“Hi there,” the voice echoed on my phone. “Are you the healing vet fella?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied. “How can I help?”
“We got a new kitten, and he went outside last night, and we think he got attacked by something. He seems ok this morning, but I would really like for you to come and check him over, just to be sure…”
“I can do that,” I replied, and got the address.
Later that day I was driving through the curving, extraordinarily potholed road from Uki towards Kyogle. Sweeping bends, all lined with the curving rough branched and deep shiny greens of camphor laurel trees (feral, invasive, not native to Australia) and the tall, straight, white trunks of eucalypt trees reaching for the sky. The weedy tangle of lantana often choked out the undergrowth, and then there would be the short, neat, cropped contrast of paddocks, dotted with grazing cattle. The sun shone fitfully through a damp cloak of clouds, and the world rang with the songs of birds, and the thrumming, unheard intensity of sub-tropical life.
I pulled into the driveway, after opening the gate. A bumpy dirt track led me to a small house, surrounded by veggie patches, and nestled under some trees, looking out over the valley. A warm smile and layers of hippy clothes welcomed me in, and gave me a cup of tea.
“We just got this little fellow a few days ago, for my daughter,” she explained (a small tabby kitten was furiously attacking the fringe of a cloth hanging down from a chair, lying on his back, legs kicking, teeth embedded in his imaginary prey, before he suddenly leaped up and bolted off, bouncing in many directions like a furry little rubber ball. “Last night he went outside, we thought just to go to the toilet, when we heard an awful scream. I rushed out to see what was happening, and I found him- he’d pooed himself, had it all over him, and seemed a bit shocked, so I brought him back in, and we gave him a bath to get the poo off. He didn’t like that much, I tell you. He seemed ok, and as you can see, he’s pretty lively today, but I just wanted to make sure.”
I managed to catch the little kitten, though it took a while, because he moved like quicksilver, and wanted nothing more than to be left to play. I picked him up, and did my best to examine him. He was a dark tabby, and really didn’t want to be confined, so he attacked my hand, with sharp little teeth and then went to killing it with his back feet, raking them both as fast as he could. It was all play, however, as he didn’t draw any blood. In the end I had to gently restrain him by the scruff, while my fingers searched and palpated all over his body. I could feel a spot on his side, the tummy wall, where the muscles had been torn, and there was a small hernia through to the abdominal cavity. He hissed and spat a bit, especially when I took his temperature.. He went all sideways, puffed up his tail, and started to hunt and kill a bit of paper on the floor, sway and pouncing.
“He seems to be pretty much ok,” I explained. “I think he probably ran into a fox, and you are very lucky indeed to still have a kitten. I’d say the fox grabbed him, but not hard enough to injure him too badly. It does feel like one tooth has torn the muscles in his side, but it doesn’t seem to be hampering him much!” The kitten made a tremendous leap onto a bead on the floor, and started batting it with his paws, and chasing it here and there. “He must have frightened the fox enough with his cream, and pooing himself, to make it let him go… ”
“We’re pretty lucky then,” She said.
“You sure are. Keep an eye on him, and watch that funny spot on his side. There is a very small chance that some of his insides could buldge through there and get pinched off. He’d need emergency surgery if that happens. If it did, the swelling would get bigger, hard, and very painful to touch, and he’d be obviously sick. I’m really only explaining this as a precaution though, I don’t think it’s likely to happen.”
“Ok, we’ll keep an eye on him then,” she told me.
We finished out cuppa, and talked about the world for a while, before i was seen off with a cheery wave.