On Thursday I took the cats to the vet for their annual checkup / booster administration. Usually how this goes is:
- I get the cats into the travel baskets
- I drive to the vet - 10 minutes - accompanied by piteous wailing from Bonzo.
- We wait in the waiting room where I make smalltalk with other pet owners while Bonzo cowers and Buddy falls asleep.
- We go to the vet's "business room" where Bonzo objects to everything with hisses and the occasional mrrrrr while Buddy sits there placidly and allows the vet to do pretty much whatever. (Bonzo has on occasion escaped in this room, causing a somewhat keystone cops pursuit to ensue)
- We return to Chez Waider where Bonzo stares at me balefully for a few hours.
- Bonus points, sometimes we have to administer pills orally, which is its own barrel of laughs.
- no piteous wailing
- we waited in the car outside the vet's until called, so no smalltalk or cowering. Buddy slept, as usual.
- no baleful staring. In fact, some hours after the vet, Bonzo had morphed into LoveCat 9000, which is what we refer to her as when she's particularly affectionate; yes, the "9000" is riffing on Derek's writing in t.b all those years ago, and yes, my wife adopted it instantly when she heard me using it in some entirely other context.
The vet noted that Bonzo's weight was down again, and she's 10 years old, so maybe kidneys, maybe idiopathic cystitis, so I would need to get a urine sample.
OKAY. So the cats have shared litter trays. They have two trays, but I have no idea which cat uses which; I think they basically use whichever one takes their fancy. Normally when we need to separate something for cat purposes, we put one thing up high, where Buddy - the fat cat, aka Lardo Catrissian, captain of the Millennium Fatcon - can't get to, while Bonzo, who is a sort of freerunning ninja cat, has easy access. We don't have a way of doing that with litter trays, so I had to create a cat quarantine area, with a single litter tray containing the special non-absorbent litter, which is small in quantity and light in weight. This will become important shortly.
Cat litter, water bowl, food bowl into the "rear utility room", a 4m x 2m space at the back of the house. A lot of it is taken up with cupboards but there's enough room to lay everything out so the input is not next to output if you know what I mean. I also put a cat basket in there. This room is unheated and the nights are starting to get a bit cooler, but I figured it'd be ok for the few hours necessary to Get The Pee. Hahahaha.
Bringing Bonzo to the room proved a bit more fun than I'd anticipated: she's generally ok with me picking her up and carrying her around, but maybe the distance was too great or she got a whiff of scheming pheromones but as we approached the Hot Zone she decided she wanted out and managed to hook a claw into a basket on top of the washing machine, and while trying to propel herself used my inner bicep, chest, and wrist as leverage. Ow. I managed to hold onto her, prevented the basket from coming down on top of us, and safely deposited her in the Hot Zone. (cue baleful stare)
I closed the door to the room, having had a brief argument with cats over who and how many of them were supposed to be on which side. Once the cats were properly arranged, Buddy floomfed down in front of the door, facing it, apparently determined to stand watch. Buddy normally doesn't come within clawing distance of Bonzo, and generally doesn't much hang out with Bonzo, so I find this behaviour odd, but he's done it before. Shrug, "cats." And then I went to bed.
I was having a bit of a restless night, so I heard the "bonk bonk-bonk" quite clearly. I thought about what was in the Hot Zone that Bonzo could have knocked over and came up with a plausible plastic object that would produce the appropriate sound - a storage box that I'd left standing on end due to the confined space in the room - but would have fallen partially across the litter tray in doing so, possibly spoiling plans. And so I got up to check.
(Because I was sort of half-asleep when this happened, I noted some other sounds but didn't put two and two together. There was some scratching from a litter tray, and at the same time there was some cat walking sounds upstairs. Buddy's notion of stealth is sort of like you, drunk, at 2am, trying to sneak up the stairs to your room. So cat walking sounds upstairs meant Buddy, which meant that was not Buddy making litter tray noises, and the Pee Collector should not have been, well, audible.)
