Aby-a-Day: 24 & 25 August: Cat bites R srs bzns (Friday Flashback/Serious Saturday)

This post is very long, so I’ve made it a two-day post. Also, as a warning, some of the photos are fairly graphic. Blood, stitches, that sort of thing.

One year ago today, just after midnight on 24 August, Pyret bit my finger. We were having problems with giardia, so all the cats in the house needed to be dosed with Fenbendazole in pill form. I was giving everyone their last dose…and Pyret bit down on the first knuckle of my right middle finger.

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This is how it looked 8 hours later.

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And here it is 10 hours after bite.

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Here is the finger 12 hours later, after going to my Vårdcentralen (basically, the medical clinic closest to where you live). Now, I already knew cat bites were serious business (not my first rodeo, people), but I had looked up a Mayo Clinic study on emergency room visits from cat bites to the hand, and tried to tell the doctor that this was serious. But she only spoke Spanish and some Swedish, and she had Googled up a treatment plan – the same treatment plan that I had already Googled whilst in class.

This doctor actually knew less about cat bites than I did! I tried to show her the Mayo Clinic study, but she just looked at my finger (not even taking off the bandage!) and wrote the prescription for just the oral antibiotics. No injection, no asking about a tetanus shot…she didn’t even tell me to take off my rings! That was the first thing my sister, a physician’s assistant, said when I texted her that photo. And I knew that wasn’t enough, but she was the one with the medical degree. Right?

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This is 17 hours after bite. It was also really hurting. I know now I should have gone to the ER, but silly me, trusting the doctor and waiting for the pills to kick in.

Here is my Facebook post from that Thursday: Gather round, kids. Time for a cautionary tale. We have been dealing with Giardia in our home these past two weeks (which is how I discovered Virkon). Our house is now very clean, to say the least. But when one cat has Giardia, they all do, so everyone has to get the pill (Fenbendazole, which is available over the counter at the Apotek in Sweden) every night for four nights. I can handle the LunaTicks, but Björn has to help me with Pyret, because, well, I’ve been feeding her for 14 months but he bottle-fed her…so he calms her down.
Last night, Alfred had broken a lamp, which Björn was dealing with when it was time to dole out meds to the asylum patients. I wrangled the LunaTicks with relatively little trouble, and then I came to Pyret. Björn was still busy with the shards of broken bulb, and I didn’t want to bother him for just a pill, I shrugged and said, “Meh, I can handle her…”
Not so much. While pilling her, she bit me. Hard. Actually punctured both sides of my long finger. It bled a lot. So I washed it and put on a band aid and fed the cats. I’ve been bitten before, and as yet haven’t ever had a problem. This was around midnight.
I had SFI class at 8am and so I woke up at 6:45 or so. Finger is sore…but my hand has been hurting from a pinched nerve in my neck vertebrae, so I reckon it’s just that. Go to class and notice around 8:30 that my finger is swollen. I figure the band aid is just on too tight so I take it off and put on a new, looser bandage. Several minutes later, I notice my finger is REALLY swollen. Like twice the size as the same finger on the other side, swollen.
I mention it to my teacher. By 10 o’clock, I can barely hold my pen (where, just two hours earlier, I was doodling pictures of Logan), and it was throbbing. I say I’ll go to Vårdcentralen after class, but my teacher says I should ring them now. So I do; here you call the clinic and they give you a callback time; mine was 15 minutes (10:40). When I get my call, after hearing my description, they make me an appointment for 11:30.
And I am on antibiotics three times a day for 10 days. All in under 12 hours. Usually people wait a day or more…I’m here to tell you DON’T DO THAT. Cat bites are serious. Just do a Google image search for “Cat bite infection” and see for yourself (preferably without food). In comments I’ll post a link to a 3-year study of cat bites which found that 30-50% of all cat bites get infected and need at least antibiotics.
I’ve been lucky; this is my first infected cat bite. And I just got a tetanus booster on the 7th. But even an 18 year old cat can do serious damage. Ironically, I was trying to find a pillgun eariler that day, but neither DjurMagazinet or Apotek had one. I have now ordered one online.

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That doctor was wrong. Dead wrong. This is the wound almost 24 hours later, after we cut the rings off that finger. The next morning, Friday, I woke up in screaming pain so bad that Björn almost called an ambulance. As it happened, he had an appointment at the Sjukhuset (hospital) that morning, so instead we took a cab together.

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He got his CPAP machine adjusted. I got admitted to the infectious disease ward and had emergency surgery on my hand. This is the message I sent him when they decided I needed surgery.

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It was quite lucky that I hadn’t had anything to eat, so I could go in straightaway.

