Saturday, April 4, 2015

Teddy's brush with...

Last fall we launched a long-anticipated move from a safe, small but well-appointed high-rise condo in Chicago to a new two-story house in Bozeman, Montana. It's taking us a while to settle in (i.e., to get it "well appointed"), like the book cases that should be delivered very soon so my tomes can finally be unboxed, displayed and other words, we're getting there...
Relocation has been the experience of a lifetime for our cat Teddy too. While he thoroughly enjoyed the play opportunities the packing materials provided back in Chicago, like most house cats, he's at heart a homebody, content in his element, with no particular urge for adventure beyond the front door. The cross-country drive required long days and three overnight stays along I-90 (a remarkably straight shot from the suburbs of Chicago to the exit to our Bozeman house). All of those days Teddy was confined to his carrier next to me in the car (with KLK following in the U-Haul truck). After about 15 initial minutes of registering his unhappiness each morning, Teddy would lapse into a cat snooze, with only occasional pleading looks and sad little cat comments through bars before repositioning himself for the next long nap.

At last we opened that carrier door one final time, and Teddy began the adjustment to his comparatively vast new home, with its big windows and cat-width sills from which to watch the magpies and robins, and more rooms than he'd ever seen before to be thoroughly evaluated for cat suitability. Of course, it took him no time to remember where his litter box was and where to expect his meals to be served, and every night we were there for him to join us in warm, safe sleep as we had always had been.
But what was most interesting was watching him figure out exactly how the two-story design, which he'd never encountered before, worked. The living room is double-high with a balcony overlook from the second floor. We would call to Teddy from the balcony and he would gaze up, puzzled as to what we were doing 15 feet above him -- likewise, when we were on the first floor he would poke his head between the rails, considering how this new geographic arrangement actually worked. Suddenly, after a couple of days, the light went on: he figured out that if he ran up or down the stairs he could be on the level with us again. 
He enjoyed the balcony in other ways as well. Domestic cats have never really lost their arboreal habits, and Teddy found the railing to be a more fun route to transit the landing than the floor. This concerned us, but we knew there was no way short of stringing barbed wire along the top to prevent him from his tightrope fun.

Then, two days before Christmas, with me busy in my second floor study and KLK likewise in his, it happened. All I knew was the sudden loud thud could have been caused by nothing other than Teddy pitching over the railing to the floor below. KLK's peripheral vision caught the fleeting motion of the cat's abrupt disappearance and he shouted "Teddy fell!!" We ran down the stairs that Teddy had so recently mastered and found him to be in one piece at the bottom, but very distressed. He ran behind the couch but allowed us to approach. Thank God, and miraculously, there seemed to be no damage. He was not limping, nothing swelled, no blood oozed, and he admitted no sign of pain, other than to his ego. He eventually made his way to our bed where he tried to recover his dignity, interrupted though he was by one or the other of us asking him, at no greater intervals than 15 minutes throughout that first day, if he was okay. Very concerned, but even more reluctant to add to his psychological trauma by sticking him back into the carrier, we called the vet and she agreed that if his pupils weren't dilating and he was eating (which he was, as always) and doing his thing in the litter box, there was no need to add to his stress by bringing him in. By Christmas the three of us were more or less back to normal. And to our great relief, Teddy has stayed off the railing ever since.

Flash forward about three months when I happened to get a rare look into his mouth mid-yawn.
Although a cat's mouth is private territory (at least according to Teddy), I clearly saw that the left front fang was about half the length it used to be (2010 photo). We think this must have happened when he fell, but he never let on that he was suffering. We squeezed him back into the carrier and took  him to the lovely Dr. Rosenthal at Foothills Veterinary Clinic. The doc informed us that the canine tooth was broken to the point where the sensitive inner pulp was exposed. The only cure for the doubtless tender fang was extraction.

This was accomplished yesterday. Teddy was a growling, hissing, dribbling, angry mass of misery when we picked him up post oral surgery. He was still reeling from the effects of anesthesia, including local novocaine that made him drool enormously,  and also had on board a long-acting pain medication (how great that we don't have grab his sore upper jaw to shove pain pills down him!) and a long-acting antibiotic (ditto!) with sparkling clean teeth and a stitch or two where the offending tooth used to be.

Like the garage that gives you the nail that caused your tire to go flat, Foothills presented me with the offending tooth. It's quite remarkable how enormous the root is compared to the pointy part (which albeit should be a longer than the remains of Teddy's). Of course a predator has to have well-anchored canines, which are used for capturing, securing, and tearing apart prey. But given the corresponding hole left behind, it's a wonder Teddy isn't in more distress today, even after a night's sleep and a couple of meals of soft canned food.
Last night and this morning Teddy's behavior was odd. His pupils were dilated from the drugs still in his blood stream, but he was exceptionally affectionate and interested in being held tight while he purred loudly. Purring sometimes indicates distress but he certainly seemed to want to be warm in our arms. He's always been one to flop over flirtatiously when we coo to him, but was doing it nearly constantly as if trying to rub off the smells of the hospital, until just a few hours ago. Now his energy is back, his eyes are normal, dinner went down the hatch in just a few minutes, and if he's in pain, he's not admitting it. He's young and will heal fast. Life will be better without that tender tooth, even if he never admits it was a problem in the first place.


  1. No fun but glad to read all is ok. My Baron the GSD had to have a canine extracted after an infection. No fun either. Glad all is well in Bozeman. My eldest did graduate work and attained this Masters at MSU . And I got lots of invitation to join him for troutfishing Montana and Yellowstone in those days....;)