Is this yours? Our neighbour, suitably masked and reaching across the requisite two meters, profers a striped, wrinkled and hair covered thing. Holding it at arms length, gripped between thumb and forefinger, it looks like the sloughed-off skin of a snake or giant caterpiller, stretched, wrinkled and empty. Or, I think, a babygrow with truncated arms and legs and poppers at the rear end, favoured by parents with military aspirations for their offspring and a shortage of nappies. Either way he is a brave man to bring it round. Yes I say and grab it before he asks. I thrust a bottle of medical grade anti-everything hand gel at him – have a skoosh, leave it on the window ledge, and thank you.
Amongst the many trials of lock-down is that the vets are closed. Our cat, Sebastian, named after the athlete who in years past probably cycled round the local hills while training – but that’s another story – managed to open an old wound on his back. His back (the cat’s not the athlete’s) is scaly, hairless and well, pretty awful looking but we love him anyway. Periodically he manages to catch himself on a branch, or fight with another cat and his fragile skin splits open. Summer is not a good time – applying sunscreen to an unwilling cat is tricky enough, but an open wound on a cat in the season of flies and mellow fruitfulness is a difficult thing to manage.
What do we do we asked the vet who was homeworking and remote? We sent photographs. Try sudacrem they said. It made Sebastian vomit. The problem with a cat is it licks with sandpaper tongue, incessantly. The vet dropped off the inevitable plastic cone – make him wear that for a week or two they said. Oh dear we said. But we are past masters at cone fitting, its all in speed and pulling the head through complete with ears rather than pushing the cone over. Sebastian is also a master at getting it off. Fearing sepsis if the wound didn’t heal, we tied it tight – just short of strangulation and two weeks later the wound was healed and scab free.
Despite our daily brushing and grooming and pandering, the first thing Sebastian did was to run off returning several hours later with his back licked raw. Two months on and three repetitions of the routine we decided to rethink our strategy. Repeating the same process over and over and expecting different results is the definition of stupidity (or empiricism), or from a cat’s perspective, of genius. We asked our daughter who knows about such things, or knows people who know people who know. You should get him a surgical recovery suit she said. It’s like a babygrow for cats, it’s firm and tight and fits round the tail with a hole beneath for –. Yes, we said, we get it.
Surgical recovery suits are at least 10 times the price of a cone so we stuffed Seb into one and warned him, get out of that and you will wear a cone for the rest of your life. Well, he took to the suit quite well and despite walking bandy-legged while it stretched-in, he seemd quite content. We allowed him to get out into the garden convinced that even the largest of magpies would not approach a giant spitting black and green striped caterpillar with a fluffy tail.
Three days later the suit resembled a string vest where he had licked the fabric into holes. Another day and he came home without it and his wound, that had healed nicely, freshly peeled. What do we do now we asked ourselves – file down his tongue, sprinkle cayenne pepper on the suit?
No, that would just be cruel so we bought another suit, persuaded him gently into it and repeated the routine. Five days later he came in without it; open wound again. Back in the cone he went, healed again, peeled again. New suit. Right Houdini-Seb, we said, this time we really, really mean it. Stay in that suit or it will be suit and cone together for a month, and then – the crate.
This healing process was becoming expensive so we messaged the neighbours – if you find a disgusting green hairy thing on your grass or snared in a bush – it is ours – please give it back. So here today is my neighbour with the latest catsuit, not in purple lycra as you might expect, but small wrinkled and dead-looking, hair and drool-encrusted and with two large microfibre shoulder pads fashioned from old dusters.
Here kitty kitty – look what we’ve got for you.
(Content slightly fictionalised)