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My Facebook post from 25 August, after the surgery: So… I had surgery. It took about an hour and I was completely out. It was awesome. They flushed out the tendon sheath and stitched me up.
Do not take cat bites for granted! It hasn’t even been 48 hours since Pyret bit me, and I have had surgery, rings cut off, 4 different kinds of pain killers including morphine, and I think I’m going to need a cast…because a cat bit me.

But the best thing about today?…
You’re gonna love this. While I was in Recovery, I was talking to my nurse, a man named Göran. We were talking about my bite and the conversation turned to the other cats. At some point I said something about visiting hospitals with my Abyssinian…and he perked upon “Abessinier?”
So I explained that I have three Abys and a Singapura. He asked if I was a member of Billingebygdens Kattklubb. Okay, the guy knows the local Sverak club’s name…turns out, his fiancée has Cornish Rex. He asked if I show, and I said yes, bragging about Jacoby and then talking about Logan’s first show. Göran said his fiancée has a black and white Cornish from Arextocats named Sully who was “pretty high up in titles at shows.” Then he asked if we were going to the show in Västra Frölunda, which is our next show. I said that I’d have to look out for Sully, but that he wouldn’t be in my group since I was bring Logan and not Jake (Rexes and Abys are in Group 4, but Singapuras are in Group 3 with Burmese and British Shorthairs). Because of course I would find the one person in the hospital with purebred show cats…

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That was the first day in hospital and the first surgery on Friday, 25 August. The next morning I posted this on Facebook: Day Two…Yes I am still here. They want to keep me another night and have an orthoped examine me tomorrow. I’m off the IV, but still am getting antibiotics pumped into me every six hours (I think it’s six. Losing track by now). I found another article about cat bites, written by a veterinarian, this time with an Aby!
Feeling okay, but tired. Really tired. Hand is just aching and slightly throbbing, but okay.
Cat bites R srs bizniz.

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So this is cool. In Swedish hospitals (at least this one) instead of a gown, they give you a button-up polo shirt and sweat pants to wear. Also underpants. All emblazoned with the size (60-80 kg) and the Västra Götalands regionservice logo. I actually like this better.
I’m sleeping odd hours here. It’s weird. I’m also a little worried…someone came and asked me my choices for lunch and dinner on Monday…

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It was particularly worrisome because this was the same weekend as the NEMO show back in Sturbridge, and I was meant to judge the costume contest (via FaceTime) at 19:00 Swedish time (1pm in Massachusetts). On Sunday afternoon, I posted this: Orthoped came to look at my hand. It’s not getting better as fast as he’d like – and this guy is familiar with cat bites! So I have surgery again tomorrow. Iris and Stephanie, looks like we’re doing the costume contest from here…I have wifi so we should be all right.

But it wasn’t. As luck would have it, I was rolled into my second surgery at the exact same time as the costume contest. But I will be able to judge this year’s contest tomorrow!

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After surgery, I posted: Back from my second surgery. I’m in a cast. They let me keep the empty morphine syringe as a sort of trophy/talisman. I still have it, too.

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Monday morning I posted this: For those keeping score: I was bitten around midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Went to Vårdcentralen Thursday at 11:30 (12 hours post-bite), got antibiotics…and then went to the ER Friday around 8am, 32 hours after bite. That was Friday; now it’s Sunday/Monday, 96 hours post-bite, and I’ve had two surgeries and a lot of antibiotics and painkillers…That was a pretty fast reaction. Imagine if I had waited a day?

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Björn came to visit me every evening after he got off work. This is me getting my evening dose of antibiotics (click on the video to view on Flickr).

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Tuesday I posted this: Tuesday in hospital. Finally washed my hair with real shampoo and not dry shampoo! My orthoped is Dr. Jörgen Åstrand. Or Farmer Creekside, as he charmingly translated (I said I was Cat Flatstone-Twig and my husband was Bear). He’s somewhat famous and has worked with the Mayo Clinic. He wants me to spread the dangers of cat bites far and wide amongst the “cat people” (and he was very impressed when I said my friend Teresa wanted me to write an article for CatTalk*). He actually had a nurse take the photo of my hand.
I had blood drawn and I’m better than I was, but not better. But my wound seems better and I didn’t need another surgery, so there’s a chance I can go home tomorrow.
And it’s now been 144 hours since I was bitten.
(The surgeries I had involved flushing out the tendon sheaths in my finger to remove all the bacteria.)

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Here’s my post from Wednesday, 30 August: Coming up on one week since the bite. I had more bloodwork and an Xray done today and then Dr. Jörgen came by to take a look. I’m going to need another surgery to flush out the wound, at least at the joint. The infection isn’t spreading into my bloodstream, but it’s building up in the tendon/joint area. Not sure if it will be done tonight or tomorrow. I miss my husband and my kitties…

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But the best part of the whole ordeal happened later that evening: I had a special visitor tonight – Logan!

