Tuffy-Cat came into the office this afternoon, announcing her arrival with a plaintive, slightly questioning ‘mraow?’
I bent down to scratch the top of her head, and she ducked, flattening her ears. This wasn’t her normal response. Usually she arches her neck to push her head into my hands and then arches up her back, making sure that the rest of her body moulds itself into my hand, as I run it down her back and up all the way to the tip of her tail.
She turned around and looked up at me with huge eyes. I saw that there was something white sticking out of the front left side of her mouth. It looked like a feather. Had she caught a bird?
I gently reached towards her again, and this time she allowed me to touch the top of her head, and to run it down the right side of her face, turning her head so that I could scratch her softly under the right side of her chin.
The white thing wasn’t a feather. It looked more like a clipping from one of her toenails, which she likes to prune with such vigour.
But she wouldn’t let me get a closer look, and ducked away from my hand again. After a few more circuits of the office, around the heater and the chairs, she finally settled down on the seat of Richard’s chair. But she still wouldn’t let me get a look at her mouth, so I left her in peace.
Later this evening, she trotted into the kitchen where I was preparing supper, and scratched around her food bowl, which contained those little round pellets of the Hills Science Diet. She wasn’t eating, though. She’d dip her head in and move the pellets around, but she wasn’t crunching them. She moved over to the water bowl and drank a bit, and then stood, looking up at me.
I suddenly realised that the white thing was most likely one of her corner teeth. Oh cripes. Cats are supposed to have four of them, but our kitty had already lost one before she’d moved in with us. Now here it looked as though she’d just broken off another one.
For the rest of the evening, she paid repeated visits to the kitchen, but didn’t manage to eat any of the pellets. She would try, but then pulled back her head suddenly as though the pellet had bitten her back, and would lick her lips and nose repeatedly.
I crumbled up a couple of pellets, and left them on a plate for her, even dipping a finger into the crumbs and holding it for her to lick. Although she sniffed at it curiously, she didn’t want to lick it. I softened them up in a little bit of warm water, and tried that. Nope, not interested either.
When she came back from the outside just now, I saw that the piece of tooth – or whatever it was – had gone. She must have licked it off somehow. She trotted over to the food bowl for another attempt, but gave up. I think she must be very hungry by now.
It looks like we’ll have to take her to the v-e-t tomorrow morning.
I did a bit of research on the net about cats’ teeth, but all it did was make me feel acutely guilty and incompetent. All the websites emphasise how important it is for human owners to brush and clean their cat’s teeth:
- About.com: Cats: “How To Examine Your Cat’s Teeth and Gums”
- Cat Teeth Care: “Your cat’s teeth”
- Green Living: “Cat Teeth-Cleaning Tricks”
- About.com: Cats: “How to Clean Your Cat’s Teeth”
They say useful things, like: “Open the cat’s mouth, insert your fingers to rub her gums clean with a piece of gauze, and clean her teeth with a small toothbrush.”
Are they crazy?
We can’t even take Step One! Well, not without anaesthetizing our cat anyway. I think if Tuffy-Cat had come into our lives as a kitten, we would have had a far better chance, but she is old(ish), set in her ways (stubborn), and she’s had a seriously rough childhood on the streets. The closest I’ve ever come to getting near her mouth is to rub her gums from the outside. But I have to do it literally ‘by accident’, such as when I’m giving her an all-body rub-and-scratch.
She has a highly developed 7th sense (yes, 7th) for secret intentions (e.g. I have to give her this worm tablet, or I have to check her teeth, or I have to put some anti-flea ointment on her head, or we have to take her to the v-e-t now). She’ll see right through you if you try to pull one of those stunts.
So I hope she’ll let us take her to the vet tomorrow.
I’m now waiting for her to give one of her inimitable jaw-cracking and ear-flattening yawns in the hope I’ll get a glimpse of the situation in her mouth.