New perspective on relapse

No, I'm not talking about my own relapse. I'm talking about my cat's.

I picked up my cat from boarding at the vet's for the past two and a half weeks, and I was over the moon to get her back. Aria and I are rarely separated, and it was nice to have my best friend by my side again. When I got her home, I let her out of her carrier and picked her up. I saw her leg and my heart sank. Aria has an autoimmune skin condition that makes her leg itch, and she bites at it until the fur is gone and her leg is raw and bleeding. She's on a low dose of steroids to help keep it under control (I tried numerous alterations in her diet, to no avail) and it has been for quite some time. Not right now, though. It flared up again at the vet's.

Assuming they gave her the medication properly, I can understand that Aria was stressed, and the stress can lead to a flare-up. Even if they did everything properly--even if--how did they miss the fact that so much of her leg was raw and weepy? I picked her up and it was the first thing I noticed. Did they not check on her properly?

I called the vet's office and spoke with someone who assured me that Aria's medication was given properly, but they couldn't explain how someone failed to notice that her condition had gotten worse. I wanted to throttle them. This wasn't just any cat--this was my baby! How could they have let this happen? She had been doing so well when she was home with me, and then she leaves and all hell breaks loose.

Somewhere around this point, when I am simultaneously heartbroken and livid, I realize that this must be a bit what it is like to watch someone struggle with an eating disorder. It must have been baffling to my mother how so many people missed spotting my eating disorder when I was sick. It was right in front of them, under their noses and rather obvious, and yet as my illness got worse, everyone claimed to be caught off guard. And then to have had your loved one do so well while at home and safe, and the second your head is turned, bam!

I also better understand the impulse my mom had to bring me home and help me get well. It's not pathological and over-controlling, it's the response of someone who loves their kid and desperately wants them well. That's what Mommies do.

Aria is (hopefully) on the mend. Her injury doesn't look as red and sore, so I think she's stopped biting at it. Now we just need to let her leg heal and find her another vet--one who isn't negligent.

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Harriet said...

Well put, Carrie. Well put.

Dana said...

I hope your cat gets better soon. It's so hard to see your animal sick :(

Dana <3

Tiptoe said...

It is awful when you leave your animals in someone else's hands, and they are negligent of them. We had this happen with a client who boarded their dog at their vet's office. When they picked up their dog, the dog had lost 20 pounds, and no one noticed!

But yes, you are right, it is like a relapse.

Hope Aria's leg heals with time, love, and less stress.

Cathy (UK) said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Aria... This post really upset me; I have this enormous empathy for cats. If I see any cat, but especially my own cats in pain, ill, frightened etc. it's as if it is hurting me personally. Strange as this may sound, I have always felt much closer to my cats than to any human.

I'm glad she is on the mend - and I can appreciate your annoyance with the vet's treatment of her.

Oh, and the analogy with EDs is a good one...

James Clayton said...

Definitely a really good analogy and a powerful reminder. The only difference I guess is that a lot of the time eating disorders sufferers are actively trying to hide things, whereas animals probably aren't eager to disguise their illnesses. It is amazing though how oblivious human beings can be sometimes.

Sorry to hear about Aria though and I hope that she makes a speedy recovery!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your kitty. I hope she's doing better soon! I am a huge animal lover and I can't stand to watch any animal suffer. I think you're probably right, watching your pet suffer is like watching someone with an ED struggle. Over the last few years I have watched family members struggle with their own problems and other than being supportive all I can do is sit back and watch. It's tough and although I wish they weren't struggling, I am grateful that I get to see what everyone else saw while I was struggling.

marcella said...

I hope that Aria recovers soon. Parsley has a similar condition on his back which, thankfully, hasn't recurred this year (yet!)

With my daughter's eating disorder I always found the vet much better than the people doctors because he was trained to observe non verbal cues, not to ask the patient and therefore wasn't thrown by the anosognosic nature of the illness but I guess like everything else some vets are better than others. Sorry that Aria had to suffer because of the mistakes made by yours.

Kushika said...

Just to let you know I wish you cat all the best. It's nice how you juxtaposed this with an ED.

Anonymous said...

The connection you draw between Aria's health & your own experiences is insightful, thoughtful, and (as always) provoking. It's also a good example of what can happen under our noses, and I'll have to share it with my own mom, as I find (as so many of us do with your stories) it particularly touching & similar.

On the kitty's side... as an ex-vet tech & someone who also worked in hospital/boarding facilities, I do caution you against one thing: if you're happy with your particular vet, stick with your vet. Good ones are hard to find. If the facility you board Aria at is big enough it might be similar to ones where I've worked, where it is up to the kennel workers to bring any medical issues up with the doctor, who generally don't check on the animals unless there is some specific condition going on they're keeping an eye on. I have found that while I adore my vet (one I used to work for and trust thoroughly), I would never board my cats at the clinic, because the animals just don't get the same amount of attention as they get at a true cat boarding facility, and I don't think the layout of the boarding area facilitates a low-stress environment.

You can always, always ask to be shown the boarding area & be given a tour of where Aria will be staying. Make sure you are thoroughly happy with the design and the people you meet. But I'd caution against switching to another doctor if you're happy with the rest of the medical care Aria has received there.

Good luck! (and wishing happy, healthy kitty-cat thoughts)

Carrie Arnold said...


Thank you for the vet advice. I'm going to meet with another vet in the area to see what they are like. Aria hasn't really been treated by this vet much (except to update her vaccines) so I don't have strong feelings one way or the other. I will look into cat boarding facilities, though. I live a bit out in the sticks so I'm not sure what's in the area but I will check.

Anonymous said...

This post made me cry. There are far too many of us (mostly adults) that had parents that never cared at all(yes, they knew I had an e/d) My parents had no strong feelings of pulling me close and helping me. I can't even imagine what that would have felt like or how it might have changed the course of my life.

Though it's too late for me, I am so, so glad that this is changing and parents are getting involved. Parents - of kids, of cats, of dogs - should feel strongly about a loved one that is hurting. To stand up for our loved ones is an amazing thing.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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