Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Squeak Away

I figured it was only a matter of time before Hana, our little, orange-and-white female tabby, went into heat for the first time. She was still a kitten when she showed up in our yard, weak and half emaciated, in early Summer last year. She was just another member of the gang of orphans that has long existed on our property, but she was cute and friendly enough to win her way into our household. By September she had overcome all opposition and had become our second resident fuzz.

Hana fuzz 2
Hana last September.

It was hard to gauge just how old she was. When Autumn gave way to Winter she was still a tiny thing with the daintiest, little squeak of a meow. (In fact, most of the time you couldn't even call it a "meow". It was usually a soft, cottony "ha".) I knew I had to get The Operation done sooner or later, but it wasn't easy to make the judgment call even if my unforgiving schedule allowed any time for it. Then, as Winter gave way to Spring, it finally happened.

The dreaded trilling began in late March followed soon afterward by passionate yowling and increasingly desperate attempts to get outside, not to mention constant vigils in the front bay window between her thwarted efforts. I did my best to rally my family to the cause of keeping her indoors; her litter box and food dishes were all moved into the living room (to my wife's chagrin), and a decree was made that all doors were to be kept firmly shut. Unfortunately, with one absent-minded senior member (who is strangely incapable of shutting doors behind him) and one extremely careless junior member on board, it was perhaps inevitable that the determined, little squeaker finally gained her freedom. By the time I got home from work one evening, she was long gone, and she didn't reappear until the afternoon of the next day.

After a couple more days the heat eased off, and she went back to being her usual, spunky self. Her appetite also returned with a zest. I figured I'd better get The Operation done immediately, but still my hands were tied by the usual madness of the changing school year. After a week, I noticed that little Hana had a little bulge in her gut, but since her behavior and everything else seemed perfectly normal, I tried not to worry about it too much. Finally, a little over two weeks after the end of her heat, I found myself with a free day and immediately made an appointment to get her "fixed". I explained the situation to the vets over the phone, and they said that, aside from the gut bulge, it didn't sound like she was showing the usual signs pregnancy. The next morning, I put little Hana in our old kitty carrier (She struggled far less than any other cat we've taken in that thing), took her to the vet, dropped her off, and came back home feeling both relieved and strangely nervous.

That evening I got a phone call from the vet telling me that she had indeed been pregnant, but they had gone ahead with the surgery. That made me feel strangely guilty (not to mention troubled by the fact that they'd told me there'd be a surcharge if she had bread in the oven), but I tried to take comfort in the fact that, since it was her first time, there would probably only be a couple of babies.

Cats are induced ovulators, i.e. they ovulate only when they mate. Due to a mechanism which I won't describe here (though there's a good reason why female cats tend to end a mating session with a shriek of agony), a single act of mating normally causes a single egg to be released. That means that, ideally at least, one baby is produced each time the deed is done. However, the chance of impregnation is much less during the first heat, meaning only a small litter if not a single baby.

When I arrived at the vet to pick Hana up, they first brought me into the examination room. I'd gone ahead and asked them to give her a full check-up, and they wanted to show me the X-rays. They showed clearly that she'd had FOUR BABIES. And I have to say that it's amazing how quickly cats develop in the womb; two and a half weeks was about the equivalent of five months in the case of a human baby. The little things already had fully-developed skeletons and were quite recognizable as cats. It was certainly shocking enough to see. But then they told me to wait because they wanted to show me what they'd taken out...(diminished 7th chord)

One of the doctors left and came back with a stainless steel dish containing the womb...which was bloated with the quartet of 4-inch-long lumps that were the babies. (Thank heaven they didn't cut the thing open and show me what was inside...) By this time Hana, who'd caught either my scent or the sound of my voice, had started wailing pitifully. The doctor's assistant looked and sounded like she was about ready to cry as she gave me instructions on how to care for Hana until she could get her stitches removed. It was hard to listen to, and it was a relief to get the kitty carrier back in the car and on its way home.

Hana had a gauze pad over her belly and a sort of body stocking to hold it in place. She also had a conical, plastic fairing placed around her neck to keep her from licking or biting at herself. Still groggy and weak, she had trouble moving at first, though that didn't keep her down. The body stocking matted her fur down, making her look really skinny, and with that inverted cone around her head, when I once caught a glimpse of her waddling through a dark room, at first I wondered if a weird, Cthulhoid monster with a suction cup instead of a head had somehow broken into this dimension. For almost the entire first day home, she kept going around the house as if desperately searching for something, wailing pitifully the whole time. I couldn't help wondering if she was looking for her babies.

It didn't long for Hana to go back to her usual, energetic self even with that plastic monstrosity around her head. Even despite it, however, she managed to get the body stocking off twice, shredding it the second time, so we finally just left it off. She's more or less back to normal, but she seems somehow even more affectionate. She also hates to be alone a lot more than before. I can tell she's fed up with the thing on her head, though; it'll be coming off in just a few more days.

Hana surgery 1
"It bites us!"

Hana surgery 2
"I kan haz dis sing takn off nau?"



  • I was wondering there for a bit if you were going to say the cat had died...

    By Anonymous Dave, at 12:05 AM  

  • Aw. I'm sorry it worked out this way, but at the same time, your kitty will be a healthy, happy kitty in a good home.

    By Blogger Kami, at 2:58 AM  

  • Dave
    No, she's as full of life as ever, even if that thing around her neck makes her bump into things.

    I know...I often wonder what it would have been like to let her have her babies and almost wish they'd double-checked with me once they confirmed she was pregnant. For one thing, I would have liked to see what color they turned out to be so I'd know which of the neighborhood tomcats to torture. Oh, well.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:19 PM  

  • She's darling, MM! I'm so glad you took her in. Cats are pretty good about getting around those cone things.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:28 PM  

  • Aww, she still looks like a kitten still.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 7:10 PM  

  • Glad we didn't have to go through such with Momo before getting her on an implanted contraceptive drug (the vet thought it too risky to do surgery on her).

    All the best for Hana now. No worries.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:28 PM  

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