Things We Do To Make Our Pets Avoid Us

I got a response to the post, Is This Scratching Abnormal?, from Amy Rohde, reader and contributor to and author of The Katrina Diary.  Amy says, “Excellent article! I tried to see how often I scratched, poked, itched, and fussed with myself in an hour, and was totally shocked. Now, I’m leaving my poor dog alone instead of investigating each time he scratches– your article has made him very, very happy!”

Amy’s comment reminded me of my first year in veterinary school at Auburn University. The study of anatomy consumed us. Jillions of minute body parts had to be learned, most of which had Latin names in addition to common names. We studied parts we previously didn’t even know existed. We studied some parts many of us have not seen again since!

BD was a big, beautiful cat.
BD was a big, beautiful cat.

Our anatomy textbook, Miller Christensen and Evans (everyone called it MCE for short), was well-worn. I still have mine, even though its cover is barely hanging on. Still, there is no substitute for the real thing and my two dogs, Sam and Blossum, and cats, Charlie and BD, were unwilling participants.

I had a microscopic “office” in the tiny dwelling we resided in and the animals were glad to see me unless I was studying in the office. If I called one if their names they knew I wanted to palpate them to find an anatomical component I couldn’t understand from the book. Of course, there was no cutting involved, but an awful lot of probing and feeling.

Study time, and there was a lot of it, got pretty lonely until BD came along. He was a huge, beautiful black and white cat who strayed up to our home one day and I instantly fell in love with him. I studied in a high-backed rocking chair with wheels, a gorgeous brown naugahyde number I paid a precious $25 for. BD loved to sit on top of the back for me to scratch him periodically as I studied. That would make him contented, which inspired him to eat. He didn’t have to go far for that, as I put his food on a chest of drawers behind me and he could easily jump from the chair to his food and back again. Palpation, scratching, talking, it didn’t matter to BD, any attention was good attention.

BD not only helped me learn anatomy, but he taught me a trick I have used in practice for thirty years. The same sort of attention that inspired him to eat also makes sick and recovering cats eat. There’s something magic about spending a few minutes scratching a cat behind the ears and talking to them softly that stimulates the appetite. It’s not a cure-all, but “priming the pump” has turned many a sick cat around.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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