-Jane Brunt, DVM
Executive Director, CATalyst Council
Imagine my delight when meeting the legendary cat person Alice deAlmeida for the first time on the morning of National Take Your Cat To The Vet Day. I had arranged to give Matilda a mobile pet bed, a gift from Sleepypod which is a new sponsor of CATalyst Council. Alice was effusive in her gratitude and we began to talk about the reason I was in New York promoting veterinary visits for cats since in the US for every five dogs only one cat visits the veterinarian. “Well in fact, I have to take Matilda to see her vet tomorrow as a follow-up to a kidney infection.” “Really…may I go with you?” I asked. Alice said she’d be delighted and told me to meet in the lobby at 8:15 AM the following day.
The next morning when I arrived at the front desk, Marcus, the Algonquin’s Doorman, had his hand on one of those big fancy brass hotel luggage carts as if he were helping a guest check out. The cart had a single small black rolling suitcase-except this one had a mesh sides with rolled up flaps and a wide zipped flap at the top folded open to reveal the empty cavity inside.
“Where’s she hiding?” I heard Alice say, “She was around here a while ago because I didn’t feed her this morning and I closed the door to her West 44th Street window so I could catch her.” I smiled at the familiarity of the situation. Alice found Matilda tucked behind the printer at the front desk- no beds to hide under down here-and she gently lifted her up and carried her over to the bell cart where she lowered Matilda deftly down into the open top of the cat carrier and zipped it closed.
“OK, we’re off to the vet” Alice exclaimed, and Kevin, that morning’s Bellman, rolled the cart carrying Matilda out the front door. Marcus waved his hand and a Yellow Cab instantly appeared. With Kevin and Marcus’ assistance, Alice, Matilda and I settled into the back seat. “321 East 52nd Street, please” said Alice, leaning forward towards the opening in the partition between the front and back seat, “That’s Eastside Animal Hospital.” Along the way, Alice reported that Matilda was curious about her new Sleepypod and she promised to send me a photo as soon as she got used to being in it.
Matilda was silent throughout the fifteen minute cab ride and even with all the fast-and-slow, stop-and-go, she seemed to be accustomed to the travel and her carrier quite well as she showed no facial features or other signs of fear or distress (thankfully, because that would have been a lot of pressure on the cat veterinarian who was along for the ride). Once we arrived, the cab driver carried Matilda up the steps into the waiting area and pretty soon, Dr. Manning came out to greet us. “She’s doing much better since you gave her that antibiotic injection two weeks ago,” Alice told Dr. Manning, “and I know you said she should have at least one more. She’s due for her annual check-up and shots next month and depending on how she does this time, maybe I’ll bring her a little early for that.”
After some pleasantries about the recent fundraising event Matilda and the Algonquin hosted for The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a charity working with over 150 partner rescue groups and shelters (including Bideawee, a member with which Dr. Manning had participated) to save NYC’s homeless animals, Alice and Dr. Manning bid farewell and Matilda jumped back into to her traveling hideaway to return home. I smiled again at another familiar feline behavior.
In the cab back to the hotel, Alice told me about the time she took Matilda home for several months while the hotel was shut down for renovations. The way she managed introducing a new cat into her own household of four, how she arranged to have them share the space and even feed them was remarkable. Finally, when we were a block away from the hotel, since there was construction the driver asked to drop us off at the corner, so we got out and walked the rest of the way on East 44th Street, with Alice pulling Matilda in the rolling suitcase carrier along behind her, dodging scaffolding over the sidewalk and thumping over the bumps along the way. We arrived at the hotel, Marcus helped us in and Alice took her directly to the room that’s behind the showcase window. There was a miniature flight of steps leading up to the tiny flap door to her window spot. As soon as Alice pulled back the zipper, Matilda ran up the little steps and “disappeared.” I smiled again and wondered if Matilda knew that while she was retreating from her experience and excitement of the morning, that her place in the window was actually more visible to humans staring at her through the glass. Knowing that cats look, listen and learn, I thought she probably does.
Take Your Cat To The Vet Day is an important message and call-to-action for all cat owners. I was fortunate to witness an amazing relationship between a cat and her caregiver that I will remember and hold dear for a long time. Here’s what Alice and Matilda showed me that day:
- True cat lovers recognize and understand their individual cats’ behaviors
- Cats can be introduced to new experiences, places, people and other animals and positive reward for positive behavior benefits cats and people alike
- Cats benefit from veterinary care for both sickness and wellness, and any barriers to getting them there can be managed… even if you don’t live in the Algonquin Hotel
- Cats make you smile