrible day.

As a veterinarian, I work every day to promote the value of cats, espousing the need for keeping your cat indoors, having the proper identification and conditioning it to its carrier for travel. So even though I do all that- all my pets wear snug collars with ID tags and are microchipped-AND that afternoon he even had a harness and lead- he got out of his carrier. I had been working with CAT Stanley on travel conditioning by taking a leisurely ride in my old little putt-putt boat which he’s been on before. We returned to the boat slip safe and sound, I went to the stern to tie up the boat for less than a minute, and when I turned around he was GONE! He had been seemingly so comfortable I’d neglected to properly secure the carrier flap. Nowhere to be found- not under the floor boards even after removing the attached seats, not along the docks and all around the boat yard…. that night was very long as I combed, roamed and called for him in a ten  square block area on both sides of the creek.  I could only imagine how frightened he must have been, and that made me both sad and very angry with myself.

Forty-six agonizing and unlucky days. Though, in a sense, through all that I felt lucky. After four reprints of various versions of scores of signs and flyers, feeding stations, friends, faith and “fingers crossed” were the only “f” words I used. And while fatigue was another, I choose to override it and any nagging negatives by keeping the desired outcome top of mind- for CAT Stanley to be back home again!

The outpouring and support of the community was uplifting and made me grateful to live where I do. “I saw your sign and I think I saw your cat…” was the most common theme of the countless cell phone calls. And surprise! There are several orange tabby and white cats around town, and a one or two even looked like CAT Stanley. One school child used his mother’s phone and called me, breathless-“is your cat a kitten?” And after I told him Stanley was three, he texted me a picture of an adorable tiny orange tabby (no white) that you could hold in one hand- how sweet is that?

Others offered helpful suggestions. “Here’s a link to the City Government Facebook page and they have over 56,000 friends…” Then another- “I know the person who manages the city’s Facebook page and I’ll have them share it..,” “did you post him on Craig’s list?” and even “beware of this old lady who traps stray cats…” And I’m really happy to report that our county animal control shelter is a model of efficiency and empathy- escorting me through the various cat holding and adoption rooms, helping me fill out the lost pet form, and lending me two Have-a -Heart traps. And even after three hunts with a scent tracking dog and her handler, I remained optimistic as I followed her lead  for placing the traps and a scent trail of items or material (even used cat litter!) related to Stanley’s feline friends and me (excepting the cat litter…).

The situation also gave me an opportunity to walk around town and meet some wonderful people face to face. Almost everyone had seen the signs and most agreed to take a picture of the flyer with their cell phone so they would have the information with them in case they spotted CAT Stanley when they were out and about.  I especially remember one bittersweet conversation with a man on his evening run. “I’ve seen your signs and my wife and I have been keeping an eye out….” (Thank you!). And then his follow-up comment that smacked- “he’ll probably be OK- cats can take care of themselves…” No, they can’t! Cats need people was my initial response.  That’s why CAT Stanley has a microchip (and have you seen that the UK is requiring all dogs get microchipped? Hopefully our day will come for dogs AND cats…)

Thankfully, I immediately recognized he was merely trying to make me feel better. But it gave me even more resolve to raise the bar for cat care and welfare in my own community and beyond.

So my vigil continued. I remained diligent and methodical, seeking, searching, calling and following up on every lead. And after forty-four days he was spotted- very close to the home that called me with the first sighting! Within two days he was back home- skinny, initially scared, with collar and tag intact. His housemates gave him the once-over and obligatory nasal-anal assessment (aka butt sniff), CAT Stanley ran upstairs to his favorite hangout, and all was good.

I’m a veterinarian and advocate for cats, and this still happened to me! I was lucky, and even with no “natural disaster” excuses such as snowstorms and hurricanes, tornados or fires, people need to be reminded that we all get careless.  Sometimes there are little or no consequences.  But sometimes the consequences are disasters and end up breaking your heart.

Don’t wait for a disaster. If you haven’t yet taken these steps,  please do them NOW:

  • Microchip your cat and register it! The apps and other support services are very helpful!
  • Keep current close up full-body photos on your computer
  • Make sure when outdoors they are fully supervised
  • Keep them current on their yearly exams, appropriate vaccines and parasite prevention program
  • Give them lots of love and care….so they will want to come home again.

We need cats…they need us!

Dr Jane Brunt

Dr. Jane Brunt, founder of Cat Hospital at Towson (CHAT), is the pioneer of feline exclusive practice in Maryland. She received her DVM from Kansas State University (go, Cats!), and since 1984 has advocated the necessity of an outstanding facility and staff dedicated to practicing the highest quality of cats only care and medicine at CHAT.

She is a Past-President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. In 1997, Dr. Brunt was named one of Baltimore’s “Top Vets” and featured on the cover of Baltimore Magazine, and in 1998 she served as Chair of the Host Committee for the AVMA Annual Convention in Baltimore (attended by a record 8,000 veterinary professionals and supporters), receiving several awards and accolades. A national advisor on feline medicine, she is also an active supporter of local, state, and national feline organizations, especially of the new generation of veterinary professionals.

Building on her clinical cat commitments and organizational passions, she serves as the Executive Director of CATalyst Council, a not-for-profit coalition of organizations and individuals committed to changing the way society cares for cats, “Promoting the Power of Purr…” across veterinary, sheltering, and public/civic communities. She owns a wayward standard poodle named Luka and three hilarious, keyboard-keen cats- Paddy, Freddie and CAT Stanley!

Cat Hospital at Towson
6701 York Road
Baltimore, MD 21212

Phone: (410) 377-7900
Email: cathospital@catdoc.com

Website: http://www.catdoc.com/
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