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I’ve been asking Björn to “smuggle” him in for a few days now (because he’s the smallest and easiest to conceal)… although it’s not really smuggling because I’m in the infection ward (that’s where a bed was, and I came through the infection department, even though I’m not contagious), and these rooms all have “air locks” on the internal and external doors – and there is a door that goes straight to the outside, bypassing the hospital corridors. So Björn was able to bring Logan in without “contaminating” anything but just my room.

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A nurse came in before we could hide him, but she said it was okay.

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For an almost six month old kitten, Logan was remarkably calm. He didn’t really need to explore the room much; he just sat on me or let me hold him and just purred.
I never I’d be on the patient side of a therapy cat visit!

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Also, I don’t know if therapy animals are a thing in Sweden, but it looks like Logan might be a natural!

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When Björn got home, he sent me a photo of Logan with Jake and Pyret.

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I ended up having a third surgery on the 31st. Later that evening, Björn came by with Logan again. I wrote: More kitten therapy tonight! Björn brought Logan after my surgery.

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At one point, a nurse came in and I hid him under my nightshirt..! He meowed and walked around, but somehow she didn’t notice him.

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Later I found an EKG sticker still stuck to my back so it became a little hat…Hoping to go home tomorrow, but nothing is certain until Dr. Jörgen looks at the wound again.

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I did end up going home the next day, 1 September.

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I was prescribed antibiotics for six more weeks. And my hand was in an actual cast. On 7 September, I posted this: Cat bite update… 2 weeks and one day since Bite Day. Been wearing a cast since Friday. Which has been clumsy and annoying. I had a check-up today and I got my cast taken off!

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Now I have a nice bandage on my finger…with full use of all the other fingers! I’ve even managed to put some rings back on that hand. Next Monday, I get my stitches out. But I’m still on antibiotics for five more weeks.

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But that wasn’t the end of it. I went and got the cast off, and the stitches out. I was still recovering, but life started to return to normal. We even took Logan to a cat show in Västra Frölunda (outside Göteborg). I was getting regular wound checks at the Vårdcentralen and, on 20 September, I had what was supposed to be my last exam.

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This was also the day that Freddy got neutered, so I had dropped him off at the Skultorp, and on the way back I stopped at the clinic.

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But the nurse who I saw noticed my finger was a bit red and swollen, and it felt warm. But the next thing I knew, I was back at Sjukhuset with Dr. Jörgen. The bite had become reinfected, despite me being on powerful antibiotics, and the nurse had picked up on it (quite arguably, this nurse knew more about cat bite injuries than the first doctor I saw)! He wanted me to have surgery at 16:30 that afternoon, but I had to go back to collect Freddy (they called me while I was at the hospital to tell me he was ready to go). Dr. Jörgen didn’t want to let me leave, but there was nobody else who could get him; Kalle couldn’t have paid the bill, and Björn was working until 18:00, after the vet’s office was closed. So I took the bus straight from the hospital to the vet and back to Resecentrum (Skövde’s central station, where all the local and regional buses and the trains stop). The time between buses was an insane 12 minutes, so I actually took a cab home. Even so, the trip took about 90 minutes. I dropped Freddy off, took off all my jewelry and nail polish (that’s something they don’t tell you about surgery on TV: you have to take off every bit of jewelry and nail polish. Not just the rings on the hand that’s being operated on, but every single thing. Even earrings and anklets. And you have to take a pre-op shower, too, with special soap and special sponges), and quickly packed a bag with my laptop and every other thing I could think of that I needed…but even rushing as quickly as I could, I couldn’t get back to the hospital until almost 17:00.

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Since I had gotten there late, they weren’t sure if they could still do the surgery that evening. I had my shower, and wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything for several hours while they tried to see if the surgery could be rescheduled. I was a cranky, hungry, exhausted patient. Finally, at around 21:00, a nurse came in and told me I’d be having the surgery in the morning.

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Of course, the kitchen was closed, so I couldn’t have a proper meal, but they brought me a snack. That was a frustrating day.

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I was also a bit sad I wasn’t there with Freddy after his surgery. However, Björn sent me this photo, and he seemed fine.

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He also sent me this photo of Logan and Jake. Logan wanted to be friends with Jake so much…

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The next afternoon around 15:00, I posted this: Surgery done and back in my room. Long one this time. Went in at 10, came back after 1. Some pain, but I have morphine and oxycontin to combat it. Best part was my Swedish anesthesiologist who’d lived in Australia. My first Swedish with an Aussie accent.

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Taken about an hour ago, when I got back to my room.

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Taken just now. It’s bleeding more than any of the other surgeries.

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Björn wasn’t able to visit me the 22nd, but he did send me this photo of Logan in bed with him. Jake was there, too, behind Björn’s knees.

