Manny’s terrible, no good, very bad week

Manny, our little character, hurt himself.


He was playing, he fell awkwardly and he cut himself. He not only cut the skin on his right hind leg, he also cut partway through what we would call the Achilles tendon.

From falling. When playing.

It looked like a skin injury at first, so despite his strenuous protests, the area was cleaned and skin edges glued together and he was given a little something to relieve pain.

But with Manny, it seems, things are never simple (see photo above of cat in cast). Within a day or so, when he should have been walking well, he wasn’t. It seems that his ‘full throttle’ approach to life led to a complete rupture of the tendon, which we suspected because he was walking on his hock, like this:

Achilles tendon rupture in a cat

Tendons do not repair themselves, and if they are not fixed with surgery, then Manny would be restricted in his activity for life.

So it was off to surgery for our little Manny.

Oh, Manny!

If you’ve been in to the clinic lately, you might have met Manny.

He came to us last summer as a sickly little fuzzball whose owner could no longer care for him. So he stayed. And he got healthy and grew, and grew.

Manny is a unique cat. He loves food, actually will steal it from anyone. I’ve seen him take food from under the nose of a large dog. Manny has caused noticeable damage to some of the food bags at the clinic in his drive to eat.

He’s also got some particular personal space requirements. Petting is permitted at most times. If you pick him up, he prefers to be cradled on his back. Otherwise, he gets vocal and can bring out the sharp implements quickly.

He’s not what I’d consider a graceful or acrobatic cat. He can jump down well, but prefers to jump up no more than about 18″ at a time. He misses his target a lot.

As most young cats, he is very playful. His favorite toy is a strip of fleece on a stick:

He carries this around and plays on his own as well as loving it when someone will make the fleece strip ‘dance’ for him. If there is no one to help, he will take it by the handle and ‘push’ it along the floor in front of himself.

One day, our food-motivated, ungraceful, playful kitten had an accident (he’s fine), and it turned into more of an ordeal than we predicted, due to his unique personality.

I’ll tell you more about it next time.

Desperately seeking Ruby

Last week, I left you in terrible suspense about our little Ruby. She got out while we were away and was nowhere to be found when we came home.

Spoiler alert, she’s fine and still ruling the dog:

She is also the Queen of High Places:

So, we searched the house and offered her favorite treats, canvassed the neighborhood, and called the local shelter (where lost cats from our municipality would be taken).

When I called and asked if they had any black cats that had arrived in the past few days (right after Halloween), the woman on the phone almost chuckled, “Black cats? There are about twenty here right now.”

I did what any dedicated mother with two weepy, exhausted children would do on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. I drove down to the Humane Society and asked if I could look at all their black cats. I’m not Ruby’s favorite person, so I wasn’t even sure if she would respond to my voice. But I knew she was missing several incisors, because I had removed them.

The shelter staff weren’t too enthusiastic about me traipsing through all their cat wards looking in cat mouths, but I explained that I was a veterinarian (I’ve been vaccinated against rabies and I’m probably less likely to get bit than the average feline oral explorer) and promised to sanitize my hands before touching each cat.

They weren’t exaggerating on the phone. I really did look into the mouths of twenty black cats. No Ruby.

Coming home empty-handed was not great that evening. We had a tearful dinner, and the girls were trying to convince their father to go out into the November dusk for one more search of the yard and adjacent park, when there was a knock at the door.

Our neighbor was there, with a small black cat in her arms. “Does this look like your cat?”

Two shrieks of joy, one tremendous leap into the house and many many ‘thank yous’ later, Ruby was back home. She had been found hiding in the garage two doors over. And our pet-loving neighbors went out to check because we’d alerted them to a missing cat.

Ruby is stealthy cat. If they hadn’t been looking for her, they may not have seen her.

The next week, I brought her to work and implanted a microchip. But she’s not shown much interested in the ‘outside’ since that adventure.

Next week, I’m going to start looking for facts on lost cats and how to get them home, as I research a guide for people like us, who are desperately seeking their little furball.

The next week, I brought her to work and implanted a microchip. But she’s not shown much interested in the ‘outside’ since that adventure.

Next week, I’m going to start looking for facts on lost cats and how to get them home, as I research a guide for people like us, who are desperately seeking their little furball.

The Enforcer

Dear Dennis,

We had some short-term tenants that tested your patience. A family member lived with us for a time, and she brought her two kittens along. Most of the time, the whole group got along really well. The house was big enough, and had two storeys, so there was usually a way to avoid kitten play if you wanted to.

