How Sebastian the cat almost used up one of his nine lives.
I met Sebastian the cat in my early years of professional pet sitting and cared for him and his two other cat housemates about once a month. He was black and white and looked much like the cat in the above photo, but he had a little more black on him.
Sebastian was about 18 years old and had what I dub "Kitty Alzheimers". In his old age, he needed reminders to eat, was on thyroid medication, and drank lots and lots of water. He was very lovable and enjoyed being petted and held. He was far beyond wanting to play and preferred laying in sunny spots instead.
His two cat housemates were much younger and spry. They raced around the house chasing each other, played a lot, and were much more muscular than skinny little Sebastian.
These two cats also hated Sebastian. They would pick on him, hiss at him, and overall just didn't like him in their house.
You see, Sebastian was a latecomer to the home. From what the owners told me, Sebastian belonged to their daughter who decided she didn't want him anymore, so her parents took him in. They had no idea about the constant rivalry that would ensue. Luckily the house was huge and Sebastian could separate himself a lot of the time from the two younger cats.
The first morning of this round of pet sitting, I arrived for the breakfast visit and the two younger cats came to greet me. I called for Sebastian and in a minute he came around the staircase from the bedroom. I always took a little more time greeting him to assess how he was doing without his owners constantly in the house because of his age and general fragility.
While the other cats would gobble down their food, Sebastian, being the forgetful little cat that he was, would need reminders. For instance, I'd call him to his food bowl and he would trot over, take a few bites, and walk away. I'd call him back cheerily with a "Hey Sebastian it's breakfast time!" and he'd trot back as if seeing his food bowl for the first time that morning and would take a few bites and walk away. I'd wait a few minutes, call him back again and he was like "Oh goodie - it's breakfast time!" So eventually he'd end up eating all his breakfast. Because he liked water his owners had about 3 bowls around the house so Sebastian would have plenty of water.
So you see, Sebastian needed lots of extra help. Sometimes he'd miss the litter box or the other two cats would scare him away from it, so his owners had a few litter boxes around the house so Sebastian could always find a safe box to do his business.
On this particular morning, Sebastian walked closer to me for a greeting and some petting, and I noticed his tail looked weird. Upon closer examination I noticed he was injured - there was a little blood and some pus on it. The skin was broken. I had a feeling that one of the other cats must've bitten him.
Obviously alarmed, I checked the rest of him out, and then pulled out my cat first aid book which I always had with me. I looked it up and sure enough, it looked like a clear bite from another cat. The book stated that this could be very serious because a bite from another cat could cause death within 24 hours if not tended to.
I called the owners to tell them what I noticed and they said "Oh yes, the cats had a squabble yesterday and we noticed the bite yesterday afternoon before we left. They didn't think much of it. I told them what the first aid book said and they agreed with me that the vet needed to be called asap especially given that about 24 hours had already passed.
I called the vet and they said to bring him right in. I got him in his crate, making sure he was comfy and the other cats watched with curiosity. The vet told me that Sebastian needed tail surgery because it was already infected. We contacted the owners again and the owners gave the vet their credit card number to secure payment and to okay the surgery.
Sebastian was going to be at the Vet's for a day or two. I ended up going back to the house because the vet wanted me to get his food, and thyroid medication, and then back again to the Vet office.
I went back to the house and walked in without the crate or Sebastian and the other cats - and I kid you not - looked at me as if to say "Good - you got rid of him for us!"
So, my morning involved an extra-long pet visit and two trips to the vet. The owners were due back the next day, so I did a dinner visit that day for the other two cats, a morning visit the next day, and then they were home. The vet told me the surgery was a success and after a day of rest, his owners could pick him up.
It was probably another month before I pet sat for these cats again. When I greeted them - and I was eager to see Sebastian especially, they were all warm towards me. Sebastian, as old and forgetful as he could be - was extra cuddly with me, and I took it as a "Thank you Linda" for saving my life gesture. We had a special bond.
His owners, of course, were grateful that I acted quickly and got him the help he needed.
A lesson for pet owners from this story would be to not overlook things that you think might be minor injuries with pets. Get a first aid book. Yes, it is good to be able to look things up online, but what if there is a power outage? You'll need to know what to do and the internet won't be available.
Another lesson for pet owners is that no matter how insignificant you think information about your pet might be, tell your pet sitter. If the pet has a new habit or has been acting a little differently, or if they had a recent vet visit.....anything like that. This information helps.
A while after the incident, one of the owners had a job transfer so they moved out of state with all three cats. They were good people, and I loved their cats. I'm glad I was able to help Sebastian and that I kept my first aid book at the ready that day.
A happy ending to this "tail" - pun intended!