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They actually let me go home the next day, Friday. That was a nice surprise; I had resigned myself to spending the weekend there.

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On 25 September, I posted this: Finger update, one month, two days post-bite, and four days after the last surgery. It’s much more bleedy than after the other surgeries, and I’m not sure what that means. Also not sure when the stitches should come out. And it hurts. A lot. I did get a refill of both slow – and fast-acting painkillers, which helps.

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Funny thing about me and oxycodone…it doesn’t make me “high” or buzzed or even sleepy. It just makes pain go away. I guess that’s a good thing. I’ll be glad to stop the antibiotics, though. I hate the smell of them. The first two photos (green) are yesterday afternoon; the second two are this morning.

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The last surgery was definitely the most painful, especially the incision on the palm of my hand. A week later, on 6 October, I had the stitches out and wrote: I haven’t done a finger update lately. I’ve been wiped out all week from the antibiotics.

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And the stitches have really been killing me. I got the stitches out today and it HURT. A lot. So much so that I had to get my hand numbed up with that giant needle you can see in the background of the first photo.

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I was injected in several places on both sides of my hand. And you know how when the dentist numbs up your gums and it’s just a tiny little stab you barely feel? This was NOT that. It hurt more than all my tattoos put together. But once it was in, my hand was REALLY numb.

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After the stitches were out, I had to see the rehab specialist. She was bending my hand and fingers to show me how the exercises should go, and I literally could not feel her hand touching mine. It was surreal. I’m still on painkillers, and the rehab therapist actually told me to take them if it hurts, because she said if it hurts, I won’t exercise it, and if I don’t exercise it, it will get stiff. Makes sense to me.

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I did ask the guy who took out the stitches the story of my original visit to Vårdcentralen and how the first doctor mismanaged the bite, and I asked him if my experience would have been “better” (i.e., fewer surgeries, fewer nights in hospital, perhaps not having the re-infection) had that first doctor send me straight to the Sjukhuset as soon as she saw it (as the nurse had done) instead of just sending me home to take antibiotics. Of course, he didn’t want to say anything against another doctor, but he did say that it was very probable. So, lesson learned.

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Then on 8 October, I wrote: Took the bandages off today. Also did some hand exercises. Look how bruised I am from the numbing injections, and look how swollen that finger is compared to the long finger on my left hand. (Please excuse the FU fingers.)

The next day I got the bill for the second hospital stay. The bill for the first stay, a week in a private room, including emergency care, three surgeries, unlimited medication and other care, was 700 SEK…about $87.75 USD. The second bill was for two more nights, an additional 200kr. Which makes the grand total for my week and a half in a private hospital room, four surgeries, endless amounts of antibiotics and painkillers, follow up visits, wound checks, physical therapy…900 SEK. Which today is about $110.92 USD.

Coincidentally, I was still dealing with one old doctor bill from April 2016 and a dispute whether my doctor was in or out of network. I did a post about that on Facebook, and wrote: Talking to a insurance person in Cincinnati, I happened to mention my cat bite and Swedish healthcare experience in relation to the year and a half never-ending battle to correct a $169 incorrect bill. She was curious to hear a story from a person who had experience first hand what it was like to live in a country with socialised medicine and find out what it was really like. Which with her working with health insurance claims and hearing all the propaganda these days on the news about Obamacare and inflated hospital charges, she was really interested in. Turns out, she does a local talk show on cable about health insurance issues…

But at one point in that conversation, we wondered aloud how much that cat bite would have cost me had I lived in the States. So, of course I Googled: “what would a bad cat bite cost in the us” (that is exactly what I typed). And look what the first link was! Funny how everything comes together…(This is the first article he wrote about his bite, before he got the bill).

David Lazarus is a columnist for the LA Times, writing consumer-oriented articles. But…$55,000 USD for a cat bite! And even after his insurance paid part of it, and the hospital wrote off the rest, it still cost him $1,500 USD out of pocket (deductible or co-payment, not sure which). He was only in hospital six days compared to my nine, and I had four surgeries to his one, but he had an MRI which I did not. But I never got an itemized bill showing what each procedure cost. I only got a simple bill for 100kr for each night I was in the hospital bed. I actually wrote to him because we had almost identical injuries (except his was his left hand, the lucky bastard), and I thought he might be interested to hear how the same sort of injury was treated in Sweden…but, sadly, he never responded. It would have been interesting.

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But that’s the whole story of the cat bite I got a year ago and part of why my blog was on hiatus for so long. I had the rehabilitation therapy for another six months (my last visit was in April). My hand is still not “normal,” and probably never will be. But here is what it looks like today.

