Normally I would say without hesitation that I’m a good cat mom. I know a lot about the right things to do and do my best to follow through on my good intentions. Toby is a generally happy, well-adjusted cat who lives a great life.
I feed Toby high quality food. I make sure he has multiple quality play sessions in a day. I try to minimize his daily stress, but still push him a bit so he gains confidence. His litter box is right next to the human toilet since that seems to make him really happy (he’s startled a few friends whom he’s followed into the powder room with that habit of his). I call the vet as soon as anything seems strange with his health. I will deprive myself before Toby. I never yell at him. I always use positive rewards and work to replace behavior I don’t like with similar behavior that I do (look the bar is covered in sticky stuff but if you go the long way into the kitchen you get a delicious treat!) When we go out of town, I check with his sitters about how he’s doing and how he’s playing with them. Heck, Toby’s cat tree was set up in prime window space before we emptied any boxes. I’d say that 95% of the time, I would happily say that I’m a good cat mom.
Then I go to the vet and the guilt trip begins as soon as I make the appointment.
This morning was Toby’s checkup. Nothing has been wrong with him but it was time for vaccine boosters and a general checkup. I began feeling guilty a week in advance.
- His weight. Toby’s nickname when he was younger was Tubby Toby. He’s a cat who loves food. He will eat plastic and paper, opening drawers to find them, if he thinks he hasn’t had enough food. For the past two years he’s been steady at 11 pounds (he is a naturally large cat so 11 pounds was healthy for him). Then we moved and his weight started to go up. I was giving him calming treats to help with the stress. He got pushy again about finding paper we’d hidden. He gave me that look and that meow that breaks my heart and makes me feel that, well, maybe he played a lot today and I should give him more food. We noticed that he was looking a bit rounder than he used to and I started feeling guilty. This morning at the vet we found out he’d somehow gained 2 pounds! That’s a lot of extra weight for a cat.
- His carrier. I know that the best thing to do is to keep the carrier out so that Toby gets used to it and can use it as a comfy hiding spot. We put it away for our New Year’s party and I forgot to take it back out again. Three days ago we remembered to get it down from the closet. Toby saw the carrier and hid. My guilt increased. I sprayed his favorite blanket with Feliaway and put it in the carrier along with a treat by the door. I still felt guilty.
- His claws. I don’t clip Toby’s claws. Even though my vet has told me that it’s fine for me to not clip Toby’s claws because he only uses them appropriately and sheds them regularly, I still always worry that this will be the visit when he attacks the veterinarian or vet tech. Just worrying about the potential for my Toby to cause someone harm because of my not wanting to stress Toby out (he had a bad claw cutting incident with his first guardian and no amount of slow reintroducing of clippers helped) increases my guilt.
- His teeth. The veterinarian found two cavities. I’m awful at brushing Toby’s teeth. I keep working on helping Toby tolerate brushing (pets he loves, but brushing he likes only for very short periods of time). I somehow don’t have that fortitude with teeth brushing. That’s changing now that he has an appointment next month to have two teeth pulled because of how deep the cavities are.
Thankfully I go to a wonderful veterinarian’s office where everyone is incredibly kind. Both the veterinarian and the vet tech assured me that apart from the teeth and the weight, Toby is in great health. They both said that a lot of pet parents aren’t great about teeth brushing and then gave me some tips to try and demonstrated on Toby. The vet tech even commented on how well-behaved Toby was. I tried to apologize for Toby’s hissing, but the vet tech pointed out that of course Toby was hissing. We’d hiss too if someone shoved a needle in our bum without explaining. He swore up and down that although Toby hissed at him a few times, he was just communicating and hadn’t even tried to scratch or bite when they drew blood for some tests.
So am I a perfect pet parent? No. I get distracted, I make mistakes and I definitely give in too easily when Toby begs for extra kibble. But responsible isn’t the same as perfect. I’m a good, responsible pet mom. I do my best and I keep trying to improve. Heck, when looking up ways to improve Toby’s next vet experience, I was happy to see that I already follow most of the tips listed in our Keep Your Cat Calm During a Vet Exam article!
Toby has an appointment to have those teeth taken care of in February. Until then, his carrier will stay out and I’ll follow the advice in our article Get Your Cat to Like His Carrier. After that, I’ll refer back to our How To Brush Your Pet’s Teeth article when I forget my vet tech’s tooth brushing demonstration and make sure I take better care of Toby’s teeth.
Right now, Toby seems to have forgiven me for being imperfect and is happily staring out the window while purring on his cat tree. I’ll report back if the teeth cleaning appointment goes more smoothly than this morning’s checkup!