Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter... on vets

‘You’d do anything for your sick pet — like asking celebrity cat Choupette for a loan to cover the medical bills’

Mademoiselle Choupette with her late owner, the designer Karl Lagerfeld

Visiting the vet’s is like spending time on a maternity ward. You talk weights, age, worries and love with the other owners. But mostly love. I’ve watched tears and wept them — sometimes at the bill — and generally shared the sentiment that you’d do anything for pets, because anything less than wholehearted devotion makes you a bad person. But for the sake of self-respect, I’m their owner not their parent. They’re not my fur babies and the two cats, one dog and several chickens are not on Instagram, a la Lady Gaga and Miss Asia. They’re dearly loved but if I pop my clogs before they do, they won’t inherit the kind of wealth Karl Lagerfeld’s Choupette came into after the designer’s death. Apparently, Chou Chou’s inheritance was overstated and it was already independently wealthy anyway from modelling assignments. And it’s a cat. With decades of pet ownership, I’ve cruised many vets. But years of general good health led to a lull, until recently, when I could have had my own seat and frequent flyer miles. I’ve been the worried owner who took Seamus, nicknamed Famous, the magnificent ginger tom to the vet with a worrying lump on his tummy. Diagnosis: belly button. I consulted about the previous Labrador’s penchant for eating string, which I often had to help remove. Without graphic details, it was like a clown producing bunting. Diagnosis: he’s a dog, they eat things, and I need brain bleach. I also got to stroke his velvet ears as a vet helped him take his last breath, and that kindness will stay with me forever. The recent run of vet visits started with the incontinent cat who got a professional consultation in the hope she just needed a cystitis cure or some cat Valium. It turns out she’s more of a counselling candidate because it’s behavioural. We’ve decided the cure is love bombing, which is free and, so far, effective. Then the dog developed an itching problem, which led to constant reassurances to all visitors she didn’t have fleas. The professionals recommended the removal of all human food — cue sad puppy eyes, two courses of steroids and now daily allergy medication. We take our pills together. It’s a bonding thing. She was also included in our holiday plans to Scotland, which is surely the simplest of arrangements. Get dog, put on ferry, bring dog back again. But no, because the dog is a resident of Northern Ireland, so she will be returning to EU territory and therefore needs a pet passport — as do travelling cats and ferrets. According to the relevant government department’s web page, travelling pets both need and do not need a pet passport, creating the conundrum of Schrodinger’s ferret. Big thank you to Brexit. Rather than risk having to abandon her in Scotland, she’s now one rabies shot in and several vaccinations down, with just the worming to go. My seat at the animal practice had barely gone cold before the other cat, whose idea of being nice is not biting you until he’s been in your company for at least two minutes, started being nice. It’s a sure sign there’s something wrong, but the major clue was the droopy tail. Who knew cats can fracture their tail? I felt like I was back in belly button territory again. He’s now on painkillers and being bathed in affection, despite treating us horribly for nearly 10 years. You’d do anything for them — like asking Choupette for a loan.

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