Moral of the story: if you are ever bitten by a cat in your hand, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM ASAP!. Don’t waste your time at your regular doctor, or at an urgent care clinic. Four surgeries and a year later, I am here as your example.

*Which I still need to write…

Honourable Mention

This was a nice little surprise this morning!

I get the calendar, but I had no idea that they were going to mention Jacoby until Marty commented on last night’s post to tell me! My friend Wendy asked why they didn’t show a photo of Jake on the page, but well…I missed the deadline to enter photos this year, so that’s on me, not them. But hey, nice of them to remember!

Other People’s Abys – Nigel the therapy cat

One of our friends, Nigel and his human Janet, were featured in a news story on Houston TV because of their work as a therapy team!

I simply love the fact that Nigel has the exact same stroller (in the exact same colour) that Jacoby has.

When she posted the link to the Abyssinian Cat Club on Facebook, Janet thanked me and Jake for being the inspiration for her and Nigel to start visiting nursing homes.

Janet is actually a veterinarian, too, so she has a medical background which helps when you’re doing therapy visits.

You can watch the entire segment here.

I love this photo so much…I can’t wait til March when Jake and I can try to get our certification renewed again. Thank you Janet, for sharing this!

Aby-a-Day – June 18: Wordless Wedneday (Patients’ drawings of Jacoby)

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Aby-a-Day – May 29: On the Dais

I just got the photos that were taken of us during the AARP Life @ 50+ event at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that we participated in earlier this month. All of these photos were taken by Scott Amundson Photography for United Healthcare especially for the event and are used with permission.

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Before the presentation, we just mingled with visitors and other United Healthcare participants.

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Including this box character, who was wearing those flashing tentacle head boppers.

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Turns out, Mr. Box is a cat person! Who knew? I asked him if he was related to the Progressive Insurance box, but he declined to answer.

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The presentation explained the benefits of animal-assisted therapy, not just for the elderly in nursing homes but also for people affected by disaster (the Boston Marathon bombing, the Newtown shootings) and children learning to read.

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While the presentation was going on, the animal therapy teams sat at a table.

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Jake, of course, was completely fine with this. This is basically what he does at cat shows, too.

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Sit on a table, look out at the audience, and generally be awesome.

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Interestingly, during the presentation, people would come up and talk to us. I hadn’t seen that happen at presentations before, but it was cool. Jake was happy to have some more attention.

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Unless, of course, there was something interesting on the screen!

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After the presentation, there was a short Q&A session, moderated by Christine.

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And then more people came up to talk to us.

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I loved talking to this woman! I’m so happy they got a photo of her. She was from California and we had a lot in common. I didn’t get her name, though, but I did give her a blog card.

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Jake wasn’t the only star of the show, of course. Here’s Sophie and her human LeeAnn – you can see Jake’s stroller in the background.

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Ralphie (the “other Abyssinian”) and his human Nikki made a lot of friends. A lot of people have owned Guinea Pigs in their lives!

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Since Boo is so short, she and her human Deb sat on the floor. Deb is the program coordinator of Paws for People, the local chapter of Pet Partners.

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After the presentation, we wandered around the United Healthcare booth (as I posted on 15 May) and then we had our portraits done. I LOVE this one of Jake and I. I want to use it as our new ID badge photo when we renew our Pet Partners certification in July. Of course, I’ll need to Photoshop the lettering behind my head out of the picture before I do!

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There was a group portrait, too. Here we all are!

Abys are Everywhere – Hey, wait a second..!

Every month, I get an e-newsletter from Pet Partners with updates and articles about other therapy teams across the nation. This month, I opened up my email as usual and noticed a familiar face:

It’s Jacoby, wearing one of his Tiny’s Ties!

No, it really is him! I sent the photo in a while ago and then promptly forgot about. It was a nice surprise to see Jake in my email.

Abys are Everywhere: Can Cats Be Therapy Animals?

Hey, wait a minute…that’s not just any Aby…

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My friend TJ Banks interviewed Jacoby and me for this article she wrote for PetsAdviser: “Hooray for Cats! More and More Are Becoming Therapy Animals”. Check it out!

Aby-a-Day – November 24: “But there are ten letters in White Plains.” “No…eleven.”

What a weekend!

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There’s so much to share, but right now both Jacoby and I are exhausted. We left yesterday morning at 6:40 and our train got back into Boston at 9:20 tonight, so we have had two very long days.

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Being the Cat of the Year’s human is a big job! It was a little surreal to be part of a celebrity team. I mean, he was on the Jumbotron! I was constantly talking to people, or doing something with Jake. Besides the Cat of the Year, Jake was also entered in the show (we only missed two rings, which is a bit of a miracle) and he participated as a model in the Fashion Show which was held both Saturday and Sunday. Jake is actually the first Cat of the Year to do all three things in the same show!

