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In Our Own Backyard...You've never been ignored until you've been ignored by the cat

Anyone who has ever had surgery will know that perhaps the worst of it is the stuff you have to do, and not do, ahead of time — eat a low fat diet, no food after 8 p.m. the night before, no coffee the morning of the procedure, and no makeup, no jewelry and practically no clothes in the operating room.

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It's always a tough lead-in to something you’re not particularly looking forward to in the first place, but at least you know and understand what’s going on. It’s much tougher if you’re a cat.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that my precious Mufasa would have to have a surgical procedure done at the vet’s office.

He’d been a reluctant eater for several days (definitely out of character for him). He refused his dry food entirely, and when we fed him wet food out of sympathy, he’d simply gnosh on it, push it around his bowl and never really chew it at all. And on top of that (though apparently unrelated) he’d also taken to the particularly distressing habit of “butt scooting” across the living room floor.

A comprehensive exam at the vet’s office yielded the information that he was showing signs of tartar buildup on his teeth and that he may be experiencing issues with the anal glands in his rear end as well. In other words, we weren’t quite sure just which end was causing the most distress!

The vet said the best way to delve into either — or both — problems was to put him under for a brief period of time and “take a closer look at things.” And so, I made an appointment to take Mufasa in and leave him at the vet's office for the day on Tuesday.

The vet warned me not to feed him after 8 p.m. the night before the procedure, which was what started me fretting in the first place. I mean, how do you tell a cat that he can’t eat his usual snack before bedtime, and what’s worse, that he can’t have his much-anticipated breakfast when you get up in the morning? In a flood of sympathy, I fed him anything — and as much as — he wanted, right up until the 8 p.m. deadline. He’d rallied a bit since the initial vet visit, so he snarfed up what I gave him and gazed expectantly at me, wanting more. I tried to forget about it as we went to bed that night.

The next morning was worse. I awakened to find Mufasa lying next to me, purring softly and expectantly, wanting breakfast. I scratched him behind the ears, told him how handsome he was — and then broke the news that there’d be no breakfast that morning. He leaped off the bed, ran to his food dish — and waited.

To make matters worse, our other cat was begging also, and I was determined that I wasn’t going to lower myself to feeding her in front of Mufasa, even behind a closed door, because I knew Mufasa would recognize the sound of food being poured into the stainless steel bowl and feel neglected.

Everywhere I went, there were the two cats, meowing and staring at me, waiting for me to fill their food bowls. And when I had to put my head down and walk past them, it practically broke my heart.

It didn’t take long before the mood changed from beseeching to angry. Both cats were outraged that we would even consider eating cereal and toast without remembering to feed them first. They meowed, they raced up and down the hallway and they targeted us with withering looks.

As the appointed time to leave for the vet’s office drew near, I dreaded what would come next. Somehow I felt I had to explain to Mufasa that he was going to have be loaded in his carrier, toted out in minus-22-degree weather and make the half hour trip to the vet’s office in the dreaded car. Then, I told him, a nice lady was going to make him sleep while she looked at both ends of him, and I assured him he wasn’t going to feel a thing. I found that I scared even myself, and by the time we headed out the door, I was feeling totally horrible.

It was a long day at work, waiting for the vet to call with Mufasa’s prognosis. And when she did, the news wasn’t all that bad. He’d had a fractured incisor that had to come out, and one of the anal glands in his bottom was impacted and had to be drained. All had gone well, she said, but it was hard to say which end had been causing him the most grief. He was able to come home after he’d had some time to come out of the anesthetic, but he was still pretty groggy as he staggered out of his carrier. He gave me one glazed look as I ooohed and ahhhhed over him, wobbled upstairs — and completely ignored me.