Coun­try vet

A cat’s toxic lit­tle gift

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS TR­ISHA FISK

She must have been born in one of the ear­li­est spring lit­ters of kit­tens. The sweet lit­tle gin­ger tabby cat with white paws and a bib was a skinny lit­tle thing when we first met her at about eight weeks old.

“We found it gnaw­ing on a dead lamb up in the wool­shed pad­dock,” Patsy Grundy told us. “The dogs nearly put paid to it, but I called them off and cor­nered it un­der the shed. Hiss­ing and spit­ting, feisty lit­tle thing. Grabbed it by the scruff and it just froze. Gave up fight­ing and then she snug­gled, heart thump­ing, into my shirt.”

The kit­ten cer­tainly didn’t show any signs of bad tem­per now, purring and re­laxed in the Vet’s hands.

“I locked her in the bath­room for a few days, and fed her lit­tle and of­ten and talked to her lots. She tamed up re­ally quickly. Now Hepa is to­tally soft on her. Calls her his Goldilocks.”

The kit­ten was in for a check-up. Apart from still be­ing a bit thin, she was now clean and flea-free.

“I can vac­ci­nate her against snuf­fles, al­though if she came from the feral pop­u­la­tion she prob­a­bly al­ready has im­mu­nity,” the Vet said.

“I’m not sure where she came from,” said Patsy. “I didn’t think we had many wild cats around. The bird life is quite good out our way, and we al­ways have to put out baits for rats and mice over win­ter. I think it is more likely she was dumped, poor lit­tle thing.”

The Vet gave the kit­ten a jab and a clean bill of health and thought no more about it.

At the end of spring the farm­ing com­mu­nity col­lec­tively heaves a sigh of re­lief. They have made it through the wet, the mud, the night time calv­ings, the pour­ing rain and freez­ing cold milk­ings at four in the morn­ing.

The Vet re­laxes a bit too. Most of the dra­mas have been had and it be­comes the sea­son of steady work, with time for a bit of a yarn over a cup of tea.

The trip into the hills be­yond the har­bour was more like a day out. The Belling­hams wanted some of their dairy herd pal­pated to see which cows were com­ing in sea­son for the bull and which were not and why not.

Grundy’s place was on the way. Patsy and Hepa ran a rea­son­able flock of Suf­folks and their lambs were due for drench­ing. The Vet had it on board to drop off for them.

Hepa Grundy came to the door look­ing sleepy, di­sheveled and dis­tinctly un­well.

“Jeep­ers Hepa, you look lousy,” says the Vet. “I just want to drop this off and I’ll be on my way.”

“Nah, come in for a yarn and a cuppa. I don’t think I’m con­ta­gious. Not snort­ing.” “You don’t look too hot.” “Yeah, a bit achey and I had a tem­per­a­ture a cou­ple of days ago, but it’s come down now. I’ll be right by to­mor­row.”

Yeah right, the Vet thought, but he agreed to a stopover. They yarned about the weather, the lamb sched­ule prices, the neigh­bour’s new bull, the bloody coun­cil and the bloody idiots in Welling­ton. The stan­dard top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion.

Then Hepa got onto the spring and how it had gone for them.

“Just so-so, re­ally. We had a few abor­tions among the ewes. I just as­sumed it was a bit of vib­rio and they would de­velop their im­mu­nity to it. Didn’t want to worry you about it.”

More likely he didn’t want the ex­pense of tak­ing sam­ples and the cost of a Vet’s visit.

“Was it young sheep or older ones af­fected. Did you no­tice?” asked the Vet.

“Well, I set stock them all to­gether, so it was across the board re­ally. Not so many but enough to no­tice.”

“If it was campy­lobac­ter or what we all used to call vib­rio, then it would be more likely in the young sheep, if the older ones had al­ready had ex­po­sure to it,” said the Vet. “Might be some­thing else…”

He pon­dered for a while.

“I think it is more likely she was dumped, poor lit­tle thing”

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