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He is in very good standing…the full list of all the previous cats isn’t online anywhere (yet), but it was at the show…and what an impressive list it is.

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Jake got an incredible rosette – the Scarlett Ribbon – with a photo of Scarlett, who was the very first Cat of the Year and the reason the award was created. It’s an honour to be on the same list with that brave little cat – and all the other amazing cats who have been Westchester’s Cats of the Year.

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He also got a certificate that I’ll need to frame…

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…and this poster.

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And Weruva Cat Food is sending us some of their awesome cat food! They gave us some cans and some treats – which Jake loved (of course).

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Our good friend Matthew and his mom even came to the show to see Jake get his award! On top of that, today he finally got his 6th TICA final…and he is not a Grand Champion Alter. He actually has enough points to be a Double Grand Champion Alter…but he just needs to make one. More. Final. Oh, well. There is another show in February in Framingham…

HUGE THANK YOUS to Sheila and Mike Dentico, Leslie Masson, Claire, Jan, Katherine, Artie, Joe and Marvy…and the Westchester Feline Club for EVERYTHING!

Aby-a-Day – Septermber 29: Scenes from a therapy visit

Jacoby and I have been visiting the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Hospital at Boston Medical Center alternate weeks from our visits at Tufts.

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It’s a little different from Tufts in that we visit patients on three different floors. So during a normal visit, we move around a lot.

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Jake takes it all in stride, of course.

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He loves spending time with the patients.

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This patient was trying to get Jake to go on his shoulders. It didn’t work, but that wasn’t the patient’s fault; Jake just really is not a shoulder cat.

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Jake really seems to enjoy just hanging out with his friends at the hospital. It’s really awesome to watch.

Aby-a-Day – September 1: First visit at a new hospital

Jacoby and I have just started visiting a new facility: The Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center at Boston Medical.

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Jake was excited to visit a new place.

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But he was also a little reserved. After all, it was unfamiliar territory.

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When we go to Tufts, we’re on the second floor.

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At the Fuller, we visit the fourth, fifth and eighth floors.

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So Jake dealt with any nervousness he had by checking out a different view from a new window.

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Until he met the patients.

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Then he went into therapy cat mode and never looked back.

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It’s so much fun to watch Jake interact with the patients when we go on visits.

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“When’s our next visit, Mom?”

Catnip!

Abyfriend Marta gave me the heads up that we are in the August issue of Tufts Veterinary Catnip Newsletter!

I had no idea. I managed to sweet-talk a guy in the fulfillment department for a hard copy of that issue for Jake’s portfolio, but in the meantime, Marta sent me a scan, for which I am grateful:

I am disappointed that I wasn’t credited for my photo. It says “Photo Courtesy of Deb Gibbs,” who is in charge of the pet therapy program at Tufts Veterinary School…but I took that awesome photo and it’s be nice if people knew that…Deb says they’ll print a correction in the next issue, though.

Aby-a-Day – April 18: Therapy isn’t just for human patients…however…

Kylie recently needed to go to Angell Memorial to have a vet check-up.

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It’s nothing major; just a follow-up on some chronic congestion that we think may be Feline Herpes Virus-related.

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Jacoby went along to offer moral support.

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He kept her company in the examination room while Dr. Johnson discussed Kylie’s sniffles with us.

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He also patrolled the waiting room.

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Which is important, because there are dogs there, too. Kylie’s not as used to being around dogs as Jake is.

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Speaking of therapy visits, though, you may have seen some articles in the news about therapy dogs being sent to Boston to comfort victims.

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I find this rather ironic as Jake and I were not able to make our usual therapy visit to Tufts this week as the hospital is still on high alert and is closed to non-essential personnel (“Access to Tufts Medical Center will be through the Emergency Department, Biewend or the Floating Hospital crossover entrances. All other entrances will be closed. Please have your I.D. ready and be prepared to have any bags checked”). We are still waiting to hear when we might be able to visit victims along with our regular patients. And I am hoping that we can come back to visit Jake’s friends next week as usual.

However, things like the above are happening here in Boston; there are armed guards like the one above stationed not only outside Tufts Medical Center, but in various places around the city, including Post Office Square in downtown, which is near where I work.

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It’s just kind of interesting that there are all these stories about therapy dogs flying in from all over the country when we locals can’t make our regular visits. However, it’s also important to note that these dogs are not certified with the same organisation that Jake and I are. They also seem to not be going into hospitals so much as they are going to the areas that are open – or partially open – to the public, such as the runners’ bag pick-up area at the finish line on Tuesday, and making impromptu independent “vists.”

