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August 06, 2004

Making a list of people to bite

After hearing my whole life about the ordeal of post-exposure rabies prophylaxis, the reality is, shall we say, somewhat anticlimactic.

Becky has been capturing the feral cats in the neighborhood, altering and releasing the adults (and believe me, that release part comes under some duress; our feelings about trap-neuter-release are far from uniformly positive). The kittens she's trapped are being routed to adoption agencies, with mostly good results so far.

Thistle has moved out of his rabbit hutch into a capacious new cage that allows him to come and go as he pleases, and we've been keeping kittens in his old hutch in the garage. The last batch comprised four cuties of about six or seven weeks of age, and Craig and I spent a lot of time handling them, clucking at them when they hissed at us, and generally coaxing them to purr and mew and act like pet cats. This was successful, and the four are embarked on new lives as lap cats.

So when I came home the other day to Craig telling me that they'd caught a gorgeous little white kitten, I headed for the garage, picked the thing up, and attempted to calm it past its hissing.

Craig met me in the kitchen a couple minutes later, looked at the stream of blood flowing off my right hand, and said "I suppose I should have told you it's not very friendly."

Oh, I deserved everything the cat did to me. I picked it up, refused to admit to myself that the cat was really unhappy, and it struggled and batted at my arms for probably a full two minutes. Finally, at wits' end after howling and hissing and batting and me still not letting go, it sank its fangs deep into my right index finger and held on.

So yesterday I got four injections: one long-overdue tetanus shot, two in the ass with 11 milliliters each of immunoglobulin, and one in the remaining arm with the rabies vaccine. I need to go back four more times for the rest of the rabies series.

I could actually have avoided all but the tetanus by having the public health people quarantine the kitten for ten days. But if the thing has any chance to be tamed, it needs those ten days in a calm, friendly household. And the worst part of the injections is the hassle of driving to the hospital. Gone are the days of cruel spikes in the gut: today's rabies vaccinations are hardly noticeable. Progress.

After I came home yesterday, we caught another couple kittens: tiny gray dots who hiss and growl amusingly and ineffectually curled up in our palms. We've been hand-feeding them. They'll do well.

Update, 1:17 PM. As the feral cat rescue person was getting ready to leave with the above-listed cats, we caught two more of the little grays' siblings, bringing the total rescued kittens to one dozen for the year.

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The legend of post-exposure rabies shots is based on the old series, which was phased out maybe 25 years ago. That series of shots was pretty painful, recipients have told me. But I've had the post-exposure shots a couple of times (as well as the pre-exposure shots) and now they're not such a huge honkin' deal.

Posted by: Ian at August 6, 2004 11:13 AM
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Wow, you guys are much more successful as a foster home than we are... (two of the four kittens we rescued are now permanent fixtures). Huge applause for catching ferals and getting them fixed. I have a new understanding of the scale of this problem, having been deep in the world of shelters for the past couple of months or so.

We're thinking of trapping ferals also. What's Becky using as bait?

Posted by: Pica at August 7, 2004 07:14 AM
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My rabies nightmares were set in stone by "Old Yeller" - did you read it 9a dog story) when you were a kid? I'm all for compassion, Chris, but please be careful in your rescuing...needles I can do without.

Posted by: beth at August 7, 2004 06:31 PM
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I'm about ready to shake my fist at you for posting the pictures of those kittens.

I've been thinking idly of volunteering to do foster-parenting for our local human society (it's been ages since I've had an animal to care for and I would love to have the opportunity to do so again, but at the same time it would be unfair of me to commit to a cat when I don't know where I'll be two years from now). And now, after seeing those two little grey dustballs, I have no other choice.


Good luck with the rest of your shots, though. Ouch. I agree with Pica; you're performing an admirable deed. And from someone who's trapped feral cats before . . . I'm impressed by your ingenuity. They're not easy prey.

Posted by: Siona at August 7, 2004 10:53 PM
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No. Sly little predators, they are.

Those kittens are adorable. I'm glad they're still capable of being tamed. :)

Posted by: Rana at August 9, 2004 02:20 PM
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The grey dots are impossibly cute.. I want to crush them in my arms but I better not for their sake and mine.

My grandma has taken care of homeless cats all of her life. The last just died a few weeks ago and although she turned 89 yesterday, she wants to and will go on with her duty.

Posted by: Anne at August 11, 2004 02:11 AM
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