Max was a little older than you, and wasn’t too fond of the kittens when they got really energetic. One pounce and he would have enough. If he couldn’t dodge their playful wrestling, he wasn’t shy about asking for help.

Some cats, you included, come running at the sound of a cat in distress, and Max was really good at sounding distressed. And you were still a little heavy at the time.

I remember the day you earned your nickname. I was sitting in the living room, and could hear the kittens play-fighting in the other room. Max strolled in to get a snack and became the victim of their energy. A few seconds after Max started screaming, I heard a thump upstairs.

I could head you come pounding down the hall, I saw you flying down the stairs and past me. Your ears were forward, your pupils dilated, your tail at full alert. Before I could get to the kitchen, it was all over. The kittens had both fled upstairs, Max was sitting in the kitchen grooming out the bad things and you had your face in the food bowl.

We actually came up with a manoeuvre to avoid further ‘tiffs’. Because you and the male kitten ‘Mel’ both loved food, we kept treat bags in a few strategic places. If the kittens started getting something going, we’d just shake a treat bag.

Both you and Mel would drop pretty much anything you were doing to come running for a treat. And if all else failed, it was ‘Super Dennis’ to the rescue.

Lost black cat

Ruby is my small black cat. She is independent and fast. She’s stealthy and curious. Any opening, any crevice, any high place is fair game to her.

One day in early November a few years ago, Ruby got outside. And we didn’t know because we were away, out of town with a sick child.

We had a family member coming in to look after the cats, and our small, slick, silent cat got past him somehow.

So we didn’t realize she was missing until a tearful girl cried out, “Where’s Ruby? I can’t find her!”

We were already tired from a long trip, and it was Sunday. So what did we do?

We started by checking through the whole house extra-carefully. All of her little hiding spots were turned inside out. We checked the washer (see photo above), and all the closets. We pulled out the best treats and shook the bag, as well as opening a can of her favorite cat food. When there was no reply, no sign of her, we knew for sure she’d gotten outside.

We check the rest of our property — around the house, under the deck and in the detached garage. We also had a playhouse that we checked and a tree-lined lane that was inspected.

Next was the neighbors — we split up and knocked on doors, asking our neighbors to check their yards and sheds for our little escape artist.

Once the neighborhood was on alert, we started making phone calls. Now, calling the Kingston Humane Society and asking if they had any stray black cats come in during the week of Halloween. Well, they told me to come on down and look, there were lots of black cats in residence.

To the question, “Does she have a microchip?”, I had to answer, “No.” (Spoiler alert, the answer now is “Yes”).

That’s how we started our search for Ruby.

Standing up to pee

Dear Dennis,

When we moved into our first house, we had the luxury of space that wasn’t present in our student apartments. We were able to put the litter boxes in the basement, away from our living areas.

At the time, we had two cats (you and Max), so there were three litter boxes in different areas of the basement, for optimal cat potty conditions.You were both pretty clean boys, but then one day there was a smell. That smell that cat owners dread.

Someone had peed outside the box. Actually, all over the side of the box and on the concrete floor behind it. We took quick action to clean up the smell and start looking for a cause. The AAFP has a great resource here if your cat is peeing outside the box.

In short order, we became litter box hygiene masters. I tested different types of clumping litter, moved the boxes, changed them out for new ones, following the advice of the pros like Dr. Tony Buffington.

And then you each got to take a little car trip to work with me. We didn’t know how to tell which one of you was the culprit (Dr. DeMille at our clinic has some great new ways to pinpoint a suspect). We had to make sure there was not a health problem by checking you out and doing some urine and blood testing. Thankfully, you both had a clean bill of health.

And then one day, completely by chance, I saw the problem happening right before my eyes. I watched you visit the litter box. You entered slowly, sniffing, pawing at the sand. You dug a little indent and turned your back to it. You began to urinate, all four feet planted firmly in the sand. Your urine stream went straight out behind you, over the side of the box and onto the floor. Because you didn’t squat. You just let it fly standing straight up.

I did some research to make sure you weren’t spraying urine. But the posture, the amount of urine, and the fact that you carefully filled your little hole afterward, led me to conclude you were just a messy urinator.

How did we solve this problem? Well, we changed out our litter boxes for containers with higher sides. At that time, litter pans with lids usually had a seam no more than 15 cm high, and we quickly discovered that urine would still collect in and leak through that area. We switched to plastic storage tubs with an entry port cut out of one side.

And then there was peace (and no smell) in the basement again.