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Jake and I are certified with Pet Partners (formerly known as The Delta Society) and have been visiting since 2010. Pet Partners’ animal-assisted therapy program was established in 1990 to ensure that “both ends of the leash,” people as well as animals, were well-prepared to participate in animal-assisted activity and animal-assisted therapy programs. Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Program is the only national registry that requires volunteer training and screening of animal-handler teams. They’re also the only program that accepts a wide range of species of domesticated animals; registered Pet Partners include not only dogs and cats but also guinea pigs, rabbits, domesticated rats, horses, llamas, donkeys, pot-bellied pigs, Cockatoos, African Gray Parrots, chickens and ducks. As a matter of fact, there’s a miniature horse named Lily who also visits Tufts Medical Center! (Lily also had to skip her visit this week.)

This is the letter that Pet Partners sent out to registered teams, dated 16 April:

Dear Volunteers;

We have received outpourings of concern from our therapy animal teams for the people affected by the tragedy in Boston. We share with them and all our nation the grief for those killed, concern for those injured, and for the many other people, friends and families who have been affected.

We truly appreciate offers from many of our teams to travel to the Boston area to comfort those in need. At this time, we ask that teams wait until we have coordinated efforts with local agencies and our local representatives and have determined the situations and settings in which animal-assisted interactions can best be utilized. Once these efforts are determined, we will communicate them to teams residing in the Boston area and will call on teams outside the area for additional assistance as needed.

Thank you for your concern and willingness to help,

The Staff of Pet Partners

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So don’t worry…we’ll be back as soon as we can!

Aby-a-Day – February 24: We DO need those stinking badges!

Yesterday Jacoby and I went to Tufts Medical Center to get our volunteer ID badge photos taken.

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Of course, it involved getting his photo taken, so it was a pretty easy task to complete

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According to hospital rules, every volunteer must wear their own badge.

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Including the animal volunteers!

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Now that Jake and I are all badged up, and we have our Tufts volunteer vests, we’re ready to go to work!

Aby-a-Day – December 6: Back to School

Earlier this week, Jacoby and I had a therapy visit at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

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There, we met with students living in the residence hall who were studying for finals, because, as Pet Partners says, “…when animals are around, people’s blood pressure goes down, stress and anxiety levels are reduced, people feel less lonely and less depressed, and they tend to be more social and community oriented” and who is more stressed than a student during exams?

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I was, once upon a time, an art student, and I also lived in residence halls at both Sac State (close to home, and kitties) and Concordia University in Montreal (very far from home, and kitties), and I know what it’s like to be in the dorms around the holidays, with friends who are from around here and planning to go home for Christmas, without your best furry friend around. University was the one catless period in my life; oh, I had my cats at my mom’s house…but it’s not the same, is it, when they can’t live with you.

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Needless to say, I was super excited to be there with Jake. This is the kind of thing we became a therapy team to do!

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It was awesome. We must have talked to over 100 students in the ~2 hours we were there. We were one of six teams (a Golden, a Lab, a Labradoodle, a Greyhound and a Newfie), and as the only human-feline team, we were kind of mobbed by the cat people.
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I guess the posters didn’t mention there would be a cat at the event, which explains why so many people were so excited to see us there! We had a LOT of people come in and say, “OOOOOOhhhh, look! There’s a KITTY here!!!”

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A lot of them wanted to hold Jake and cuddle him. I can’t blame them.

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Jake was so awesome with it all, and he absolutely loved the petting and the attention! It was cold in the room, and he was shivering, but he was also purring.

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On the train ride home, Jake was tired, but still hyped up, too. As was I.

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I hope we get to do more visits like this one. It was wonderful!

Aby-a-Day – July 15: Two more years! Two more years!

Today was a pretty big day for Jacoby and me. Today we went out to Tufts Veterinary Campus out in Grafton to get our <a href="certified Pet Partners” target=#>Pet Partners certification renewed.

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You may remember when we got certified the first time, two years ago. Jake passed with flying colours; in fact, our evaluator, Deb Gibbs, told me that Jake was born to be a therapy animal.

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Today was hot and humid, and I guess Jake was a little cranky because I carried him more than I usually do. He hissed at the “neutral dog!” He’s usually unfazed by the Canidae family, and he was fine before and after with the other dogs in the lobby.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone to take photos of us actually doing the evaluation this time, but here’s Deb, the person who conducted the test, talking to Jake after we were done.

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It was a really long day for us both. We were both exhausted when it was all over.

Aby-a-Day – April 28: Jake the therapy cat

It’s been a while since Jacoby and I have done any Pet Partners visits, and that’s mainly due to my having surgery last August. But that doesn’t mean Jake isn’t therapeutic!

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I stayed home sick one day this week with an attack of vertigo, and when I woke up from a nap, this was the first thing I saw.

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Jake had cuddled up against my stomach to help me feel better! I had to carefully reach for my iPhone to get a photo without disturbing him, so this is a very close close-up shot!