The first thought I had when I exited the bedroom to the hallway was, "I shouldn't be able to see out the glass door at the back of the Hot Zone". Indeed I should not, because there should have been a solid wooden door between me and the glass door; somehow, the cats had contrived to open the door, and Bonzo was no longer in the Hot Zone. The "bonk bonk-bonk" was the door coming to rest against the doorstop that protects the wall from the door handle. Fortunately, Lardo had not immediately christened the Pee Collector (because that's what he usually does as soon as you put down fresh litter) so I reclosed the door and went looking for Bonzo, who I found upstairs in her favourite beanbag, curled up nonchalantly snoozing. I picked her up and brought her back down, being careful to steer clear of any baskets this time. I then started looking for ways to ensure no further door hijinks could ensue.
I will note at this point that when we moved into the house, there were keys for all the internal doors but none of them were labelled, and I eventually got a bundle of keyrings, tested each key, and put it on an appropriately-labelled keyring. However, during the renovation, we discarded one of the doors, and the workers may have moved doors around, and somehow there were two unlabelled keys, so I had to do a bit of trial-and-error. At some point I figured the required key was missing so I started looking for a bungie cord to secure the door. As this was about 1am, I was attempting to do this quietly to avoid disturbing Mrs. Waider (who sleeps like Rip Van Winkle, so stealth is unnecessary, but I prefer not to take chances) Eventually after a second round of key testing I found the right key and locked the door. Job Done, back to bed.
Come morning, someone hadn't peed. As (interruption: Bonzo just now tried to climb on my lap and in doing so selected all the text.) noted above, someone who doesn't sound like a baby elephant when walking upstairs had used the other litter tray, so I guess the tank was empty. That meant someone was going to have to spend more time in the Hot Zone. Fortunately I had taken both Thursday and Friday off work; for some inexplicable reason I seem to have a bunch of unused vacation days...
Cue montage, where I periodically trundle downstairs to the Hot Zone, inspect the litter tray, determine it's still dry, and go back to whatever advanced slacking off I had been engaged in.
At some point I figured that maybe if I slacked off in the Hot Zone, cat would be lulled by my company into using the Pee Collector. I set up a rudimentary seat and sat down with my Kindle. I expanded the Hot Zone into the next room, which meant that Buddy wasn't going to be able to access his food, but I figured if my plan worked it it'd work soon.
Bonzo inspected my perch, then her expanded quarantine. Buddy had once again taken up his post outside the closed door, and at some point Bonzo was standing with hind legs on the countertop, one hand, sorry, paw, on the door lever, and the other paw at the gap between the door and doorframe. With a bit of effort or accident I can see this opening the door, which may be what had happened overnight.
Continuing her inspection, Bonzo approached the Pee Collector. Poked at the litter. Did a bit of circling. I held my breath. Then, because it's what she does, she climbed onto the edge of the litter tray to Assume The Position.
Oh no. Remember what I said about "small in quantity and light in weight"? Perching on the edge of the litter tray works well when it's got a good, weighty quantity of CatSan in it. A handful of little plastic beads? Not so much. The tray didn't flip, quite, but it did obey all relevant laws of physics, thus ensuring that Bonzo (a) did not pee and (b) was now HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS of the Pee Collector. Dammit.
I figured the only thing to do was to close her in and wait it out. After a bit of thinking I found a way of wedging the litter tray so that it wouldn't flip over during the high-wire balancing act; then I returned the Hot Zone to its smaller configuration, locked the door, and wandered back upstairs. When I checked at 1pm, habemus urine. Boy howdy did we have urine. I took the pipette and the test tube and collected as required, and there was enough to fill the tube twice had I needed to do so. Props to Bonzo for her awesome urine retention and her discipline in using litter vs. randomly peeing whereever.
It was all a bit of an anticlimax after that. I handed the pee sample in to the vet's and went home to wait for results. (wifey, via SMS: "how is the pee"; me: "will find out later by phone. peephone.") The vet phoned at 7:30pm and said everything was fine: no protein, blood or other unexpected things in a perfectly healthy urine sample. The good news is that this means both cystitis (treatable with diet change) and kidney disease (the vet was hedging when talking about this so I got the impression it was a good deal more serious) are off the table, but we still have a decline in weight to contend with, so for now Bonzo's kibble is going up in The High Place to ensure she's actually getting all of it, and we'll be back to the vet next month for a weight check before deciding what to do next.