By Darryl McGrath
My cat Scout is an endearing paradox. You would expect Scout—a big, hefty, former backyard stray—to be the tough guy at the top of the feline social order in my home. Instead, he is shy, retiring and so skittish that my smallest cat takes obvious delight in chasing Scout up and down the stairs, just because she knows that she can.
Scout was the last of my five cats to enter my household; I adopted him from my best friend two days before she died of cancer in 2017. When I introduced Scout into my home, four other cats already formed an established clique. They quickly identified Scout as an easy mark, and it was almost three weeks before he ventured from his hiding place. Although he is very bonded with me, it still doesn’t take much to send him racing for cover.
A shy, easily spooked cat like Scout is why I have always loved the policy of Just Cats that allows the owner to be in the examining room with their cat during an appointment. But when I booked Scout’s annual checkup for a day in October, it happened that he was also the first of my cats to be seen at Just Cats under the practice’s coronavirus precautions. I couldn’t go into the building with Scout, and I wondered how he would do.
He did great, and I’m far less concerned about the remaining visits for my other cats, based on how well this “owner absent” visit went for Scout. I did give him a dose of Gabapentin before I put him in his carrier for the drive to Just Cats. That’s an anti-anxiety medication that Dr. Robyn Kurzel had recommended and it did seem to help; Scout was calm when I handed over his carrier in the parking lot.
Dr. Kurzel called me a short time later to ask some questions and discuss her initial findings. (Scout had developed a heart murmur, which was later found to be benign, and he needs to lose at least a pound, the result, I am sure, of my working from home for the past eight months.) When staff member Steven Kline returned Scout to me about a half-hour later, he reported that Scout had been enjoying the view out the window of the examining room.
A few minutes later, I headed home, with a very relaxed cat dozing in the carrier. This experience went much better than I expected, and I’ll approach the exams for my other cats with far less trepidation.