Media – At-Home with the Feline Herd

cat crowd

Part 2 in a series
At-Home with the Feline Herd
Crowded Eccentricity
Cattle, pigs, and sheep, rubbing shoulders in large groups, risk spreading infectious diseases, leading veterinary medicine to the concept of herd immunity. A crowd of 26 cats with discharges from their 52 eyes and nostrils presented a serious herd health debacle. No loses were acceptable. In the exam room and in their home I noticed Brianna and Nettie handling each of their kitties in its own special way. They delighted in sharing stories about their antics.

At the outset of the upper respiratory outbreak I needed to figure out how in the world to get my arms around this gathering storm. So I made a home visit. These folks were no strangers to pet loss. Each kitty who transitioned, rather than being cremated, was embalmed by Brianna the mortician. Remains were lovingly arranged, each with its own memorial. As I toured their home I saw photos and tiny coffins each reminiscent of an Egyptian sarcophagus. There were incense bowls accompanied by plates holding a few coins. Shrunken heads hung in alcoves. No one ever truly left the Peabody home.

It sounds rather ghoulish but Brianna, who wore black every day, was generally light-hearted about her cats, past and present. Her mom Nettie behaved as though their lives was as normal and average as everybody else’s. As I made my observations I tried not to gasp or shudder, comporting myself as though I had seen it all before. Maybe I fooled them.

Cats were pretty much everywhere. Many relaxed on furniture or the coffee table, others camped out on the hoods of the vintage Cadillac hearses in the yard. Inside there were candles galore. At my house putting a cat out involves opening the door. At the Peabody home it meant quickly wrapping one in a thick towel to extinguish its smoldering hair. Despite this calculated gamble there were never any burns.

This was a seriously crowded feline colony. For control of their burgeoning upper respiratory epidemic “thinning the herd” was not on the table. We needed a Plan B. Next week: Plan B.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.