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To orient yourself in the photo, the burgundy and blue-and-white-flowered comforters are to the left. I’m on top of the comforters, and the black at the upper right is what would be my lap if I were sitting up.

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The one thing I wish I’d been able to capture is the cute little stretch/hugging his back legs thing he did when I woke up and petted him.

Stewie the Maine Coon: Show cat, therapy cat and World Record holder

I know this is a blog about Abyssinians, but I saw the story of Stewie (Mymains Stewart Gilligan) the Maine Coon. He’s the Guinness World’s Record-holding Longest Cat in the World, measuring 48.5″ – just over 4 feet! – from nose to tail-tip. Most cats are about 18″ long; Jacoby is a pretty long and tall cat, but he’s only about 32″ long*, a piker compared to Stewie! On Stewie’s blog, there are photos of him and his human, Robin Hendrickson…look at the one where he’s not stretched out, but just sitting there with her standing behind him with her arms around him. WOW.

But what actually caught my attention isn’t that Stewie is the world’s official Longcat, but he’s also a show cat (he was actually just at a TICA show at Cal Expo in Sacramento, CA, where I used to go to cat shows when I was a teen) and a therapy cat! There aren’t many cats who are both show cats and therapy cats.


(Image via MSNBC)

I really like this one thing that Robin told Catsparella: “Stewie visits local hospitals and rest homes and brightens the patients’ day. I hope to get him into the schools to work with special needs kids,” because that’s exactly what I want to do with Jake some day.

Jake probably won’t ever hold a world’s record (unless it’s for heaviest Abyssinian!), but it’s fascinating to know that there’s another cat out there who does both cat shows and therapy work.

*I say about 32″…I have an awesome string measure…but Jake’s really squirmy, and even with my husband’s help, I’m still not sure. So I took my best out of three.

Aby-a-Day – August 25: Paging Dr. Jakeycat…

I had minor surgery on a trapped nerve in my hip last week, and of course Jacoby was right there helping me recover.

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These aren’t the best photos, since I took them with the low-res front camera on my iPhone, but you can see he decided I needed to be kept warm.

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Of course, my chest wasn’t involved in the surgery at all, but that didn’t seem to matter to Jake.

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It didn’t matter to me, either.

Therapy Cats Provide Hope

This is pretty awesome…a friend of mine wrote an article about therapy cats for PawNation, and they used the photo of Jacoby in his mistletoe hat!

I think there were a few miscommunications between what she wrote and what they published (for one thing, Jake and I don’t do reading programs, at least, not yet), but it’s still a great article. People are always so surprised to learn that there are therapy cats when they meet Jake, so it’s nice to get a little publicity.

Jake’s first therapy visit

Yesterday, Jacoby and I went out to visitNewbridge on the Charles in Dedham, and meet with Leslie, the volunteer coordinator, about coming in for regular visits with the residents who live there.

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It was actually snowing when I woke up, so I bundled Jake up well before we went out. I also just got him a new microwavable heating pad for his stroller, so he was nice and warm.

I was kind of thinking that this would more of an “interview” type of situation, so I didn’t put on either of Jake’s official vests, but I did put on our credentials (his tag and my badge), and I brought our official visiting bag. This turned out to be a good thing, because after a quick chat, we went upstairs and actually met a lot of the residents!

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Jake was his sweet, goofy, charming self, both with Leslie and with the residents. It was my first time doing this with Jake “for real,” and it was probably a good thing I wasn’t expecting it – if I had known we were going to do this, I would have been a lot more nervous! But it was great; Jake was an absolute rock star, and he was completely unfazed at a crowd of women with walkers and wheelchairs milling about the elevator lobby when we arrived, people vacuuming, “Family Feud” blaring on the TV, and things being dropped in the kitchen. One woman couldn’t quite get her hands to him, but he put his head under her hand and helped her out.

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Leslie had us pose together for a photo. I look like a total dork, but I like it anyway.

Jake really is a good-natured cat, though. He never seemed to reach a “sensory overload” point the entire time we were out. Even on the way home, despite a somewhat bumpy and loud shuttle ride, changing trains on the T (I had to carry his stroller up and down stairs), and stopping at the post office, he was still happy and ready to talk to people and be petted. Even after we got home, he strolled around and played with Angel and the other girls as though he’d been napping all afternoon!

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We also had to get our picture taken for our NewBridge ID badge! At least in this one, we’re looking at the camera (more or less)!

Today, Leslie emailed me: “Thanks so much for coming in with Jake yesterday. It was a pleasure meeting both of you, and what happened upstairs with the residents was truly amazing! I am thrilled that you two are going to be visiting here, and you are going to make a lot of people very happy.”

Our first visit is Saturday, March 12. We’re on our way!