This is a short story about Lauren, a veterinary assistant who works at Southwest Vet, and Matilda the cat, who met each other unexpectedly in an Austin alley. 

Cat and veterinary assistant meet

Several years ago, Lauren was hired by Southwest Vet as a veterinary assistant because of her love for and dedication to animals. One day at work, while running around caring for patients, Lauren decided she wanted to train for the Austin marathon. “I already walk 15,000 steps a day at work,” she thought. “The extra running will help me keep up with my patients’ needs, and I can raise money for the animal shelter.” Her mind was made up. 

The next day, Lauren began running. It was August, and extremely hot outside. After a couple of miles, Lauren pulled herself over into an alley near her home to rest, and to decide whether to quit, or add a couple of extra miles. As she leaned against the wall, a black cat walked up to her, and rubbed against her leg. Lauren looked down, smiled at the cat, and petted her. “Hi, little lady. Where did you come from?” Lauren decided she had run enough for her first day, and started walking home to her apartment. When she looked back, she was pleased to see the cat following her. 

Cat and veterinary assistant go home together

Lauren was not sure if cats were allowed in her apartment building, but she thought that if her new-found friend stayed with her while she was home, and then went outside while she was working, perhaps that would work.

Soon Lauren’s head was racing with excitement about her new furry friend, but she was also concerned about her safety, since she would have to be an outdoor cat some of the time. 

Lauren decided to make a list of everything she would need to ensure Matilda would be safe outside. As she wrote, she talked to Matilda about each item.

  • #1: Pest prevention — “First, we need to get you on flea and tick prevention, Matilda. Fleas are everywhere in cities, indoors and outdoors, and you likely have them now, you poor thing. If you have fleas, you are likely miserably itchy. I will ask the veterinarians at Southwest Vet to prescribe the best preventive for you during your first appointment.”
  • #2: Viral testing — “Second, we need to have you tested for infectious viral diseases that can make cats very sick. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) can be passed from mothers to kittens, or can be transmitted between cats, and are particularly prevalent in strays. FeLV can damage your immune system, blood cells, or cause cancer, while FIV can cause inflammation of various tissues and organs in your body, including the gums, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, urinary system, and neurologic system, and can also cause a weakened immune system. It is important to know if you are harboring one of these diseases, so I can take proper care of you, and keep you away from other cats, if you are positive”
  • #3: Vaccinations — “Third, if you are disease-free, we need to be concerned about your proximity to other cats, Matilda. Since you probably don’t understand social distancing, you need to be vaccinated against infectious viral diseases, including FeLV, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, and rabies. These viruses can make you very sick, and some can cause death, so it is important that we keep you protected.”
  • #4: Lifelong identification — “Fourth, we should get you microchipped. That’s the only way to give you permanent identification and help us get back together should you get lost. Microchipping is no more painful than a vaccine injection, and a Southwest Vet team member can microchip you when you have your wellness exam.”

Cat and veterinary assistant become family

Lauren stopped writing—and narrating—and called the practice. She told them about Matilda, and an appointment was made for her for the next day.

The next day, Matilda went to work with Lauren. As an alley cat, Matilda was extremely anxious, but Southwest Vet is focused on low stress care for pets, so Matilda was calmed with classical music, calming pheromones, and a cozy bed in the cat ward, and she soon felt comfortable and relaxed, despite her unfamiliar surroundings. Dr. Singleton passed through the cat area to greet Matilda, and then Dr. Dulaney was ready to examine the cat. 

Matilda was a little thin from living on the street, but seemed healthy overall. Some blood was drawn for FeLV/FIV and heartworm testing, she was prescribed flea, tick, and heartworm preventives, and a microchip was inserted close under her skin near her shoulders.

Dr. Dulaney gushed over Lauren’s list that would help protect Matilda outdoors. “You have learned so much since you started working here,” she said. But, there was one more thing.

  • #5: Heat beater — “Your list doesn’t include one thing we can’t really protect Matilda from—the heat. For example, the temperature on a hot day can cause heat exhaustion, hot pavement can burn her paw pads, and a car could hit her. You can ensure she has access to shade, and a bowl of cool water but, unfortunately, cats who live or spend time outdoors are exposed to many dangers, and we can protect them only from a portion of what life throws at them.” 

At Southwest Vet, we know your pets are family. When you choose our hospital for your pet’s care, they are our family, too. No matter what life throws at you or your cat, we want to help. Give us a call when you need us.