AUSTRALIANS love an underdog. Supposedly it is a national trait. And, as we’ve moved around the world housesitting during the past year or so, I have to say I have found myself drawn to the pets whose lives are a bit of a struggle at times.
We’ve watched over the deaf and the blind, the young, the very old and the spoilt and neurotic. And sometimes a combination of two or more of those. Each pet has had to be treated with the respect that their illness or disability demanded, just as a human would.
Medicating a family pet usually doesn’t take much trouble and sometimes it can even be turned into fun for the animal. Just hide a pill inside a tasty treat and old Fido will wolf it down happily and even sit there panting for more. Trying to get a pill-popper into a cat’s mouth can be another matter, but so far I still have both arms attached at the shoulders.
Some medications even have an odour that attracts pets and they can’t get enough. But, of course, there’s a strict limit to what they can have, and that’s your responsibility.
It has to be taken very seriously.
On one recent housesit we cared for three cats. Two, including Gilmore (below), were diabetic and the third stayed under the bed until a few days before we were due to leave.
After speaking with our host on a video hook-up and watching her administer injections to the diabetics, we arranged to arrive two days early. This meant we had to find paid accommodation nearby. Our host then was kind enough to invite us for dinner each evening and we went through the cats’ medication routine with her.
When the sit started, we set an alarm so we would be up at the same time each morning to administer the meds and ensured we were home at the same time each night for the evening doses.
It turned out to be quite easy for us — you don’t have to be a vet — and not at all distressing for the cats, who did not seem to even notice the injections. One needed 1mg morning and evening; the other 4.5 in the morning and 3.5 in the evening. Or was that 3.5 in the morning and 4.5 in the evening?
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The shy ones
As for the shy little girl under the bed, we pretty much ignored her and she eventually came to us. Cats seem to be wired that way, as we’d discovered previously while caring for a handsome and pampered tonkinese.
For the first few days, he hissed whenever we were in his vicinity — even when we were giving him food — and spent most of his time on the top bunk in a spare room. We studiously ignored him and guess what? Yep, he eventually became a lap cat who, we’re told, searched the house for us after we left.
Before becoming a house sitter I hadn’t any experience with deaf or blind pets. Now I marvel at the way they just get on with life. Case in point – Missy, one of six cats we cared for during one of our fist sits outside Australia. Missy was blind and obviously had plotted routes around the perimeters of rooms so she could get from A to B without bumping into anything. She also had familiarised herself with parts of the back garden and knew where the cat door was. So she required little or no assistance.
And she could hold her own if there were any family disagreements, so to speak.
We’ve looked after a couple of deaf dogs, who compensated by keeping an eye on us while out walking and taking cues from other dogs on when they were being called, or when to wait.
I find it all quite fascinating … or maybe I’m just a sick puppy.