The free cat who cost a thousand

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rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Sometimes you throw one small pebble of change into the Universe and the ripples create a tsunami of trouble. That’s what happened to me last week – all because I felt sorry for a fat cat.

I’ll back up a bit. Our cat Percy, who was once a skinny stray cat we brought home, has since morphed into a behemoth of flab and fur. She looks like she’s been drinking milkshakes and eating Doritos every day for five years.

For years I fed her one small can of Fancy Feast each day. But because she needed to slim down, I switched her to dry food. Percy wasn’t happy about the change, and she let me know it by stalking me around the house and rubbing against my legs to remind me she was hungry for something fancier. Some people say cats rub against your legs to show affection, but I think it’s more of a message: “Either feed me or I’ll weave in and out of your legs until you trip and fall. Take your pick.”

So I found a new cat food in a special refrigerated case at Wal-Mart. It was in a re-sealable bag and claimed to be fresher than other cat foods. It looked like the perfect compromise – not as boring as dry food but not as stinky and fattening as the canned stuff. I bought a bag, and Percy loved it.

Fast forward six weeks. One day as I’m walking through the formal living room, I saw Percy crouched in a corner committing a serious feline sin – peeing on the rug. I could hardly believe it! In the five years she has lived here, she had never once done this and had always been a faithful litter box user.

Certain something was wrong, I took her to the vet who kept her overnight to collect a urine sample. She also suggested I consider having her shaved since her thick, long hair tends to matt up around her nether regions. I didn’t even know cat shaving was an actual service, but I was more than happy to sign Percy up for it if it’d mean less cat hair on the furniture.

Back home, the fallout from the Percy pee incident continued to ripple out. Because I’d witnessed the crime one time, it begged the bigger question: How many times did it happen when I did NOT see it? How could I make sure the mess was completely cleaned up, since pets are famous for returning to the scene of the crime. I Googled the problem and found an article advising the use of a black light to find carpet spills and stains not visible to the naked eye. Tom picked one black lightup from the pet store on the way home from work, and after the sun went down, we set about our detective work.

Note to all pet owners, parents and childless, pet-free people who live in homes: Do not EVER walk around your house at night using a black light, which shows every drop of anything that’s ever touched the rug – past and present. If you do, you’ll want to burn your house down. Or, at the very least, rip out every shred of carpet. Ask me how I know.

We are now having hardwood floors put down in the room Percy christened. Even our professional carpet cleaner told us that all the cleaning in the world wouldn’t guarantee we’d get rid of that awful smell unique to cat accidents. We’re bracing ourselves for the bill.

Speaking of bills, the tab at the veterinarian’s office approached three hundred dollars, but at least we know what caused Percy to lose her mind and ruin the rug – a bladder infection. The cause? Most likely her new cat food which caused a Ph imbalance that made crystals form in her bladder, which caused involuntary bladder spasms, which caused a major room renovation. Remember when I upgraded to that new cat food six weeks ago? That one small pebble of percy haircutchange? Yep. No good deed goes unpunished.

But there is a silver lining. Percy’s new “shaved” haircut is fabulous. She still has long hair on her face and front paws but everything from the front legs back is shaved to the skin, except for her tail and some furry “boots” on her back legs. Under all that dark hair, she has silvery skin with dark black stripes, making her look like a Bengal tiger.

And she is recovering from the infection, thanks to a change in her diet, a prescription for “kitty Valium” that’s supposed to prevent bladder spasms, and an antibiotic which, ironically enough, Percy will not swallow unless I disguise it inside a bowl of Fancy Feast cat food.

I give up. Pass the kitty Valium. I think I need one.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography

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