Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Ever since we moved to the new house, Peaches has taken refuge in the only place she has felt safe: the top of a stack of plastic crates in the laundry room. From her 9' high perch, she can see all that goes on, and can hide from whatever noise that scares her. I always felt nervous about this "safe" place, as she had to climb the dryer, then walk along a narrow ledge, 8' high, to get up and down from it. It was never a problem until Monday night.

I came home from work, and after some time, we noticed that she was acting strangely. Meowing inappropriately, sitting in one spot, squinting one eye, running upstairs instead of downstairs.... very unusual behavior for a normally happy, bouncy cat. Looking closer, I finally saw the evidence; a huge, raised, red bump above her eye.

I panicked. What the hell happened to my cat ? Danny told me he'd heard a crash in the laundry room before I arrived home, but he wrote it off as she and Mocha having their normal, fur-flying scrap fights. That wasn't the case this time, as indicated by this horrible bump. She had fallen, likely from the 8' ledge, and had hit her head on something on the way down.

In a state of pronounced anxiety, I called the vet, who recommended I take her to the emergency clinic. And when I looked even closer, I noticed an ominous sign.

Her pupils were unequal.

This is a telltale sign of a brain injury, even in humans.

As an EMT, when I treat a head trauma patient, one of the first things I do is check the pupils. Are they equal ? Reactive to light ? In Peaches' case, the first test failed. In a full-fledged state of panic, I loaded her in the crate, and took her hastily to the emergency vet clinic.

They checked her eye surface (it was fine), gave her a shot to reduce the swelling on her brain, and asked me to keep her overnight for observation. Outwardly, I was composed, and said sure, whatever it takes for her to help her heal. But inside, my heart was breaking. My beloved cat was hurt, and there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it. It took all the strength I could muster to keep my composure while I left the clinic, empty handed.

When I got home, I collapsed in tears into Danny's arms. I didn't sleep a wink.

Yesterday morning, the clinic told me she was ready to come home. Her pupils were back to equal sizes, she was awake and alert, and was causing trouble as usual by jumping into the cupboards in the exam room. The vet said she definitely had a concussion, recommended we keep her off the ledge and any other high places, and asked that we watch her for any signs of continuing injury. But for now, she was doing just great.

Relief washed over me when saw that she was perky and curious as always. This cat normally despises the crate and the car, and loudly protests every time she is in that situation. Her agonized caterwauling on the way home, which was absent on the way there, was the most comforting sound to me. It meant that she would be just fine.

That evening, we took the large roll of bubble wrap left over from our move, and taped it to the wall by the ledge, and all up and down the stack of plastic storage crates. Every possible route to the perch was sufficiently covered.

It looks ugly as hell having bubble wrap all over our laundry room. But it keeps our kitty safe from further harm.

That's more important than a pristine room.

Now if only I can get Mocha to stop sleeping in the litter box, life would be perfect.


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