Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald

So you probably know I have this cat, right? I rescued her from the Denver Dumb Friends League back in 2008 and it was probably the smartest thing I have ever done. She’s moved from Denver to Boston to DC with me, and grown from a super timid tiny cat to a cuddle fiending, attention whoring, ridiculously adorable spoiled brat.

Oh also: this post is not about food or vegans or IBS. Sorry.

Anyway. Back in April, I noticed that Zel had started to smell…funny. Like maybe her personal hygiene wasn’t quite up to par? It wasn’t heinous – she wasn’t smelling up the house – but when she hopped up on the bed and tried to snuggle, it was definitely an issue. So I googled, obviously, and I learned that cats have anal glands which can clog and cause them to be stinky (in addition to other less pleasant symptoms, which Zelda did not have).

So ew. I called our vet’s office the next morning and mentioned the smell, and that she was licking her butt a lot, and that I was worried she might be clogged. The receptionist said it might be the anal gland, but it might be something else, and had I tried bathing her?

Um, no, on account of Zel has always been super clean and I’ve always heard one shouldn’t bathe cats unless absolutely necessary. Receptionist agreed, and said if the bathing didn’t take care of the smell I should call back.

I have a hard time imagining immersing my cat in a tub of water would go well for either of us, so I found some spray shampoo that you brush through her fur and we tried that a couple days later. At this point, I should give a shoutout to my lady, who is not really a cat person at all, but did a bang-up job restraining Zelda (gently, wrapped in a towel) during the spraying and brushing phase of this effort. And the shampoo seemed to take care of the eau de litterbox, so I assumed we were all good.

You can probably see where this is going.

And to be clear, I am not blaming the vet receptionist for what happened next. The takeaway here is trust your gut, and if your gut says it’s time to take your smelly cat to the vet, just do that. Don’t dick around with shampoo spray or whatever.

Couple days after the shampooing, I took a two-day trip to NYC (ugh) and when I came home, Zelda had a new hole in her butt. Actually, two additional holes in her butt. This is the awful part. If a cat (or dog’s) gland gets clogged and doesn’t get cleaned out, it actually ruptures. This temporarily relieves the pain of the clogged gland, but can get easily infected and also can leak buttjuice around your house and is pretty much the worst case scenario for your cat.

Sick kitty snuggles after the vet.
Sick kitty snuggles after the vet.

So we went to the vet the next day and learned all about anal glands and got her butt shaved and her glands cleaned out, started antibiotics, put on an “Elizabethan collar” and bought special litter (Yesterday’s News) that’s safer for her injured butt.

A couple of things: Greenies Pill Pockets are a baby jesus miracle for giving pills to cats. They’re sort of gelatinous, and you smoosh the pill inside and they’re probably made of like, cow lips, which is disgusting, but they are way less traumatic than trying to get her to take the pill on its own.

Yesterday’s News cat litter was a lowlight of this experience. It’s actually recycled newspaper rolled up into thin sticks, and it IS absorbent of liquid, but doesn’t clump and it’s kind of hard to tell where the cat has actually buried anything. It doesn’t absorb odor really at all. Apparently, it’s dust-free and safe for pregnant people, which is nice, but I would actually put off reproducing to avoid having to use Yesterday’s News again. It just gets everywhere. I’m still finding little sticks of it that got kicked out of the box and rolled away. Not cool.

Also, the invoice from the vet said “Elizabethan collar” but everyone at the office called it the “cone of shame.” I was told I could put stickers on it to make it less sad, but Zel had a hard enough time trying to navigate the house with the collar on…I feel like she would have been confused by stickers floating in her peripheral vision. She also couldn’t really eat with the cone on, or drink water out of a bowl. I can’t tell you how many times she hopped up on my bed with mashed up chicken or beef stuck to the edge of the cone, because she’d try to use it as a scoop to get the food out of the bowl and into her mouth.

After I took this photo, I realized we’d be removing the collar for mealtimes.

It took four weeks for her little butt to heal. We had to go to the vet every week for a progress check, and do daily antibiotics the whole time. I have new respect for my friends who have older or chronically ill pets, because this experience was emotionally and financially draining. I am super grateful to our veterinarian who was very encouraging through the healing process, but was also really honest about what Zel was going though. I think Dr. Fischer was as excited as I was when we finally got a clean bill of health and could take the collar off for good. (Also, she reminds me of Dr. Hahn from Grey’s Anatomy. Just sayin.)

So we’re back to normal around here, except that Zelda got used to having vet food every day when she took her pill and has been a bit of a diva about going back to dry food most of the time. Mostly, I wanted to share this experience because it sucked, and I felt like a giant failure the whole time, and maybe someone reading this will be able to avoid a similar situation?

Also, event though it’s not an IBS story, it IS about butts, so it’s still sort of thematic.


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