A very good client came in yesterday to drop her cat George off for a neuter.
We usually take in our surgery patients between 7:30 am and 9 am on the day of their surgery.
We try very hard to get all of the surgeries done by about 3 pm so that everyone is awake, alert, and ready to go home by 8 pm, which is our closing time. We are not a 24 hour a day facility. Because of this I prefer a pet be home at night with their family so they can watch over them, versus in a cage at a closed clinic. If there is ever a problem I want someone to know sooner versus later.
There are a few exceptions to the "no overnight patrons" rule. We have some patients who need 24 hour fluid therapy and cannot afford, or do not want to be transferred to the ER. There are also some patients we want to be monitoring as much as possible. Sometimes we get requests from clients to leave their pet overnight because they can't get them back here in the morning, or they want to drop them off the day before because their work schedule won't allow an 8 am drop-off. Other clients want to drop off because they don't have a way of keeping them from eating overnight. With few exceptions our methodology works well for almost all parties involved.
George came to us on Sunday afternoon for his Monday morning neuter. Sundays we are open for two hours for walk-in appointments. It is usually a busy time, but it allows quick re-checks, boarding pick-up/drop-off, medication refills, and just a bit more convenience for our pets and clients.
George is a big beautiful tiger striped brown tabby cat. He has gorgeous yellow-green eyes and a kind of “King of the jungle” presence. He is strong, muscular, and pompous in a quiet elusive way. He is Marlon Brando with fur and bigger (but only slightly) jowls.
I remember that at his drop-off our client requested a fecal, a micro-chip, vaccines, and a neuter after he was tested for FeLV/FIV and found clear. I also remember over hearing her say to the receptionist that she had had him for "over a year." He certainly looked like he was 2 or older. I went back to my appointments and left George in the capable hands of the staff.
At arrival this morning I gave George his exam. He certainly is an impressive boy. He isn't afraid of anything, generally allows you to do anything to him, and has a presence about him of calm, secure confidence. The chicks love him, and he knows it.
The surgery technician informed me that his FeLV/FIV test was negative, and that he appeared to have ear mites. He was also getting sick of being scruffed. Seems he thought it demeaning, and he was done with the pleasantries of mild protest.
I concurred with the surgery tech. He was in excellent health, minus the ear mites.
A dose of sedation was drawn up and delivered via three people, a muzzle, and a few pleadings of "this will be quick, relax." He went into his anesthetic slumber quickly, and easily.
He was clipped, scrubbed, and prepped for surgical castration within a few minutes. I was gloved and holding one testicle in one hand and cutting it away from the body with the other when I heard the "beep, beep" of the microchip scanner being passed over his back.
One testicle removed, one to go, and this cat has a microchip. Not good. We all quickly quibbled between each other..."Who micro-chips a cat and then doesn't neuter him?" one tech asked.
"Crap!" I thought. This cat doesn't belong to this owner, and I don't think I can only do half a neuter? "Can I?" I already have the other teste cut, clamped and ready to be cut.."Crap!" Think quick and move on..I said to myself,,you still have a cat under anesthesia.
I finished the neuter and asked the receptionist to “check our computer to see if this chip belonged to a cat that was a patient of ours?”
One minute later she returned to say that "He's not ours."
"OK, please call the chip in and see if we can find out who he belongs to?”
“I better call the client, and see if they know what's up?" I said.
I went to call our very good client and started my internal finger crossing.
"Hello Mrs. M. it's Dr. Magnifico. We neutered George and realized half way through his neuter that he already has a micro-chip."
"OHHH! NO!!!" she said rather loudly and very dramatically. "What do I do?"
"Well," I replied “I think we should see if we can find his owners and then go from there."
"OK, can I get into trouble for this?" she asked. It was a valid question, and I was thinking the same myself.
"Can you tell me what you know about him?" As the words came out of my mouth I realized I probably should have had this conversation yesterday. I would not have taken a stray in without looking for a micro-chip first. But I hadn't thought that he was a feral cat or a stray. I had assumed he was her cat. (Oh, how many times do those assumptions get us into trouble?).
My client told me that she had been feeding him for over a year. That he showed up at her house, looking for attention and hand-outs, was friendly, gentle, affectionate, and un-neutered. She said that her daughter had grown very attached to him and that they had scoured the neighborhood looking to see if there were “Lost” posters with his mug posted but never found any, so they had decided to keep him, provide him veterinary care, and have him neutered. Somehow all of this discussion had missed the front desk, or at least missed my ears yesterday.
It is our policy, and practice, to scan every pet who walks in the door without formal adoption papers. In full disclosure I will admit that I have not ever seen or heard of a micro-chip unneutered cat. It is common practice to micro-chip at spay and neuter time. I also thought that JVC was the only clinic in a multiple state area to offer free micro-chips. So who would pay for a micro-chip and then not spay or neuter?
I spoke to my client for a few minutes and then I asked her if “I could call the owners of the cat for her?”
Pause,,,,”Well?,,,Umm,,,” she wasn’t forming any sentences and I didn’t know if she was going to be the hard side of this custody battle.
“Yes, he is their cat. I guess so.” I think she was more worried about getting into trouble with the “good deed” then she was about losing her daughters new BFF, but I also think that this was a close draw.
OK, I thought, we have our first party sounding agreeable to a compromise, let’s see what the other party sounds like.
I hung up and started calling the numbers that the micro-chip company had provided. The listed owners’ phone number was “no longer in service.”
I tried the emergency contact. I got an answer. The second I introduced myself as “Dr. Magnifico from Jarrettsville Veterinary Center” and asked if she “knew who owned a male brown tabby cat?” I got a scream.
“Oh my god is he dead?”
“No, he is fine.” I replied. “He was brought in by a client to be vaccinated, neutered and micro-chipped. When we went to micro-chip him we found he had one already, and that’s how I found you.”
She went on to explain that he was adopted from the Humane Society almost 2 years ago by her daughter. Since then her daughter and granddaughter had moved in with her. They had had some financial hardships over the last year or so and not ever gotten around to having him neutered. (Secret very loud inward scream and cringe on my side of the phone. No wonder we can’t get the feral cat population under control. The Humane Society is adopting out unsprayed, unneutered cats! ARGH!) She also told me that they had tried multiple ways to keep him inside but that he had broken through screens, screamed all night, and refused to be an inside cat. (I really, really, wanted to mention that maybe neutering would have helped curb his wanderlust?, but my primary objective was to make peace and keep my clients, and my own butt, out of any more hot water). She also told me that they had spent the last two nights calling for him around the neighborhood.
I asked her “What his real name was?”
“Matt” she replied.
After a few minutes of talking I understood that this family truly loved Matt.
She asked “what the bill was?”
I told her that “I wouldn’t charge her for the exam, and that I would only charge her for the neuter and vaccines.” I also asked if I could exchange each other’s phone information.
In the end, Matt has gained what he already had, but no not secretly anymore; two families that love and care for him.
And I will resume scanning first, and not depending so much on believing that I have the whole story.